2013 Reflections: What matters most

IMG_1845Our calendar is a human-made construction that helps us mark the passing of time. While nature has its cycles, it doesn’t care about new year’s resolutions, or season goals, or any of the other symbolic things we project on to


But, we do care about those things – and we should. The symbolic meanings we give to time, to experience, and to the calendar allow us to reflect upon the significant moments in our life, the moments that make life worth living, and the moments that act as teachers.

2013 was full of those moments, as I had the best athletic year of my life, and shared in many excellent moments with my family and friends. I’ve spent some time reflecting on these moments, and what they mean to me – and more importantly, what I can learn from them.

Favorite Athletic Experiences of 2013

My friends Courtney & Kim decorated our house right before we returned. What a welcome home!
My friends Courtney & Kim decorated our house right before we returned from IMLou. What a welcome home!

#1 – Ironman Louisville. There can be no doubt that this was my top personal athletic experience of 2013. This race restored my confidence, taught me that the human body is adaptive and resilient, and helped me to realize that mental strength is the most important thing to achieving goals. Another cool thing about this race was coming home to find my house decorated by my dear friends, Courtney and Kim.

#2 – Ironman Lake Placid. This race broke my heart, and that is precisely why it’s on this list. But, even though it dealt a strong emotional blow, I learned so much over the course of these 11 hours. I will be a better racer and athlete for it.

More than just the race, however, I loved Ironman Lake Placid because my family–the Team U-Crazy Posse–was with me – John, John’s parents, my sister Catherine and her boyfriend Bill, my sister-in-law Tracy, my Aunt Val and cousin Robin.

Along with my family, my friend Charlotte, who I met at the very beginning of my Ironman experiences several years ago, was there. I will never forget looking into her eyes at the finish line, and her words to me after I realized I didn’t qualify: “Don’t be upset, Maria. I’ve been there since the beginning – you’ve come so far. You have to be proud of that.” She also urged me to eat pizza, which was key. 😉

My family and friends make the experience significantly more special. I realize this isn’t about an “athletic” experience – but they made the day what it was. Without them, there would only be crushing defeat. With them, I found joy.

Team U-Crazy at the swim start of IMLP–locked up, as they should be! (Missing here is Tracy – she was volunteering in transition – and we thank her!!)

#3 – Rosaryville 50k. Okay, first time I ever won a race outright. This has to make the list, right?

#4 – Watching John run his first 100 miler. It was freezing, it was 18 hours, and it was awesome! I was inspired, amazed and thoroughly entertained while watching this event. (Click the link for John’s race report.)

Your Favorite Posts from 2013 

These are the top posts that were written in 2013. “Top” is determined by the number of your visits – thank you, readers! I appreciate you, your support, and your comments!

#1 – Rational Brain/Emotional Brain: 2013 Ironman Lake Placid Race Report. I’m grateful to see the support of this post. It took me FOR-EVAAAAHHH to write, and it went through at least 5 different versions before I decided on the approach.

#2 – Roll with it: 2013 Bone Island Race Report. This was the beginning of the 2013 racing season, January 2013. It was a fun race, and a great way to start the year. 

#3 – The Mission: Ironman Louisville Race Report. Yeah, I loved Louisville, too.

I gather from this list that ya’ll like yourselves some race reports ;).

So, what can I learn from reflecting upon the previous year?

While this list is related to athletic achievements, it seems clear that what matters to me the most is my family and friends. I’ve lost my parents, and both sets of grandparents–people who were very important as the “central hub” of my family. Their loss is one that cannot be replaced, and I mourn it regularly. However, family remains and continues. While we may lose some of the “old” traditions of youth, new traditions are beginning, and new experiences are yet to be had. I <3 you guys 🙂

Over the holiday season, I did some soul searching about where I am in my life. (This may or may not have had something to do with turning 40 years old in December–the symbolic “middle” of my life.) I asked myself: Am I doing what I want to be doing? Am I living the life I want? 

Make no mistake – this was not a fun or easy process. In fact, it led to a pretty sad and depressing holiday season for me. As it turns out, deeply questioning your life, and the choices you have made, is not a comfortable or easy process.

As it turns out, I don’t really like what is comfortable or easy. As I reflected on 2013, and the years before it, I realized that I thrive on challenge, and questioning the taken-for-granted. A little bit of soul-searching is actually good for the soul. It has reminded me of what matters most to me.

While there are some aspects of my life that I would like to change (don’t we all have those aspects?), the primary course I have charted is the path I want to follow. Family is the compass for my journey, and endurance sport is a key part of the path–both my own exploits, as well as supporting and nurturing others as they push the limits of their bodies to learn about life.

You know what else is important to me? You — the readers and community of Running A Life. Thank you for being a part of my experiences, and for sharing your own. When I receive your comments, emails and tweets, I feel a kinship and a connection to community that makes me happy – and yes, of course, makes me weepy.

What did you learn from 2013? How will you take that forward into 2014? What matters most to you? 


  1. Ruth Ann

    Thank you Maria for continuing to inspire us. Your posts are so full of honesty. I have been a runner for 37 years. I continue to learn and grown in my sport. Your posts help to inspire me to compete and to be the best I can be.

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