Thirteen years ago I made a vow to myself that each year on my birthday I would be healthier than I was the previous year. This isn't an easy promise to keep, but I have held up my end of the bargain. Each year I like to look back and do a mental accounting, make sure I am still on track, and think ahead to what the next year might bring. Last year was pretty epic, I have to say. My birthday last year I was at the lowest weight I had been since having children, I had finally had knee surgery (although it only fixed part of the problems), I had participated in three sprint triathlons, and a number of running events, a 6 mile obstacle course race, the firefighter stairclimb, I was in what I thought would be a long lasting relationship (amazing how I can be easily fooled in that regard), I was in the middle of firefighter academy, and was looking at a summer of training for my first half-Ironman. Not too shabby, and a far cry from where I had been the previous birthday, when my weight was down to the lowest it had been in probably 20 years, I was on the road to becoming more fit than ever, but I was in the middle of an emotional crisis and nervous breakdown, but knowing I would be mentally and emotionally healthier and more stable once I got through the "perfect storm of stress," as my doctor called it.
Where am I this year? I completed my half-Ironman last September, and had a glorious time with it, it was truly the best swim of my life, and one of the coolest accomplishments I have done. I am actually 10 pounds lighter than I was last year on my birthday (though 5 pounds heavier than I was at the peak of my training), and a size smaller. I am probably the most slender I have ever been, at a solid size 10 (size 8 in some brands). I am at the most fit I have been in my life, I know that if I wanted, I could, with two weeks to taper properly, do another half-Ironman right now. This last year, along with my 70.3 race, I ran several tough trail/adventure runs of about 6 to 7 miles each, I ran 2 trail half-marathons, a 10 mile road race, an obstacle course race, the firefighter stairclimb, graduated firefighter academy at the top of my class, got EMR certified, learned to live my life with a pager at my hip, am currently single and not looking for any more heartache (got dumped, twice.... like I said, I am so easily fooled in that regard). I lost my Wolfhound to cancer, and still miss my big, hairy girl. I finally got a new job where I am appreciated, love my work, love my boss, and love my coworkers, which has removed a major stress point in my life. I am no longer on any anti-depressants or sleep aids, even if I do still struggle a bit in that arena, I can't afford anything that might interfere with my ability to answer my pager in the middle of the night. I am working out everyday, sometimes twice a day, preparing for a full Ironman length race in September.
So, this last year there have been highs and lows, as there always are. But my highs are higher, and my lows are not quite so low, and are more likely to have a solid reason behind them other than "it is just that time of year," or some ongoing stress point that I can't seem to resolve. I am slimmer, lighter, stronger, and have better endurance than ever before. I am learning to swim smart, ride strong, and run tough so I can cover 250K under my own power this coming autumn. I eat conscientiously, and always healthy unless I choose to indulge myself. I make conscious choices to improve my health and my life, and don't allow life to just toss me about like a leaf on the wind. Yes, I am single, and lonely at times, but my life keeps me charging ahead at such a breakneck pace that I don't have energy to waste fretting about it (which may be why I am single, no one can keep up with me). I do get to help people when they are having a bad day, and get to drive a fire rescue rig and fire engine while doing it (which is totally epic on all counts).
I can easily say, that this year on my birthday I am healthier than I was last year, far healthier than I was the year before that, and galaxies ahead of where I was the year before that. It is hard to imagine just how far I will go by this time next year. Only time will tell.