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  • Writer's pictureJessica Stough

Out with the Old, In with the New – Here’s to the New Year, 2024!

“You can please some of the people some of the time, all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but you can never please all of the people all of the time.” – Abraham Lincoln



I woke up the morning of starting this post around 3AM with my mind just absolutely reeling. Christmas. Family drama. Work. Planning. These past few insane years. Coaching. A random disease that is out there killing too many dogs. Two full-fledged wars that people just aren’t talking about. Somewhere in there, I’ve got to also take the time to think about myself and Zac. 


It’s funny looking back at how much things have changed in the last twelve months (again), yet noticing the things that have stayed the exact same. In forward thinking, it is almost scary to think how much things can change again in the next twelve months. 


I looked back at my Goodbye 2022 and Hello 2023 post from last year, and saw that I (somehow) believed that 2023 was going to be “my year.” Maybe I was forward-thinking then too. Maybe I was trying to will it to happen for me. I would say that the second half of the year was pretty good (aside from the past few weeks), but the first half was certainly rocky


Aside from the normal self-reflection that I work through at the end of each year, I have put even more thought into the past, present, and future as 2023 winds down to a close. With the sudden loss of Grandma earlier this month, I’ve been constantly thinking about family, friends, and life in general.


Isn’t it crazy to think about how the people in our lives come and go – whether they are around for the entirety of our lives or just small snippets? Even more, the fact that those that are in our lives for smaller segments can have such a huge impact? 


Grandma’s passing made me think about those that have been in my life for the entirety of it. I’ve spent a lot of recent weeks with fond memories of her hitting me at the least expected times. The stories she shared about writing my name down on her hand when I was born so she wouldn’t forget what to call me. That time that she threw my drink away at a McDonalds and toddler me was so mad at her. Her laughter from a few hamster toys that would repeat whatever we said in a high-pitched voice.


I have so many wonderful memories of her that I imagine those fond memories, along with many others, will just continue to pop into my head again and again. 


My first birthday party, a smiling Grandma and me, 1994


I do feel like I lost myself there for a bit during the first half of the year, and struggled to claw my way back out – but I did it, and that’s what really matters in the end. When I turned 30, I decided that I was done people-pleasing and ready to start finally putting myself first. It took some time to actually initiate that new mindset and jump into my self-care era, but I was able to do it. 


They say that when a people pleaser decides to put themselves first, those around them get upset. Man, if that isn’t the truest thing I’ve ever heard. I didn’t really believe it at first – honestly, I didn’t truly believe I was a people-pleaser before – but it is scary how much it can impact relationships when a person finally starts to say ‘no’ to the things that don’t resonate with them. 


Grandma’s passing was another reminder for me, about nine months into my 30th year, to continue to say ‘yes’ to the things that mean something to me and ‘no’ to those that do not. Although she lived to see her 89th birthday, not all of us are able to do that. She had a long life, yes, but it sure felt like she was gone way too soon for me. Hence, it is so important for us to remember that we are the most important people in our own lives. Those around us are important, sure, but we have to make sure that we are happy, our cups are full, and we are doing things that bring us joy. 


This past year has taught me a lot of life lessons and forced me to make a lot of changes. I’m thankful for what I’ve learned and how I’ve grown, but am definitely ready to move on to 2024. Before I do that, however, I want to make sure to recap some of my favorite memories from 2023 (be sure to click the titles for each section to re-read part one of each trip recap or look into the races). 


 

Travel Highlights

  • Italy

  • Colorado

  • Pacific Northwest



Italy was an absolutely amazing experience, despite some serious flight issues and delays that nearly cost me my spot in the Rome Marathon. The architecture, the history, and the food in Italy are all too incredible to put into words. I learned more than I expected to during our visit with multiple tours and excursions, and we even had a wonderful time learning how to cook authentic Italian cuisine (and eating what we cooked). 



Fun fact – Zac and I looked for a tattoo shop opening while there, as we were hoping to get Roman numeral tattoos of our wedding date. However, we could not find anyone open and able to complete the request. Instead, later back home, on our eighth anniversary, we got matching Roman numeral tattoos. I’m not sure if “when in Rome” still counts, but I’m going to go with it. 



Although we go each and every year, Colorado continues to awe and inspire us every time we visit. We are always able to find something new and exciting while visiting. This year, I was most impressed with the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center. Not only did we learn a ton about the wolves there, but we also learned about some of the other wildlife they house at the center. In addition, we were able to see wolves and other animals play and enjoy their large enclosures. 



Interestingly enough, just recently, Colorado released five gray wolves in an effort to start repopulation of the species. They have plans to release five more by early 2024, and are working toward releasing a total of 30-50 wolves within the next five years (if interested, read more about the repopulation efforts here). 



It feels like just yesterday that we were returning from our trip to the Pacific Northwest. As with our other trips, our time in the PNW was absolutely amazing. We were able to visit three national parks and multiple state parks while there, really allowing us to take in all of the views of the PNW. 



