Monday, January 4, 2021

Running Wasn't Canceled: A Look Back at 2020

In one way or another, 2020 was the year that challenged all of us. How could it not? From politics to the pandemic, we've all had to adapt and figure out how to survive these trying times. Running was the key to keeping me sane this year. But running was different this year too. Races were canceled and group runs were not happening. Virtual runs and challenges became a thing. Initially a novelty, for this runner, virtual runs grew old really fast.  

How to sum up the year that was 2020? There were a lot of lessons to be learned, for sure. Instead of just writing a recap of the year--you can certainly read my 2020 racing recap here--I decided to do a self-reflection of my year as it related to running. These questions were taken from a Psychology Today article; I adapted them to fit my purpose of evaluating my running and fitness from 2020. 

I'm not a goal setter or a resolution maker, in fact, my goals evolved as the year played out. These questions helped me frame my year in a positive way, which was really helpful in light of the year that was 2020. This exercise also helped direct my thinking towards 2021. I'm looking forward to using my answers to help me decide on my plans for the upcoming year. It's not going to be a normal year, either, so it's good to be ready for whatever comes our way!

Newport State Park, June 2020

1. What was a new discovery you made this year? What did you discover that you loved?
Hands down, trail running. While I had been running on the local limestone paths for a while, I decided to try out the local dirt trails in February and fell in love. 

Deer Grove Trails, February 2020

2. What was one of the biggest pleasant surprises you experienced this year?
In January, I participated in a powerlifting meet and I PR'd my deadlift (200#) and back squat (160#). Talk about a confidence booster! I continued to build on that all year. 

Deadlift PR!

3. What achievement are you most proud of from this year?
I'm proud of my mileage this year. I ran over 1200 miles, which is the most I've run in 5 years. In addition, a good percentage of those miles were run on trails.  

Crossing the creek on a fallen tree, Deer Grove Trails

4. What was your favorite purchase of the year and why?
Haha, my favorite non-running related purchase would be my new sectional!!! Fitness related would be my new plyo box. With limitations on in-person participation in the gym, I've done a lot of my CrossFit WODs at home. It's nice to have some of the equipment we use in class. 

Cocoa loves my new plyo box!

5. What was a new habit or routine you created this year that improved your performance?
With my IAT 50k training, I added a 4th day of running back in this year, which not only helped boost my mileage but helped me return to running faster again. Those Friday sunrise runs have remained in my training schedule, which gives me so much pleasure and sets a positive tone that I carry with me throughout my day.

Friday sunrise 5

6. What did you face head-on this year, rather than avoiding?
Running in new places. It would be so easy to just run the same routes all the time; I discovered the Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin. It's a National Scenic Trail and is over 1000 miles long! I've run 4 segments so far and am looking forward to exploring more this year. I received the IAT Guidebook for Christmas and have been checking out all the segments!

Gibraltar Rock trailhead

7. What did you ask for help with this year where you are glad you did?
When I did get the entry into the Ice Age Trail 50k, I turned to Marcia to develop a training plan for me. If I was going to run a 50k, I didn't want to train myself. I learned that lesson with my marathon training. Marcia knows me well and wrote a plan that fit my abilities and addressed my desire to not run excessively high mileage. 

Devil's Lake State Park bluffs

8. What relationship was the biggest positive surprise to you this year?
After my oldest son moved out at the end of last year, my husband and I had to face being empty nesters this year. Between that and the pandemic, our relationship was definitely tested. I've always said he was my rock and he's come through for me on that front multiple times this year. It hasn't always been smooth sailing, but I think we're going to be ok.

With Mike and Cocoa on a sunset boat ride

9. Who do you need to thank for their role in your life this year?
My husband and my boys. The best part of my day is getting random texts from them--photos from their day or something funny they saw. It always puts a smile on my face.

Family boat ride on Lake Wisconsin

10. What's an aspect of self-regulation you've gotten better at this year?
If anything, it would be my diet. After last year and that prolonged RA flare, I worked really hard on changing my diet to include more greens and anti-inflammatory foods. It has paid off--I've felt really good this year, only having occasional pain flares, usually when I eat too many sweets and/or refined carbs. 

This watermelon mint smoothie is the perfect post-run refreshment in the summer!

11. What's a goal that you gave up on this year and you're glad you did that because it wasn't objectively your highest priority?
Definitely the Ice Age 50k. I registered for it because I got a spot in the lottery. It wasn't a goal and training for it in the heat of summer was too much for me. I'm glad I was able to drop down to the half marathon; even better, that it was rescheduled to May this year. Now I'm ready for it.

