Get yourselves a big mug of coffee or stop reading now, this is going to be a long one...
So another year draws to a close and as usual it provides a good opportunity to look back on life and look forward to the year ahead and beyond. In these increasingly hectic times it seems to me that my life currently comes down to four fundamental aspects: family, friends, work and, of course, running!
Out of those four, family is obviously predominant. They are my rock, my constant, everything revolves around them. Whenever I have a bad day or a bad race or something pisses me off I can come home and remind myself that the most important thing in life is right here. Equally when something is going well being able to share that with them just magnifies that feeling.
My girls continue to amaze me. Emily and Sophie are growing up so fast. Emily is nearly 7 going on 15. It's amazing to think that a couple of years ago I would still have considered her my baby, now all of a sudden she's an independent young girl reading, doing math, tieing her own shoes, making her own food and drinks, having sleepovers, the list goes on! Before I know it it seems I'll be vetting potential suitors LOL! Sophie meanwhile is as that great age where she's still my cuddly little baby but is picking up things so fast. Some of the things she comes out with make us laugh so hard! Of course, having all girls does get interesting from time to time. Sometimes I can come home and all three of my ladies are crying about something! Whatever happens though they will always be the most important things in my life and everything I do will revolve around them.
This year also saw sadness in my family further afield. My dad's father lost his brief battle with cancer and we and the world lost a great man who did so much in his life and touched so many. I was very sad that I wasn't able to see Grandad before he passed away but he was given a great send off and was surrounded by loved ones as he passed. RIP Grandad. My Dad's been sick too, spending the past three weeks in hospital with intestinal problems. Luckily it appears he has gotten better just in time for christmas and will be let home in time for christmas later today.
Sometimes being so far away from my family I feel I'm not doing enough to stay in touch with them and show my love for them and that is something I hope I can address going forward. We are all looking forward to our trip across the pond in April having not been able to make the journey this year....
On the work front there were significant developments recently. In October I took the decision to move from my then position. Additional stresses were being put on me, the long hours never seemed to be coming to an end and I was taking those stresses home with me, impacting on my life at home (when I was there!) and my running training. So I decided to hand in my resignation. I hadn't even lined anything up to replace my job and the prospects of finding any new job in the current environment was going to be very tough, but it was a decision that I had to take and I don't regret it at all.
Just as I was about to be on the job market again, my ex boss who now worked in a different part of the organisation caught wind of my departure and it just so happened that he was looking to fill a new role on his team. I accepted his offer and am enjoying my new role. I have had to take a not insignificant cut in my salary but am getting to see much more of my family now and at present my priority is them and not my pay check. Give me quality of life over monetary gain any time. As long as I am being challenged at work and am earning enough to give my family a decent lifestyle I will be happy, that's just the way I feel at the moment. I will never be someone who is so driven and ambitious at work that the rest of my life is negatively impacted. My family and even my running are far too important to me for that to happen....
Moving on to the friends aspect, it was always difficult when I first moved over 4 years ago leaving my best friends behind and making new friends over here proved a slow process. Slowly though through good friends Lisa has made and of course through my running activities I have begun to build a network of people I can call friends. I will look to forge deeper relationships in the year ahead. With the Charlotte Running Club blossoming and blooming and set to explode in 2010 I'm hoping some good friendships will develope from that, there are so many nice people involved in it all.
I miss my old mate Tim who moved back up to Cleveland over a year ago. We ran together virtually every morning and both having young families had two very similar priorities in life. Our two significantly contrasting personalities seemed to mesh well- we were very compatible I guess! I'm still in touch regularly with Tim and see him as much as I can when he is in the area on business. He also acts as my guide/coach on the running front and his advice and training plans have been a significant factor in my half and marathon PRs in the past 15 months. As we move in to 2010 hopefully Tim's guidance can carry on my development as a runner.
Which brings us on to the 4th factor in my life that I mentioned earlier- the omnipresent 'running'! It's very hard to explain the passion I have for running and the impact it has had on my life since I 'properly' discovered it back in 2001. Lisa certainly can't understand it, as she often reminds me, "I didn't marry a runner!!" Back then I was a beer swilling foootballer! Now I'm a runner who enjoys a beer!
I often hear the expression from people "Running defines who I am". I have absolutely no idea what that means, it seems such a vague concept! Regardless I would apply that definition to myself! Running means so much to me. It's my outlet for venting my frustrations, having time to myself, keeping in good, healthy shape, exercising my competitive instincts, meeting new people, pushing my body to the limits, the list goes on. Without running something else would have a very big void in my life to fill...
Looking back on 2009, a year that could have been so disappointing was salvaged by my thoroughly satisfying Thunder Road Marathon performance. After a year decimated by setbacks and disappointing races I was able to come good at the end, putting in two months of possibly the best training of my life and finishing it off with a huge PR at Thunder Road. When I look at my finishing certificate and it says Division Place: 1 out of 190, Overall: 3 out of 1412, it gives me a great sense of pride and reminds me that I'm reasonably good at my favourite pastime.
I'm currently in recovery mode from that race and looking to build on the great training block I had moving into the New Year to set up some fast performances in early 2010 and beyond. Looking back the past few years it seems that the winter has always been a slow season for me. i've either been injured or just ticking it over over this time leading to pretty slow Spring races and a consequent determination to get fitter over the summer. And although I have typically been able to get faster over the summers, it's taken a lot of hard work, hard work being carried out in 90 plus temperatures and ridiculous humidity of course!! Heading into the New Year this year things are different. I'm, touch wood, 100% healthy, I'm coming off the back of a confidence boosting marathon and I'm still (presumably) fit from my training for it. So the plan is to recover from Thunder Road over the next couple of weeks and all being well launch into another solid training block in January. There is a Half in Columbia I have set my eyes on at the end of February and then of course the Grand Prix starts. Having placed in the top three in that event in 2006 through 2008 it was frustrating last year not to be able to compete in it because of injury. This year I have got some payback due and plan to hit the ground running in March.
So if I can stay injury free the next few months then 2010 should be a great year. With the Charlotte Running Club growing so fast there will always be highly motivated, competitive guys to train and race with.
I've also made some changes to my training approach and maintenance between workouts which will hopefully address my inclination towards injury. Looking back at my training logs since I started completing them in 2005 it amazes me how much time I have missed. For someone who is a relatively decent runner my mileage amounts over these years are pitiful. 2005- 1,694, 2006- 1,902, 2007- 2,380, 2008- 2,167, 2009- will be around the 1,840 mark. May seem a lot to some people (non runners certainly!) but I bet if I looked at the training logs of people who typically finish around the same times as me in races they will have covered a bunch more miles than that. Unfulfilled potential? I think so....
Anyway, sorry for boring you with this lengthy post but thought it was a good time to reflect and look forward. I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas and New Year and enjoys what matters most to them at this time of year. Merry Christmas!!