Welcome to 2017: A year of healing, hope and discovery

From the offset, I knew 2016 would be a tough year as we walked away from a beautiful life we spent 13 years building into a wilderness of unknowns. At times, I’ve thrived and reached summits I never thought possible. Other times, I’ve faltered and have struggled to carve out a new existence. I’ve been so busy getting unpacked and starting a new job over these last months (while still juggling the old one) that I’ve neglected what makes me happy. Being outdoors. Writing about travel. Building friendships. Communing with God.

I talked to Jamie about some of my frustrations this week and he consoled me to be kind to myself. “We’ve had a hard year. We’ve been in survival mode.”

But now that we’re a lot more settled, I’m feeling restless to delve in. To explore. To befriend. To eat healthier. To build new communities and networks. So much of the Midway area is unknown and brimming with possibilities. I’ve been uncharacteristically placid. Paralyzed in the past and present. I injured my left knee a few months ago running down the Mid-mountain Trail in Park City and it is still giving me problems. Couple that with my other arthritic knee and I’ve been slow to rehabilitate and figure out a new lifestyle that nurtures healing.

A few years ago, I read an article about adventure racer Amelia Boone. Since the sport’s inception, she’s amassed more than 30 victories and 50 podiums. In the 2012 World’s Toughest Mudder competition, which lasted 24 hours, she finished 2nd OVERALL out of 1,000+ competitors. This was ahead of every male except the winner, who beat her by just 8 minutes.

When she was asked why she was so successful in obstacle racing, she replied,

“I’m not the fastest, and I’m not the strongest, but I’m REALLY good at suffering.”

Persistence. Endurance. Never giving up.

I’ve certainly never been at Amelia’s elite level but being an athlete has been part of my identity. Even from a young age, I would torture myself with sprints up and down the gully. I’d slog through the deep snow in the golf course. I’d leap-frog off my long jumping leg for hours on the trampoline. Last year was the first time in my life (besides my mission and late in my pregnancies) that I haven’t had a regular workout routine because I’ve been at a loss for what to do. I’m bored to tears by low-impact yoga, swimming and Pilates so I’ve barely done anything since we moved to Midway.

It was with great interest I followed Amelia’s journey this year after a serious injury. How would a champion who thrives on being on top of the podium cope with her rehabilitation? She recently wrote an article that has become my blueprint for this year, “A Year of Healing.” You won’t regret taking a few minutes to read it if you’ve ever been smacked in the face with the need to change but here are a few excerpts.

On April 26th of this year, a few days after the whole “broken femur” thing started, I picked up a copy of Cheryl Strayed’s book “Brave Enough.” I flipped to a page, and this stared at me:

I promptly ripped this page (and one more, which you’ll see if you make it all the way through this novel of a post) and taped it to my bathroom mirror, as a theme for my recovery journey. Granted, the journey has been much longer than I anticipated, but can be summed up with two themes: gratitude and acceptance.

When I first sat down to write this post, I titled it “2016: A Year of Injury.” But the more I wrote, I realized that, yes – I could look at this as a year of injury. Or I could look at this as a year of healing – body and mind. So that’s what I choose to do.

….People always talk about the physical part of injury. The physical part is easy. It’s the mental part that will eat you alive. Wondering if every ache and pain is a new catastrophic injury, or a massive setback from the prior. Worrying that your body is going to betray you…forever. And trying to have the patience and trust to weather the painfully slow rebuilding process.

…..2016 didn’t go as planned, to say the least. From laying out my most ambitious and exciting race schedule ever a year ago, to not even competing in a single obstacle race. From logging my highest mileage months ever, to not running a step for 9 months. From feeling the strongest I ever have as an athlete, to feeling the absolute weakest. Yes, 2016 was a doozy.

But you know what? It has been, by far, my most personally fulfilling year ever. Maybe being unable to physically run from my problems forced me to confront them, and do the deep work that is so easy to abandon when times are good. Maybe I had to be physically weak and broken to become emotionally strong. And while I don’t have it all figured out, maybe life put a “pause” button in front of me to allow me to do so.

To say it was a sucker punch when you are already down for the count is a bit of an understatement. But amidst the tears, my friend (and life twin!) Caroline asked me a question which I thought was rather silly at the time: “Amelia, did you ACCEPT your injury? With the femur?” And I retorted “of course I have, Burckle. It’s hard to not when you are on crutches for 3+ months.”

But what I realized is that while I couldn’t ignore the physical injury, I did everything I could to cross-train around it. I fought like hell to maintain my fitness. I denied that my training methods were wrong, or that they may have been the source of the injury. I did everything to pretend it was just a few months off, and my training would resume as normal after a clean bill showing no fracture. For months, I kept lamenting about being worried about “getting back to the place where I was.” When instead, I should have accepted that I’m NEVER going to return to “where I was,” and that’s actually the LAST place I should want to go. Instead, I need to move forward, accept that I’m never going to be the same athlete, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Now, the end of December, a month into a return to run program (until the careful guidance of Coach David…#rawr) from the second stress fracture, I finally feel like I’ve reached the point where I’ve accepted that I’m not trying to “get back” anywhere. And I’m probably never going to train how I used to train, but that’s OK. Because I have faith that, with the perspective and knowledge, I’ll train better.


My frustrations with 2016 aren’t just about my injuries (though that has definitely been a part of it). I need to figure out what my new normal will be–for my family, my new career path and my health. I’ll never return to “where I was” and I need to become more OK with that.  Because things are still good, even great.

Instagram has an algorithm that compiles your nine most popular posts of the year. I posted the following on Facebook yesterday:

It was almost exactly a year ago that we made the decision to move for no apparent reason, during which time Jamie prophetically announced “2016 is going to suck.” I find it interesting that we started, ended and spent the majority of our year in Colorado but most of my #2016bestnine moments are in Midway. Because despite all the hard stuff of goodbyes and stresses, there were new friends, rainbow sunrises, joyous reunions and golden vistas. 2016 was a lesson in faith, sacrifice and growth but 2017 will be about finding our place here. I’ve learned not to take any mundane or magical moment for granted. Life comes and goes, just long enough for us to witness the sublime, the glory, but only if we take the time to look and listen.

I may be limping into 2017 (literally and figuratively) but my life’s creed resonates more than ever: “When you’re falling on your face you’re actually moving forward.”

I’m coming for you, 2017, face-plants and all.

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