As the year of Covid draws to an end with the vaccine distribution inching closer each day, this post reflects on the ups and downs both with fitness and life in general.
The year in pictures
I picked a bunch of my favorite pictures for this year end wrap up.
Strava let me know that I logged 809 activities, 2,820.2 miles in 734 hours this year. Not a single one of these was swimming! Over 200 were hikes and the rest was a combo of running, various indoor fitness, walks and the occasional kayak. I managed just one cross country ski in the calendar year!
Our winter started with a couple of quick ski weekends that while fun, were hard to be fully present for. Shortly into January my mom lost her year-long battle with cancer. As December wrapped, she ended what had been a relatively good year of health all things considered and went into rapid decline. We had an argument on Christmas Eve because of a silly comment I made. On Christmas we barely spoke. My mom and I rarely argued but when we did my typical response was to just let it lie until she came around. I knew I didn’t have time for that this year and reached out to my sister for advice. She guided me through and I patched things up quickly but it weighed on me. I knew in my heart she had just had her last Christmas with us and I felt broken from not having been able to communicate. That guilt carried heavily into my January and I used running to pull myself out of it. Our Mountains 2 Beach marathon training helped keep me even keeled through my mom’s quick decline, her passing and then climbing out of the sadness.
As we neared spring, Scott, Xander and I had recently returned from our first trip out to California. We took in Disneyland, long beach walks, beach runs and lots of fun adventures. COVID hadn’t hit us yet, yet I remember I had two students who wore masks to school. One just said he felt he had to. The other was very worried he’d get it. I naively thought we’d be fine and it wouldn’t become a pandemic. When FLRC cancelled the Skunk Cabbage and things shut down at Cornell, I should have realized we were really going to feel this. Yet I happily continued my marathon training and my focus on everything school while continuing a heavy baking load. I welcomed my running as an opportunity to escape stress and feel like I had a goal.
Then, as March 13th approached and we were planning Pi Day celebrations for my class we also started to have technology meetings at school. I was part of the tech team that was planning for teacher training and soon it was clear we’d be out of school for some part of the spring. As COVID hit us my first thought was, “more time to run” and “I can get things accomplished.” I also thought, “more time to support my dad."
Scott had been trying intermittent fasting for a few weeks in the late winter. Up until now, breakfast time had always been sacred, quality family time. We were all struggling with him sitting with us but not eating. He liked it though and asked if I would consider it. "In the summer when I don't have to be nice to people in the morning."
Famous last words. March 13th hit and everything changed overnight. Learn from home. No restaurants open. Gyms closed. Suddenly running was the only focus. Intermittent fasting? Excuse gone. Bring it on.
As the weeks went on, Spring running was really winter running as the season just seemed to stick forever. It seemed to be a metaphor for our time. In some ways, it kept it easier to teach because kids had an easier time getting to the computer for class when it was not so nice outside. Winter running was familiar too with no need to adjust to changing weather conditions. I didn’t have to take out spring clothes. I continued my running and started what would turn into a 200 hiking streak on a whim with my daughter. We used that streak to mark time. Our family also found one TV show to watch together. Leave it to us to find something that was currently being released one week at a time. We began to look forward to Wednesday evening when “Little Fires Everywhere” rolled out. In addition to our new habit of eating between 11 am and 7 pm daily, Scott and I started picking up having a glass of wine before dinner while doing a puzzle.
Just a few weeks ago when we were learning from home again, a student responded to my ask about how things were going wtih, “I like COVID.I don’t have to see people I don’t know and people I don’t like.” As I write this at the end of December 2020 I find myself looking back fondly on the early days of COVID. It was a gift of time, decreased pressure, and more family connection. Now I feel a just a little apprehensive about the "return to normal" and whether I'll be able to handle evening commitments, even more requirements outside of working hours for my job and all the wedding baking I that I will have from weddings that were posponed from last summer to 2021.
By the time summer rolled around we had run our family marathon. The actual marathon we’d trained for was cancelled of course, but we had a great time with our own. Many of my friends signed up for the Run Across New York State virtual challenge. I didn’t. I felt burned out after my marathon training. I wanted to run for me, not because I had to run. I was enjoying the hike streak and didn’t want to stop that. I wanted to bike more.
With the Cayuga Lake Triathlon cancelled, I stood on my friend Kathey’s dock one evening and said, “it’s a shame I won’t be swimming this year.” She laughed and said, “you know you can still swim.” For me swimming is about the tri. No tri meant no swimming.
