By Mike Smith
Last year I set off on a year of ambitious goals, looking to stretch the boundary of what I contemplated possible. Not so much that I was taking on challenges beyond my ability, but more so that I was looking to take a big step outside my comfort zone by taking on some pretty big projects, and committing to them by outlining these ambitions via both social media and direct commentary. I wanted to make these declarations, thus the commitment to complete, or at least take on the challenge and see where that challenge would take me. Here at the end of December looking back, it’s easy to see the year as an utter failure.
But in retrospect, while I’m certainly disillusioned by my lack of completion to the tasks I looked to complete, it has certainly helped delineate those goals from the last year that are still important to me today. I suppose it’s only normal that goals I made 365 days ago might not “weigh” the same today. But some certainly do.
At this time last year I had at least mentally committed to running the Monadnock-Sunapee greenway over the summer. 50 plus miles of trail that cuts through southwestern NH where I could have met up with my wife (and my camper van) splitting the total miles in half. No great endurance feat (people I know have done it in under 10 hours) but coming out (or continuing during) of the pandemic I had chosen to focus more on “experience” rather than pushing the limits.
Along with this bragging, I had a 35 mile paddle of the un-paddled Souhegan River in mind, a multiday adventure on the Northern Rail trail in mind, some “epic” runs in the Whites, with a run of the Zealand parking to the Wilderness parking area, along the Zealand/Thoreau/Wilderness trail system still on the list from the year before. I had gotten a commitment from Tori that she would join me on that as well.
But it turns out a lot of this was derailed by something that happened more than a year ago. Back in November 2020 I went for a short trail run with a colleague during our lunch break out on the snowy trails in back of the school. The slippery nature of the trail along with the fact that we were “working quickly” to get the run in during lunch aggravated a 12 year old hamstring injury that apparently was lying just beneath the surface. While seemingly nothing major, it has interrupted my running ever since, primarily affecting my ability to push running up hills or get in longer mileage before it tightens up. This has interrupted my training for the entire 2021 season.
Over the ensuing year, I would start building mileage only to have it interrupted by a particular run, or a set of runs that would put me back at the drawing board. And in late summer, just as things started to seemingly come around, on an easy trail run (coincidently on the Zealand trail) I stubbed (breaking) my toe so hard that more than three months later it swells up like an overstuffed bratwurst after every run. And just three weeks ago I hit the woods to avoid a windy road option and severely twisted the opposite ankle (again) making my daily runs look like some sort of Quasimodo/Jack Skellington jaunt barely describable as running.
Not the best position to be in when looking to complete the adventures I had outlined a year prior. So I’m taking another stab at it, this time creating a “wishlist” of things I want to make sure I accomplish this summer. Having made the biggest “ experiential” change this fall in deciding to retire from teaching, I’d better get in some “good stuff” this summer in case my future doesn’t provide me with the ten weeks I’ve squandered the entirety of my teaching career.
So my top priority going into 2022 is to rehab my hamstring enough so I can get in the training to take on some of these challenges. First and foremost on the list is the Zealand to Wilderness run. Some might think this being the least challenging of the runs I had planned makes the most sense, but truth be told the biggest reason I want to get this one “in the books” isn’t to vindicate the two years it’s been dogging me on the list, but simply because on my birthday last year Tori agreed to run it with me. And with the goal to be about the experience, and with Tori headed off to college in the fall, this is one experience I do not want to miss out on. While her running days are many in front of her, ours together are most likely limited.
In 2022 I’ll also get to share the experience of “going pro” with her this April. Along with some friends we’ve booked an AirBnB in Flagstaff during April vacation where I’m going to flog myself twice a day in the rarified air of 7000 feet, “feeling” what it would be like to be a pro training to the ultimate fitness. While more than a few steps from being pro I want the experience of what it would be like to focus for six days like I was. Tori will be finishing up her work in Exercise Science by seeing the effects of altitude on the human system and I’m sure I’ll give her plenty of “ancillary evidence” that training at altitude is harder. I’m sure this will be an experience.
Having missed out on so many of my 2021 challenges I’ll definitely be looking to cross some of them off the list. While investigating the Souhegan paddle challenge during 2021 I realized that it will involve a lot more portaging (walking carrying the kayak) than I want or thought, it still would amount to quite an experience. And while the Monadnock-Sunapee challenge would be even more of a challenge being all bunged up, I think I’ll leave that one out of 2022, hoping to either get healthy enough to consider it a “run”, or become more comfortable with it becoming a run-hike. Not sure I’m quite there yet.
So while maybe I didn’t live up to the challenges of 2021, it’s safe to say 2021 lived up to the challenges that were laid before me. I know 2022 will come with some new challenges (like finding a job!) and I suppose the best plan is to be ready to accept them as they come my way. So maybe that’s my resolution for this year, not to create many challenges for myself but to accept the challenges of 2022 and vow to meet them head on and force myself to find the adventure that they present.
Good luck to everyone in 2022 and make sure to live your adventure.