• Jessica Stough

Reminiscing 2021 and Looking Toward 2022 Goals - Ready for Our Next Adventures!

“Everybody has their own Mount Everest they were put on this earth to climb.” – Seth Godin


I remember as a kid, listening to my mom talk about how quickly time seemed to go by. I would roll my eyes at her, go about doing whatever awesome kid thing I was doing at the time, and think to myself how silly she sounded. Time seemed to drag sometimes. No matter how many times I heard “time flies when you’re having fun,” it just didn’t seem to do that.


Even when I was having a blast running my own imaginary classroom, or adventuring around in the front yard on the jungle gym with my exploration backpack, I felt like time would just snail on by. Now, though, time does fly by, and I truly understand what my mom always used to tell me that made me roll my eyes. 2021 has flown by, and I am just in shock that we are reaching the very end of yet another year.


The end of the year has me reminiscing on everything that I was able to do in 2021, all the people I met, friends I made, experiences I had, and all of the adventures Zac and I had together. The year brought with it a lot of twists and turns for everyone, much like 2020 did. However, it brought a lot of great things too.

 

This year, we were able to take a second trip to Arizona. We finally got our shot at the Angel’s Landing hike – and thank goodness, too, because effective next April, each hiker will have to enter and win in the lottery for a permit to tackle the climb. We were able to spend the trip with a few great friends, and visit a few new places in the area we hadn’t been to on our last trip as well.

Before our second trip of the year, I also organized the first annual Buzz Run. It started with the fact that Buzz ran all of my half marathon training runs with me. I thought to myself, man, I really wish that normal races allowed dogs to join in because then Buzz could run with me. Lo and behold, the thought sparked an idea and ended with an event to raise money for Animal Lifeline of Iowa.

Within a matter of about a month, I was able to get the incredible crew at Fleet Feet Des Moines on board with having the event there and I put together what became a great event that raised over $800 for charity. For those that helped me with the event, you know who you are – I am still so very, very thankful for everything you did to help make the event happen and so special!


Our second trip of the year was our annual adventure to Colorado to visit our uncle Barry and cross off a few new fourteeners. The trip brought our total number of fourteener conquests to eleven and Buzz’s number to seven. This trip also allowed us to cross another National Park off of our bucket list, our first Colorado mountain biking adventures, and many, many other hiking adventures.

I ran a few more races (because what else do I even do besides travel and run, right?) throughout the year too, of course. One of the most memorable races was Relay Iowa, the world’s longest relay run. A friend invited me to join her team, and I am so happy that she did. Leading up to the race, I remember having different variations of the same conversation with Zac:


Zac: You really want to do this thing? Ride around in a car with a bunch of people you don’t know for days on end?

Me: Yeah, I think so. Besides, I won’t be in the car the whole time. I’ll be running too.

Zac: I just don’t know why you want to. It literally sounds like the worst thing ever.

Me: Well, I have no idea. I’ll try anything once. If it is terrible, I just won’t do it again, but at least I’ll know.


I’m glad I stuck with my gut and tried it out because it was seriously so much fun. I had never done anything like it, but am already ready to do a few relays in 2022 because I had such a blast.

The third big trip we took in 2021 was Alaska, which was an absolutely amazing trip. Although we did visit during a time where a lot of places were closed for the season, we had such an amazing experience. We did what we do best – got out into nature and explored. We hiked mountains, we hiked glaciers, and we didn’t even see any bears (in the wild … but we did see bears at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, and that was pretty cool).

I was also able to participate in a half marathon while we were in Alaska, and that was another one of my favorites this year. Running through the trails in Alaska near the quaint town of Girdwood was an experience like none other.


After we returned from Alaska, it felt like the final few months of the year flew by. I jumped into classes to become a certified running coach and ran my first full marathon shortly after we returned. My goal was to do both (get my certification and run the marathon) in the same week, and I was able to do that!


I paced for a race in Cedar Rapids the next weekend, which was probably a mistake because I was very sore. I took it easy with running after that until I found out about canicross (if you missed my epiphany, you can read about it here). When I realized I had been missing out on an entire niche in the dog running community, I found a race fairly close to home. I got a great friend to join me on the adventure to Lake Geneva, and we made a fun weekend trip out of it (all about that here).