Summer was a bright star in the fitness area! Scott took Mondays off, I had lots of solo bike rides and rides with friends, my hike streak continued and I ran for me. I saw friends outside and hiked and ran with friends.
School remained uncertain and I anxiously awaited what would happen with that return. Yet, despite the uncertainty I planned, I led a couple of training sessions for teachers, attended summer online workshops and worked through several professional development projects. Despite most of my weddings postponing to 2021, my baking was very busy. I enjoyed delivering individually boxed cupcakes, making sure deliveries were contactless and bringing joy to college students for their birthdays.
Right in the middle of August my left foot started to hurt and I got a little worried. I had been through a stress fracture before and I felt certain that was what I was dealing with. I thought I could just stop running and be fine (continuing to do everything else) but after a week or so I realized I needed to go to the doctor.
He couldn’t tell without an expensive MRI whether it was a fracture or not. All things pointed to no so he didn’t order that test. Yet, in “an abundance of caution” he asked me not to run on it for two weeks. School was starting and he said I could still hike and bike on it so I obliged.
Enter a very last minute decision of teaching the first 3 weeks to my 8th graders virtually. Wow. It was a surprise and both felt like a blessing and a stress. The spring had been comfortable because the kids and I already knew each other. New kids - new schedule - kicking off a year virtually in a pandemic. I felt like we had a gift because they’d figure out all the kinks before we arrived back (we were only virtual due to construction in a portion of the school so it was just two grades impacted) and I was also happy to not have to wear a mask all day for another few weeks and to be able to continue to have my dad over for dinner. He took up exercise after my mom died and had an early August stress fracture in his foot so we weren’t able to walk temporarily.
I started to struggle with my lack of running, my guilt about my dad’s injury, (I should have realized he increased his mileage too quickly and advised him better), having fewer hours in the day to work out once school started and more. I was emotional and while I don’t remember crying too often, I do feel like this was when my mindset flipped from, “this is totally doable” to “I have to endure this for just a bit longer.” I changed my email signature for work to say, “the only way out is through” and just generally got through each day. Suddenly there seemed to be little to look forward to. Elizabeth and I had picked an end date for our hike streak. The daylight hours were going to drop off too fast so we settled on the Friday before I was due to go back to school in person. I was both eager to have the day arrive and dreading its approach. It was to mark the return to life “as normal” but we both knew it wasn’t a real normal. It just wasn’t possible to hike during the daylight hours with our respective schedules.
I did ease back into running but it was just that - an ease. The doctor didn’t think it was a stress fracture, but there’s still something off with my foot. I don’t know what it is and I don’t know how much work I want to do to figure it out. When I went back to school full time I abruptly dropped from 2 hours of daily exercise on average (already down from 3 in the peak of summer) to about an hour (sometimes less). I can only imagine this could possibly be similar to quitting smoking or abruptly stopping drinking or any other addictive activity. We spent 4 months in and out of school. It felt like every time I got slightly used to a routine, the routine changed.
The Final Sprint
The final sprint or the final straw really was getting exposed to Covid at my school. I had spent the entire spring/summer and early part of fall flippantly saying that we’d be fine if we had to quarantine. We had plenty of food. We love our house. We all get along. Those words came back to bite me in the butt. I feel like in many ways I deserved the quarantine that arrived in early December.
I found out very unofficially that I'd been exposed before I got the slightly unofficial word. I realized I had left some stuff in school the night before I wouldn’t be able to enter the building for two weeks. I thought maybe I could just get in and grab it. On some level I knew I couldn’t so I reached out to my principal to ask instead of just sneaking in and hoping for the best. She confirmed that I couldn't enter and said she could get my stuff for me. “Wow!” That felt really above and beyond and it was exactly what I needed her to say that morning. It would take days and days for the Health Dept to reach out, but I knew I was quarantined. There is nothing like being told you can’t do something to make you really want to do it. (mental note to self for teaching and parenting). I couldn’t see my dad. I couldn’t run outside. I couldn’t really interact with my family. I couldn’t hike. Texting my colleagues became my lifeline. I had several group chats going. We talked about trivial things that just kept us laughing and upbeat to get through. In one of my low moments of texty whining, one of my friends in the chat aptly said, "at least we are healthy. We could have this. Let's appreciate this time." I missed running so much even as I I continued to say aloud, “I’m so lucky to have indoor fitness equipment.”
So that’s it - a wrap. I don’t know what my fitness will be for 2021. I usually sit down and create plans/goals and outline everything on the first. With no known races on the horizon I guess I can lean in any direction.