Saturday, January 02, 2021

2020: A short recap of a ridiculous year

It's almost comical looking back at my year-end post from 2019 and imagining the person I was then. Consumed with work drama, unsure of what to do with myself having not signed up for Boston, awaiting the Ironman training cycle to come and wondering how the rest of the year would play out. I was a little bit frustrated with my stagnant running, but excited about my decision to take the plunge into long course triathlon. So, uh, how did that work out?

I feel like I need to preface my recap of the year by saying that, on a personal level, I have been extremely fortunate this year. My job was unaffected (albeit with an extended foray into the world of doing PT via telehealth, which actually turned out to be not as awful as it sounded); my husband is also in a field where his income wasn't impacted by the pandemic. While I had what I am almost 100% certain was COVID in March (known prolonged exposure at work obviously before the mask-wearing days + symptoms that we now know are hallmarks of the virus, but at the time couldn't be tested because they were only testing those with travel history or respiratory symptoms), and it was absolutely the sickest I've been in my life, I recovered fully, and my family and close friends have remained unaffected. I live in a city where I'm able to have groceries and beer and pretty much anything else I could want delivered. And I have hobbies that have been possible to do all the way along, even if it wasn't in the typical way that I was used to.

So yes, I am extremely grateful for all of the above, but let's be honest, this year was a shitshow. From an athletics perspective, I am extremely proud of my accomplishments this year but also feel the sting of the lost races, training opportunities, and runs with friends (as I'm sure any athlete does). But for the sake of completion, I must do a by the numbers report! So here they are, the numbers of 2020:

Goals: I apparently never got around to setting any goals for 2020 other than finishing an Ironman, which is hilarious and a little bit prescient. So, hey, finish an Ironman distance, mission accomplished!

Mileage run: 1804. This is only 250 miles less than last year, which is slightly concerning given that I didn't train for ANY open marathons, spent the summer at lower mileage due to the need to balance running with the other disciplines of Ironman training, AND have spent the entire fall with a nagging plantar fasciitis problem that's caused me to cut my running down compared to what I'd like to be doing. So I'd like to ask my 2019 self, who trained for 2 marathons: what the heck where you doing? LOL.

I also biked almost 2500 miles, which is definitely a new record (and doesn't count trainer "miles" from last winter because I didn't have a smart trainer yet). Definitely hoping to top this one in 2021.

Highest weekly mileage: 53. Oh my lol. I think I had 4 weeks over 50 miles the whole year. But again, did a LOT of biking. Biggest week of running + biking was 223 (I think I did 2 long rides that week lol)

Races run: *insert crying emoji here*

Actual live races: 2 (I guess I should be grateful I decided to race twice in the early winter!). An indoor track mile at the GBTC invite, and a road 5 miler which actually was a great race in which I executed my strategy to a T and tied my PR. Went out on a high note, I guess?

Remember when we could take photos like this? (Jan 2020)
Or this? (Super Sunday 5 Mile in February, last race before the shitstorm began)

Virtual races/race esque situations: 4. The Yeti 24 Hour Challenge in May, a virtual road mile relay where I actually broke 6 on the roads for the first time, a half Iron tri, and and Ironman. Casual. 

PRs run: I tied my 5 mile PR in an official race, and you know what, for 2020 I will TAKE IT

Proudest accomplishment: For once, that's easy: solo Ironman

Hardest race experience: Hah, well the perk of not having any races this year was that I wasn't forced to race in inclement weather at all!! My DIY half Ironman was probably the most challenging as I cooked myself on the bike and completely fell apart on the run. I learned an important lesson!

Best race experience: Again, solo Ironman. Tough to top that one this year.

Most ridiculous weather: As far as running goes, I'm going to give this award not to a race, but a run: a 15 mile run I did with two friends which was 75 degrees with a dewpoint of 73 at the START (any southerners reading this, I know, that probably sounds like NBD but for this northerner...nope). However, the true most ridiculous weather awards goes to the 3 consecutive weeks of 3-4 hour bike rides that I did in 90+ degree weather (because...I'm an idiot lol)

Biggest surprise race performance: Here, we'll give one to an actual race: tying my 5 mile PR when I was absolutely not in shape to do so! Yeah!

Number of falls taken while running: holy shit, I actually think I made it through all of 2020 without falling, and THAT, my friends, is a 2020 miracle! I fell on my bike twice. So it goes. 

Memorable non-"race" athletic adventures of the year:
- Riding the Kancamagus highway in NH (70 miles out and back through a mountain pass with over 4000 ft of elevation)

- Running on 10+ new rail trails for long runs with Joy this fall

Running in the snow on Halloween                     We found out Biden won in the middle of this run
   This trail had MOGULS!

