A Recap of My 50th Year - 2016
As I sit here on the eve of my 51st birthday, I feel compelled to reflect and recap this past year of changes, experiences, discoveries, adventures, and challenges. Turning 50 and the months that followed, was epic and not to mention, overwhelming.
To kick off my "50th birthday", Jamison and I started with running, ok, so it wasn't really running, but it wasn't walking either...I prefer to call it "slogging" (a slow jog) a half marathon in Corning, New York. This was a race that we were both terribly untrained to run due to nothing more than our own lack of effort and maybe too much traveling and eating. We were hell-bent to mark off one more state in our "50-State Race Challenge", no matter what. Having registered for this race many months prior, we opted to just grin and bear through it and hope we could at least finish. It wasn't glamorous or even respectable in comparison to our races of years prior, but we gutted it out for the sake of prosperity. That and we were driving through New York anyways on our way to JFK airport for our upcoming Europe trip....that's REALLY why we ran that race!
After the above race, we headed to JFK airport in NYC where we embarked on our amazing 16-day adventure to Eastern European to visit Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Austria and Germany. The special highlight for me was a side trip to the small village where my great-grandparents were born, married, and ultimately left during WWI, Mezzacorona, Italy (formerly Austria). It had always been a dream of mine to go there since I am fascinated with my Italian ancestry. I still can't believe that I stood in the very church where they were married. The entire trip went off without a hitch, utterly perfect in every way and Jamison planned every last detail to perfection. Every country was unique and special and I could spend weeks writing about this journey!
After recovering from the trip, I underwent spinal surgery, ten days after turning 50, to have a fusion of my cervical 4-5-6 area to repair stenosis and nerve damage that resulted from being thrown from a horse in 1997. This surgery that was long overdue and the condition was affecting my quality of life. I put it off because I didn't want to stop running, but mostly because I was scared shitless to have surgery on my c-spine.
I knew it would be very difficult to start back up running as I was required to take six to twelve months off from running. That is tough for someone who is active and relies heavily on fitness and exercise in lieu of medication for my autoimmune disease (Sjorgren's Syndrome). I finally got up the courage to get it done and inasmuch as I hate that I've lost my fitness, gained 20 pounds, and can barely run, I almost wish that I hadn't waited so long to do it. My pain has improved significantly despite my loss of fitness. I'm trying to make a comeback, but the effort has not yielded favorable results. I will not give up. I will be back. I feel like I've never ran a single step. Everything hurts, everything is stiff, I get discouraged, and then I stop. Then I go back to ground zero and do it all again. Finding motivation is the hardest part, but I'm not throwing in the towel. Now that I've been cleared with no further restrictions as of last week, perhaps I will rise from the ashes once and for all.
In summary, what I can safely say is that I certainly do not "feel 50-51". I'd like to think it's my healthy choices, but I'm not quite convinced that I didn't just get lucky. I'm grateful for all that is good, for all the lessons I've learned from the not-so-good, and I continue to have hope, patience, and tolerance for what still needs work. Every day is an adventure to be cherished.