At the end of each year I take some time to think about what I've accomplished over the last 12 months. The holidays are a great time for reflection. Besides bringing back some pleasant memories, doing it helps me learn from my mistakes. It helps me analyze situations where I could have done better. Some years I keep those notes to myself and others, like this time, I prefer to share them.
2017 was a very good year in my personal and professional life. Although the outcome of every project and challenge was not the one I would have hoped for, when aiming big, the chance of failing is also significant. I often say that by definition an adventure has an uncertain outcome. But there's no way to succeed if you are not willing to take risks, even moderate ones.
On the first half of this year I did an exceptional amount of running, from 5 km races to 250km multi-day ultra marathons and everything in between. I am very passionate about running and it's the physical activity I enjoy the most. For 10 years I wanted to take part in the Comrades Marathon in South Africa. It's a very hilly 85+km ultra marathon and this year I finally made it to the start (and finish) line. I also ran the Geneva marathon and participated in Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert. There, I spent seven exciting days running in extreme heat and sleeping under the stars. Unfortunately, in June I injured my anterior tibial tendon and that haunted me for most of the second half of 2017. I had several setbacks in my recovery and, even now, I'm just I'm starting to run 12km and longer. It's been a long, slow process and from it I learned a few things:
-The injury came from doing too much over a short period of time. I have to be smarter when scheduling my races, giving myself enough time to recover.
-I have to be more patient and truly rest my body when I have an injury. And I have to get back to my training schedule in a more relaxed, intelligent way.
-As I age, my body will need more time to recover from injuries than it did years ago. I have to be conscious of this all the time.
When it comes to paragliding and hike & fly races, I was selected to participate in Red Bull X-Alps 2017. What an experience it was! It took months of planning and training. The experience, although short, was absolutely worth it. Sadly, I started the race with my anterior tibial tendon injury. By the second day I could barely walk and even pushing my foot against the harness during flight was agonizing. When I was eliminated, I focused on my recovery but it took me three months to be able to run again. Still, I competed in paragliding races in India, France and Mexico. The joy of flying is hard to explain to someone that hasn't experienced it. I'm grateful that I was able to spend so much time in the air. The things that I would do differently:
-Train smarter. All the running that I thought would get me ready for X-Alps ended up being too much and overtraining lead to a complicated and stubborn injury.
Another big challenge I had in 2017 was swimming across the English Channel. You can check my previous blog posts to read about this adventure. The most positive thing I got from it is that now I love swimming when, at the beginning, it was something I dreaded. I will head back to Dover in 2019 and try again. Some of the things I will change are:
-Dedicate even more time to building up speed while swimming, so the effects of the currents will be less significant.
-Go on a much better spot during the neap tide. I was 4th in line this year and now I'm scheduled for 2nd in line for September of 2019.
-Get a better coach, one that will be more involved in my training, and a much better boat pilot. I'm not blaming anyone other than myself not making it this year but I can see that my choices were poor.
As for mountaineering, after dedicating so much time to climbing over the last few years, I decided to give myself a break from big climbs during 2017. That's how I was able to spend so much time running, paragliding and swimming. I was still able to go on a special climb in the Himalayas with Tshering Dorjee Sherpa last October. My lesson here is:
-It's ok to take a break and enjoy other things. To give life some balance. The mountains will be waiting and I will go back with much more energy and passion.
For 2018 I have the most ambitious mountaineering project I've ever set for myself and I will be talking about it very soon.
An area where everything went much better than planned: my philanthropic endeavors. I prefer not to go into details here but I'm very pleased with the time and resources I've put into helping others this year.
This may sound surprising to others but the most challenging side of 2017 was, as it has been over the years, the way I interact to other people. Because of Asperger's Syndrome, some interactions with other people are difficult for me. Social skills that are inherent in others are unnatural to me. For reasons that I can't understand, people come and go from my life. Even people that I would like to remain close to tend to drift away. Since I don't have those social skills, can't figure out a pattern of why it happens. In any case, I will continue trying to keep a close relationship with the exceptional people that come into my life from time to time. I will strive to build stronger, long-lasting personal relationships with them.
No year is perfect. But they don't really have to be perfect. Things that are out of our control will derail our plans, but how we react is up to us. 2017 was a very good year for me and I hope it was for you too. Life still continues to be a great adventure. A very exciting and rewarding adventure.