Basically, the five top races for me this year, in no particular order, were:

  1. Girdwood Half Marathon

  2. Des Moines IMT Marathon

  3. The Buzz Run

  4. Mutt Turkey Strut

  5. Relay Iowa

I was also able to be a Girls on the Run coach again this fall season. Their end-of-season 5K is high on my list of races as well. I was not only able to coach for eight weeks, but was also able to have the honor of being a running buddy for one of the girls during their race. She, and all of the other girls, kicked total butt. Each and every one of those girls is such an absolute inspiration.

They all impressed me with their drive – for all of the training runs and their end-of-season 5K. Two of the girls had tummy troubles, to the point where most adults would’ve cut out of the race early. Instead of giving up, they both persevered and continued on. Afterwards, when asked how the race went, one of the girls said, “It was good.” She then grabbed an orange to snack on like she hadn’t been absolutely miserable, throwing up, for 3.1 miles.


After the Girls on the Run 5K, we transitioned immediately into holiday mode. First, we had Thanksgiving and Riley’s birthday. Then, we blinked and it was Christmas. Somewhere in the middle of all of the holiday craziness, though, I found a hiking group on Facebook (it all started through a friend, who shared a TikTok with me) and was able to meet a ton of new people on a hike just before Christmas (Pinicon Ridge Park blog post).

 

Now, sitting here with a few dogs by my side and a coffee in my hand, all I can do is reflect back on how great the year was. The way I see it, even if it hadn’t been amazing, there is just no way to change the past. There is no reason to look back at it and wonder ‘what if’ or how we could’ve changed what happened. The only reason to look back is to remember. Instead of worrying about the past, celebrate it. Remember We’re the Millers? Just think to yourself, “#NoRagrets.”


The past, too, can help us plan for the future. I openly share that I am not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. For whatever reason, any time I’ve called them resolutions, they just haven’t stuck. However, I do believe in goals, and seem to be able to keep those promises to myself much better than I can with resolutions.


I set some goals at the beginning of the year – things I want to make sure to stick with all year, like drinking 64 ounces of water a day, reaching a certain daily step count goal, and eating healthy (most of the time, anyway – because I still love me some pizza). I set other goals whenever they make sense. At the beginning of 2021, I didn’t have a goal to become a certified running coach, but by mid-year, it was a goal. I honestly don’t think I had any plans to run my first marathon at the beginning of the year either, but I sure had that as a goal once I signed up for the race (once a race is paid for, I’m doing it – it's a very good motivation tactic).

I had absolutely no idea at the beginning of 2021 that I would sign up to start a blog, nor was that a goal of mine, but here I am, writing a blog – sharing my stories, telling people about our adventures, and hopefully providing insight that will help at least some of my readers however it is they need.


Now, although I just said I don’t do New Year's resolutions, I did do something new this year. I created a vision board for 2022 – something that will be a constant reminder of my goals. I don’t exactly know what 2022 will bring, but do know that I want to continue traveling, continue running and working out, maintain my mental and physical health, and focus on yoga and meditation. I suppose it is safe to say that the main goals are to remain positive and chase dreams.


My very first vision board:

I know that the biggest theme in this blog is travel, so the question probably is, what are our travel plans for the new year? At this time, I honestly can’t say. I wish I could positively say that we plan to travel abroad this year, as we have been hoping for a trip to Italy since COVID 19 hit. However, everything is so uncertain, I honestly don’t know that that will be a safe (or realistic, due to travel restrictions constantly changing) decision to make.


What I do know is that we plan to travel whenever and wherever we can. Although we don’t have everything set in stone yet, I know that we will be able to start planning soon, when we are able to pin down dates for our vacations. I also know that we will certainly be taking our annual trip to Colorado, most likely in late June or early July.


Past that, I am just excited to head into 2022 knowing that we will have opportunities to plan new adventures. We have a forever-long bucket list of places we want to go. I’ll be happy with wherever our adventures take us because I know I’ll have my best friend there by my side, adventuring right along with me. Plus, he usually drives because he trusts his own driving more than mine, so that’s pretty cool too.


Here’s to 2022, to new people, to new friends. Here’s to new opportunities and new adventures. Here’s to all of us realizing that the next year is whatever we decide to make of it, and choosing to live however we want, in whatever way that makes us happy.


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