Ice Age Trail, Lodi Segment, Fall 2020

12. What's a skill you have gained confidence with this year? 
Without a doubt, it's been strength training. Sammy Jo has pushed me to lift scary (to me) heavy weights; she's promised me she'll never let me hurt myself. I haven't and I've gotten stronger, both in the gym and on the road. I can't say I love it, but I love the results! I can feel those glutes engage when I'm pushing myself on the trails and up the hills on the road. My legs have a lightness that I haven't felt in years.

Deadlifts, heavy sets of 8

13. What simple pleasures have you especially enjoyed this year?
I've really enjoyed my trail runs--by necessity, they are slower paced and it gives me time to take in all the nature around me. Seeing a deer on the trail never gets old. Over the summer, I saw a turtle laying eggs in the path. I made a few human friends on the path too!

Newport State Park, Ellison Bay, Wisconsin

14. What was a goal for the year that you followed through on or partially followed through on?
I'm still working on that strict pull-up. I never knew it would take so long to achieve, but I am seeing progress! I'm using the thinnest resistance band and can do 3-5 unassisted. I'm hoping that 2021 is my year for the strict pull-up!

Banded strict pull-ups

15. What new technology did you integrate into your life this year and how is it working out for you?
 I received a GoPro camera for my birthday in September but I have yet to use it. One of my goals for the winter is to learn how it works. Maybe I won't have to use the ComEd towers and tree branches for selfie shelves!

Christmas morning run

16. What did you change your mind about this year?
Virtual races and challenges. I'm over them. The Naperville Trails half marathon just about did me in. My head was just not in the game for that one.

Run virtually on the actual course on the actual race day, this was a personal worst.
A few weeks later, I ran a live half 20 minutes faster. 

17. What did you try that didn't work out but the process of trying it moved your thinking forward in a helpful way? 
I snagged a spot to run the Ice Age Trail 50k, but training for that distance in the heat of summer proved to be too much for me. It also wasn't fun. I dropped down to the half marathon and began to enjoy my runs again. Looking forward, I feel more mentally ready for that distance, should the opportunity arise. More importantly, I reminded myself that this is supposed to be fun.

A spontaneous trip to Madison, Wisconsin to visit my son.
But first, a run along Lake Monona!

18. How did your self-perception change this year? In what ways have you started to see yourself more positively than you did previously?
I've had a great year of running, including finding my speed again. I ran a 7:40 mile on my 58th birthday and I ran a 26:03 5k in November, my fastest 5k in a few years. I am a much stronger runner this year than I have been since my diagnosis with RA. This year helped me to move beyond that "chronic illness thinking" that may have been holding me back.

A fast birthday mile

19. What's a thinking bias you've become aware of this year? 
Oooh, that would be my brain telling me I can't do a 50k. I know I can--I could have run a marathon this year with the base I built training for the 50k. I also ran a 19 miler in the spring. My mental game has always held me back. Will I ever get on top of it?

Success at my fastest half marathon in 5 years!

20. How has what you enjoy shifted this year? 
I've always enjoyed running and races. With so many races canceled in 2020, I shifted to doing virtual races and challenges, which kept me goal-focused. When live races come back, I'm not sure how many road races I'll do. I've already penciled in a few trail races that I'm looking at for 2021. That is definitely where my focus will be in the future. But I wouldn't mind a sub-2 road half...just saying...and I do hope that the CARA Lakefront 10 miler actually happens this year. 

Valentine's Day Trail Challenge
Schiller Woods, February 2020

When you reflect back on 2020, how has what you enjoyed shifted this year? Did your self-perception change? What goals did you set for yourself that you didn't follow through on? What is a simple pleasure you enjoyed this year?

I'm linking up with Kim and Zenaida for Tuesday Topics and with the Runners' Roundup: DebbieDeborahJenLaura, and Lisa.  


  1. Oh my goodness Wendy, what a brilliant idea with those questions! They made me think. Reading your answers was very interesting. Btw, that photo with your boys on the boat is perfect.

    I think my shift has been to trail running and hiking. Before 2020, I didn't to much of these activities. They are simple pleasures that I now truly enjoy.
    And I suddenly realized that I can do workouts at home, I don't need to go to the gym.

    Something I didn't follow up on: seeing you working on the strict pullup reminds me that I need to work on my pressups!

    1. I am right there with you about the trails. It has been so enjoyable in a year when there was so much taken away from us!

  2. OK this may be my most favorite "year in review" post I've read! It's been great to watch you re-claim your running groove this year. I'm so glad that running was a source of sanity and joy for you - I hope that continues!

