Well crikey - what a year! In last year's retro I reckoned we'd have more of the same pandemic life but I think we all hoped for the vaccine saviour narrative. As that seemed to unfold and life opened up the breath we'd all been holding for 2020 started to be released. Lots of life opening up - but that space also allowed the pent up stress and tension to flow. Certainly in my friend circle the second half of year seemed to have more than the usual bumps - a year and a half of issues squeezed into a few months. On top of it all a weariness and lack of energy.
Year in numbers
How does that play out in the statt? Numbers wise kinda like 2017/16 but with a few more books read. And what's that last one? Cycling? Never tracked that properly - what's that all about?
The number that most reflects my year is the KM run. We started off with monotonous lock down - the running was steady - half my yearly total in the first three months. But I struggled with a lack of yoga. I went on an excessively long run to prove I'm still young on my 40th birthday. Obviously that half injured me but I'd signed up for an ultra. It was the first thing open post lockdown and the lure of life returning meant I ran round most of it with a friend and limped the final 10k. And that probably is the best metaphor for the year - desperate to get out and do everything - but overdoing it. Loving it all, but taking on too much. Still I made it to the end of the run and I made it to the end of the year - with what might be a grimace, or it might even be a smile!
So cycling was probably the big revelation this year. Early in the year I wrote about pedalling through a pandemic about the online Zwift league I'd raced in over the winter. As hoped this translated to real world cycling - lots of rides with the neighbour opposite, other friends and colleagues. A highlight was a 100km tour of the peak district - again early days of life opening up and this went much better than my running ultra! Amazing views and a novelty to have a trip away with friends - salve for the body and soul.
On top of normal cycling I also had a go at bikepacking - a number of online friends or acquaintances seem to have done something similar. As with many people I had a craving to do something different and also get out into nature. Strapping a bunch of bags to you and pedalling off into the distance was certainly an excellent way to spend time. Slowly got into it and hoping that the investigative work this year will mean some longer trips in the futures.
New years resolutions
Given the uncertainty last year the only resolution I half mentioned was doing more creative writing. I did a bit - doing a few of the excellent write and shine sessions. Much of the year was laying down the foundations though - following the right people, buying the books, eyeing up a new hobby working out how to fit it into life. More of this to come over the next few years I hope.
Last year setting big goals was foolish - but in the back of my mind I was turning 40. As a middle class, middle aged man one of the recognised ways to celebrate a big milestone is to do an excessive sporting event. Certainly that's how I celebrated my 30th. At the end of last year I signed up for my first half Ironman and hoped that it would go ahead and I'd be in shape. Covid played ball and despite my running injuries I made it round. Tick that midlife crisis box.
Swimming and yoga
Not much to say here - swimming - some cold water/open water at the start of the year - but as pools opened stuck with them. Holidays happened and a much needed trip abroad with the excellent Swim Trek folks.
Yoga studios opened and being in the warm snug embrace of the hot pod yoga studio was a massive boost.
Books and art and stuff
Fewer books - but hey I was out there injuring myself on life! 19 female authors vs 12 male - 35% ethnically contrasting voices. Best books? Olivia Laing's - Funny Weather - Art in an Emergency, Ted Chiang's Exhalation, Anuk Arudpragasam's A Passage North. Other notable mentions - had lots of fun with The Salt Path and Francis Bacon's biography was an ample replacement for missing his postponed exhibition.
Art? Paula Rego's exhibition at the Tate a clear winner. David Hockney's Arrival of Spring though was a perfect tonic for the year - simple easy but joyful. Loads more culture filled the year some plays, shows, life. Was it good? Or just good to be out?
So much more happening in the world - lots of people going through a tough time especially later on in the year. Felt like two years of the usual bumps in the road compressed into the autumn season. With it everyone weary, tired and not being able to be as supportive as usual. Many phone calls (when they finally happened!) started with both sides apologising for absence, lack of messages, general tiredness.
One of the best things I did last year was mentoring. Late in 2020 I was approached roughly at the same time by four different friends/connections and as a result started 2021 with four mentees. The pandemic meant there was plenty of time and we'd all got used to hoping on a call. As life opened up two of the mentees dropped off - although believe they found the sessions useful. The other two continue to be part of my monthly routine. I've learnt a huge amount in the process - I love chatting to people, learning how they see the world and how they are navigating their careers. I believe (and have been told!) that my mentoring has been beneficial to them. I've listened, offered a space to discuss issues and given my thoughts and stories when needed. It's very different from being a manager (although with many overlapping skills) - being distant but close is a unique position and am really happy that I have helped folks out and also grown and learnt myself.
Well another year! Ups and downs, highs and lows - running fast then dealing with injury and over excitement. Who knows what the new year brings. For me the usual mix of hobbies with even more creative writing. Hopefully some more bikepacking, perhaps some travel. This year though a bit steadier, a bit slower, a bit more thoughtful. Let's see how it all goes.