- Acting as lead bike for Joy's virtual marathon

- My spur of the moment first century to Gloucester and back

- A 3-state ride up the coast from northern MA to Maine including a dive in the ocean (also one of the worst heat/fueling bonks I've ever experienced lol)
The place where I desperately veered off the road and dove into the ocean because I was so hot 😅

-The hilliest ride I've ever done during a trip up to NH, with a side trip over a covered bridge into VT

- Running an auto road up a small mountain in NH during the peak of foliage season, one of the most beautiful runs I've done in my life

I think when I think back on running specifically in 2020, I definitely won't view it as the year I became a faster or stronger runner, but I absolutely became a better athlete on the whole. Having alternate modes of training (and not just as injury backups, but actual goal oriented training) took a lot of the pressure off on those days when for whatever reason running just sounded like a shitty idea. Sometimes because it was 90 degrees, or because I just didn't feel like it, or whatever. I still feel like I have unfinished business with open road racing but my continued dive into triathlon, and especially biking, absolutely kept me sane this year. When the walls felt like they were closing in around me, being able to hop on my bike and go on an 80-100 mile adventure made me feel like there was still something I could control and take back. I've also spent a lot more time running for it's own sake - exploring trails, hilly routes, places where pace becomes irrelevant - and not having the pressure of a race or a performance hanging over my head has brought back a lot of the joy to that sport. Triathlon "fast" is so different than open running fast! To be honest, the fact that I ran a 3:50 marathon at the end of an Ironman really excites me for the possibilities of the future, and how all of the endurance training I've been doing could bode well for some future running race performance. But that's not a 2021 problem, definitely more of a long game plan. 

So of course, the question is...what now? 

I saw a quote on twitter that I think summarized it best: "High hopes, low expectations". Realistically, the earliest I can see maybe getting to race is in June. I'm currently signed up for two races in June deferred from last year, Mount Washington and the White Mountains Tri. The race company that puts on the triathlon has been having races since August with time trial starts and distancing measures - something that's easy to implement in triathlon where time trial starts are pretty normal anyway, and this race venue is huge and can easily accommodate a distanced transition area - so I'm pretty optimistic about the prospect of being able to be on that starting line. As someone who works directly with patients on a day to day basis, I'm also hopeful that I can get the COVID vaccine within the next couple of months (there doesn't appear to be a system in place yet for non-hospital based healthcare clinics, which is....not awesome, but hopefully that will be sorted out at some point) which may make the logistics of racing particularly over state lines, easier. Right now road races aren't allowed in MA, and in the current situation I don't agree with traveling to race even in a "safe" race situation, but I really really hope that things will be different 6 months from now, and closer to where we were this summer when cases were low and it was relatively safe to travel within New England (with masks, etc).  Obviously the BIG hope for the year is that Ironman Wisconsin goes off in September, and again that the overall status of the pandemic is in a place where I feel it's safe/appropriate to get on a plane. I'm optimistic about that. 

In a weird way I'm actually OK with having 6 months to just build - I've been dealing with plantar fasciitis in my right foot since August, which got significantly worse in the fall and is only now (I think) starting to calm down. I'm sort of happy to have the time to fully address this injury (which I've run through all the way along based on the research I've done, but obviously at a reduced capacity) and put it in the rearview, as well as building some fitness on the bike in preparation for the real Ironman build which starts in May. I would LOVE to get on the start line for an open marathon this year more for fun/remembering what that distance feels like than anything else, but I'm not committing myself to anything yet. Right now, my focus is on building that base and trying to bulletproof myself from an injury perspective so that I can be ready to really train hard come spring/summer. 

So...goals? Should we do them? Sure, why not!

- Get and stay injury free - this foot problem has been annoying AF and has impacted all aspects of my life because it's not like you can just...stop walking? So, hi, get your life together, Hatas, and then keep it together. 😂

- Finish Ironman Wisconsin (ideally the actual race this time...)

- Become a stronger cyclist - I am not quite sure how to quantify this because I don't have a power meter, but I guess just looking at speed I'd like to be riding 17.5-18 mph over comparable routes compared to 17-17.5 this year if can

- If possible: do an open water swimming race

- Do at least 60 minutes of yoga and/or strength training weekly. This is my latest iteration of the goal I set EVERY year to do more of the adjunct stuff and I'm hopeful that doing it this way will maybe make it stick? 

- Run more trails/mountains/hills/runs where pace is completely irrelevant

I think that's enough for now. I'd love to set some PRs somewhere, somehow this year, but let's start with some achievable goals and go from there, shall we?