    1. Thank you Michelle! I know it's a little long. I'm glad you read through it!

  3. Awesome. So insightful. Thanks for sharing your journey.

    Reading this, it doesn't seem like there was a pandemic. You achieved so much.

    You are going to rock the 50k or anything else you set your mind to.

    1. It was a lot of fun shifting focus and I really feel like a whole new runner!

  4. What an amazing year you had! 2020 certainly threw us some curveballs, but I feel like you did a great job focusing on positives such as your trail running and Crossfit PRs. Also, i really like this format for a year in review - the questions are awesome!

    The Garmin meme at the end of your post made me laugh - I still can't believe some of the insane tweets I saw about that, lol

    1. I liked the positive spin on the questions. It would be so easy to complain and focus on what was bad--I needed to reframe and this was perfect!

  5. Congrats on a fantastic running year! I love these questions. I look forward to seeing how things shape up in 2021! I love trail running too and I hope to get to do a trail race this year :)

    1. Thank you Janelle! I hope you get to run a trail race this year too!

  6. My simple pleasure that I immensely enjoyed this year was biking. I'm thankful it was there when I had to stay off my feet for two months, and I'm grateful to have another cardio vice in my arsenal.

  7. I love this post! Lots of food for thought. yes definitely my #1 memory of the year is Garmin being down for a few days;-)

  8. You had such an incredible year, despite all the challenges! I really think that last year forced us to shift our perspective which paid off in alot of ways. Hopefully things will start to get back to normal but we can take some of these lessons with us.

    1. It's been really great to look back and realize that there were some very good things that came out of 2020. I'm ready to move forward and explore more trails!

  9. I love that you fell in love with trail running and that it provided you with much needed escape. It was also strange for me to be with my husband non stop. I am so used to him traveling a lot for work. Our relationship changed as well but I think it's stronger in many ways

    1. The pandemic was definitely a test of our relationship! And yes, we've become stronger too. We'll see how the winter plays out, lol

  10. What a great approach to a blog post!! I loved seeing that even with all the hurdles and dramas of the year, you just seemed to get stronger. It's not easy to change a goal you have set (the 50K) but look at how listening to your gut and heart was the best thing for you. I'm with you on virtual races. In December, I sat and started Googling which ones I could do and then quickly changed my mind and set a mileage goal instead. The virtual races really helped but for me they served their purpose. I'm ready for the real thing whenever that comes. A simple pleasure has been working from home and spending a lot more time with my kids. When they come in the door after school, I love that the first place they run is to my desk. And although my work environment is a bit noisier than I'd like it to be, there's nothing like the innocent chatter of kids. (I draw a line at the fighting though, LOL).

    1. I sure miss my boys. I hear from them a lot and see them when I can, but bottom line, it's quiet at my house!

  11. You really found your groove on the trails! I've noticed that your runs on Strava look super strong. Last year (before Covid), I learned that I really enjoy running mostly easy mileage and lifting. I found a sweet spot at 40 mpw that I hope to build back to soon.

    1. I'm so glad that the trails were there for me. The timing was great and my running benefited from it!

  12. You had a great year in very trying times, Wendy! So glad you enjoy those texts from your boys -- hope my mom enjoys the photos I can now finally send her.

    I enjoyed finding new places to drag Mr.Judy. Sometimes he enjoyed them too, LOL!

    Life has been very challenging on the personal front for a last few years, and I don't really see that changing anytime soon. So pushing myself to find new places & go on my own have been big for me.

  13. Wow! You had so many highlights this year, Wendy! Trail running, PRs in deadlift and squat. Good luck with the 50k this May. I look forward to reading about your training!

    1. I'm actually going to do the half; with the actual race still being uncertain I didn't want to commit to such a big distance!

  14. I've so enjoyed seeing you embrace the trails and get even stronger this year. A real inspiration. Thank you for all the posts and lovely pictures.

    1. Thank you for reading! I've loved getting to know you through our blogs and chats!

  15. I love this so much, Wendy! Thank you for sharing this with us. I always enjoy reading your posts. You had many great things happen this year. The pandemic did not stop you. And that last meme was funny.

    Thank you for linking up with us!

    1. Thank you Zenaida! Hoping that this year we'll get to connect in real life.

  16. What a great themed Q&A
    I love watermelon mint, one of my favorite summer combos. Looks like your plyobox is Cocoa's favorite too. I really wish I had more trails, I love when I can spend time on them. Makes it easier too to run without music

    1. It just seems wrong to run on the trails with music, doesn't it? There's so much to see!

  17. You're correct! Running was NOT canceled!

    I love this post. You are absolutely going to run a 50K, and while your running gains were strong, I love your commitments and progress in lifting!