Although we didn’t see any bears or mountain lions (much to our surprise, since we saw caution signs everywhere for both), we did see plenty of deer and other less intimidating creatures. We visited mountains, rainforests, beaches, and everything in between – and I can’t wait to go back and visit some of the places we weren’t able to get to during the trip.

 

 

Race Highlights

  • Rome Marathon

  • The Buzz Run

  • Relay Iowa

  • Stuffed Turkey 



I had many fun races this year, but the icing on the cake was definitely the Rome Marathon, my first international race. I still, over nine months later, cannot get over the feeling of standing at that start line. It was so much different than my previous marathons that it literally brought tears to my eyes waiting to toe the line. I had the opportunity to, on my first day in Rome, explore the city by foot for 26.2 miles. 




The Buzz Run obviously has a special place in my heart, seeing as how it is the only race event I have ever created – and since I get to run it each year with my best friend. The third annual Buzz Run was bigger than ever, and I’m so thankful for those that walked or ran in it (and the new friendships that were made thanks to this event – you know who you are). 

This year, Buzz had two other dogs join him for the full half marathon distance, and I was again blown away by his tenacity and motivation to just go. To see him run is to understand the joy that is running – he has not a care in the world except the open trail in front of him. I believe that to be true of his two new doggie friends that joined him this year as well.


We could certainly all learn a thing or two from these running dogs if we are willing to listen to what they want to teach us. We just have to pay attention to the lessons they want us to learn.



As always, Relay Iowa was another great time. This year, I did not run through any tornados like in 2022 so I will take that as an additional plus. The weather this year for Relay was great (besides a little rain at the start), which helped us all rack up plenty of our own miles to get to our collective 339. This event is always such great fun with friends that the lack of sleep can’t even slow us down. 




Ah, the Stuffed Turkey Endurance Races. This event should seemingly be on my most-hated races list this year (if I had such a thing), but it is instead one of my top races. I had set out in June to train to run this as my first 50K. I had the training runs down to a science and was knocking out every long run, speed workout, and recovery run like it was nothing.


Then, I ran the Knoxville Cancer Relay and gave myself shin splints. 


I ran on them for a few additional days after the event before realizing what was wrong, and then we went on vacation to the PNW. On vacation, I kept from running and only hiked to work toward healing my angry shins. When we returned from vacation, they were still sore (but somewhat better) so I continued running – but less than what I had been doing. 


It was time that I scheduled an appointment with the PT. He told me I’d been doing all of the right stretches and strength moves on my own already (yay me), and he told me I could keep running. He even shared that he thought running the 50K would be "manageable."


However, as I continued to heal and run, I knew that I was behind more than three weeks on my training, coming back from an injury, and would need to ramp up training exponentially in order to feel comfortable running the 50K. With all of these factors in mind, I decided to instead run the ten-miler. 


This race was an excellent reminder that sometimes we have to reevaluate our goals and readjust. I was definitely bummed about cutting down to the ten-miler, but knew it was the right decision and the one I felt the most comfortable doing. I knew I was helping avoid further injuring myself, and also knew that I didn’t have anything to prove to anyone. Now, because I made that choice, I’m back to running higher mileage, and pain-free! 


Not all races are great races, but sometimes, they are excellent learning opportunities. Plus, having awesome friends to run the races with always make them that much better too!



 

Bonus Race Highlights

  • Knoxville Cancer Relay

  • Hennepin 100 & Mines of Spain



The Knoxville Cancer Relay has a special place in my heart – much like the Buzz Run, but for different reasons. My mom passed away from lung cancer in 2019. Later that same year, I was invited to be a member of the Knoxville Cancer Relay team. The person who invited me to the team had no idea I had just lost my mom to cancer, which made the invite that much more serendipitous. 


I’ve continued to be a part of this special group of people ever since that invite, and am so happy to be able to participate in the relay to raise money for the American Cancer Society. This year, we celebrated the tenth anniversary of the relay team and half of the team was able to run across the state of Iowa. Buzz even got some of his own miles in while out on Highway 92 with me and the relay team! 




Now, last but certainly not least, the Hennepin 100 and Mines of Spain races both get honorable mentions as bonus races for 2023. They have to be honorable mentions because, although I ran in each, I only ran to the extent of helping pace some incredible friends to their race goals. 


I cannot stress enough how amazing it was to have the honor to be a pacer for these two wonderful women as they each completed their first 100 mile races. I was able to watch true resiliency and motivation in both of them, and the other racers around them. Neither race was a walk in the park, but they both handled their races with total grace. It was great to be able to set myself and my own goals and interests aside and run just for them to help them cross those finish lines. 


 

Now, we are just a few days away from 2024, and I cannot wait for that calendar change. Every new day, week, month, and year is an opportunity to start fresh, but there is something so different and almost magical about New Year’s. It’s like the big fresh start, and always holds so much promise. 


With that, I’ve created another vision board to lead me into 2024. Basically, it equates to more running, more fitness, more reading, more yoga, and more overall healthy habits. I think 2024 has a lot to offer, so let’s see where it takes us!


Happy, happy New Year – let's do this, 2024!




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