2021 – My Running Recap

2021 Running Recap: It was the year of the PR, BQ but no Boston, and Surgery!

In 2021 I ran 5 races, PR’d in every race and distance from 5k to the marathon, and qualified for Boston. All of this in the year I turned 50. I’m just gonna let that sink in for a minute! It was beyond what I could have hoped for after a nearly 3 year break from racing. I had the unexpected fortune of qualifying and getting into Boston in it’s first ever running in the fall, but got injured just six weeks out and couldn’t race. Even though my year ended differently than I ever hoped or expected, I am so grateful and proud of the running I was able to do this year.

My running stats for 2021:

Total Miles (Jan-Sep): 1161

Total Miles (Oct-Dec): 0

Highest Mileage Month (ever): August, 201 miles

Races: 5

  • Sun Marathon, 1/30/21 – 3:42:08 (8:29 avg pace) – 6 minute PR – 1st place F45-49
  • Fast Cat 5k, 4/3/21 – 22:07 (7:08 avg pace) – 4 second PR – 2nd Place Female
  • Fight Hunger 10k, 4/17/21 – 46:19 (7:19 avg pace) – 2:40 PR – 2nd Place Female
  • Great Western Half Marathon, 5/2/21 – 1:40:13 (7:36 avg pace) – 3:21 PR – 8th Place female
  • Firecracker 5k, 7/4/2 – 21:51 (7:02 avg pace) – 16 second PR – 1st Place AG, 3rd Place Female

Peloton: 45 rides, 121 strength workouts

Favorite Moments:

  • Finishing my first marathon in almost 3 years, with a 6 minute PR and a BQ
  • The Great Western Half Marathon was my lifetime best executed race, running strong start to finish with a solid negative split and PR.
  • While on some training runs in Flagstaff, AZ, I ran into two running legends – Stephanie Bruce and Kellyn Taylor. Total fangirl moment!
  • Completing my VDOT O2 Certification and beginning my career as a running coach!

Lowest Moments: In the midst of a solid build up to my 2nd Boston when, 6 weeks out from the race, my peroneal tendon tore and said “no more”. Spent 3 months rehabbing and diagnosing before surgery on Dec 2 to remove an ankle bone fragment (from an old unhealed injury from over 20 yrs ago), re-attach ligaments and repair the torn tendon. 2 weeks in a cast and made it off the crutches before year end!

Weirdest Moments: Running the first 2.5 miles of my marathon on snow and ice, all the rolling race starts, racing my 10k out in front all alone (worried I was lost or off course!)

2021 was about soooo much more for me than the numbers. This year I fell in love all over again with the process and discipline of training. Every day that I can start with a run, is a good day. I also feel like I made a step change in my mindset, showing that I could find another gear in the late stages of racing (which I did in my half and last 5k), and expanding my own belief for what I’m capable of and what is possible. I’ll take this forward in my own training and my work as a coach which I am very excited about! Despite how my year ended, I’m so proud and energized by how I ran this year, and it’s fueling my fire for my comeback in 2022.

Read on for Race Recaps and Injury/Surgery Details!

January – Sun Marathon – 3:42:08 (8:29 avg pace) – 6 minute PR – 1st place AG

While racing (and everything) was getting canceled in 2020, I took advantage of the opportunity to train and really build back my fitness and strength. It was a building year, coming off off hip surgery in 2019 which took a solid year to fully recover from, and at times I was not sure I would ever run again pain free. I headed into 2021 feeling solid.

This small race in Utah that would be my first marathon in almost 3 years (since Boston 2018). It was a point-to-point net downhill course with over 2000 ft elevation loss and 700 ft of gain. As I rode the bus up to the start line I was shocked to see that we were now driving over snow and ice on the roads. Was this the course? Would I be running on this? For how long? Yes, yes and for 2.5 miles. I was like w-t-f is this?? After crunching through snow, huddling by a fire to keep warm, sliding on the frost in the port-o-potty, I stripped down to my shorts, shivering, walked up to the start line gave the RD my number and he said “go!” Weirdest marathon start ever.

Marathon Finish – 3:42:08!

Scenery was spectacular, downhills were sweet. Uphills were a killer. Pacing was on through mile 20 right around my goal pace of 8:00/mi and in what has become my typical marathon form, I struggled through the last 10k. Tim ran the half and I caught up with him at mile 21 (right on with our back-of-the-napkin math estimate!), which was a great extra boost of energy late in the race when I really needed it. That tiny bump at the end of the course elevation chart was a steady uphill for the better part of mile 23. I felt like I was crawling, and started questioning my life choices. I recovered and got back to sub-9:00 for mile 26 and still managed to gut it out for a 6 minute PR! Overall, it was a major personal victory and it felt great to be back in the game. My dad and stepmom were there which made it extra special to see them several times out on the course and cheering for me at the finish.

Spring Races

I took 3 full weeks off following the marathon to let my body fully recover. I was feeling some residual soreness in my ankle (foreshadowing), and wanted to be smart about resting before putting more stress on my body as I resumed training. I was SO excited to see local races coming back and the plan for spring was to focus on speed first, in my build up to a half in May.

April – Fast Cat 5k – 22:07 (7:08 avg pace) – 4 second PR – 2nd Place Female

I do not love 5k’s. I’ll take a longer race any day over the huffing, puffing, and all out pain of a 5k. But, it was great to be back out at a local race. Tried to hold back early but didn’t really, and felt it during mile 3. 6:58, 6:56, 7:17. Still managed to eek out a 4 second PR!

April – Fight Hunger 10k – 46:19 (7:19 avg pace) – 2:40 PR – 2nd Place Female

Another local spring race (Cantigny Park) with Tim but this one was r-e-a-l-l-y small. With Covid protocols in place, races were either restricting field sizes or staggering the starts. We didn’t start this race until 12:15! We were the 2nd wave of the 10k and our group was maybe 20 runners total. I ran with another guy for about the first mile and after that I ran the rest of the race out in front entirely ALONE. It was so bizarre and a couple times I was worried about being lost or off course. I hadn’t run a 10k in 5 years so I was pretty excited to see what I could do. Managed a steady pace right around 7:20 throughout the windy course and was really happy with it!

May – Great Western Half Marathon – 1:40:13 (7:36 avg pace) – 3:21 PR – 8th place female

Coming into this half marathon, I was feeling GOOD. Training was going strong and I was really excited to get out there and execute a strong race. Weather was perfect in the low 50’s and apart from hills at the beginning and end of this out & back course, it was flat. Flat is my jam. I was in one of the first waves and as I had experienced all year, it was a bizarre, small, rolling start. I got myself ready, checked my bag, warmed up, walked up to the line all by myself and went! Took the early miles around 7:50 which felt a little rough while it took a while to settle in. Dropped into the 7:40’s for mile 4-8 and I distinctly noted at mile 8 that I was feeling really good. Dropped into the 7:30’s for 9 & 10 and was really pushing by this point. Last 3 miles were all mental and I knew I physically had it if I could stay focused one mile at a time – 7:29, 7:19, 7:20. It was such a strong finish which was my top goal. I was elated at this race and to date I count it as my best race ever – felt strong throughout, negative split, PR, racing with Tim! I learned a lot too about how to stay focused on the here & now and not on how many miles are left or what anyone else is doing. It fired me up for sure!

July – Firecracker 5k – 21:51 (7:02 avg pace) – 16 second PR – 1st Place AG, 3rd Place Female

In June my coach texted me and said “Hey, it would be good for you to hop into a 5K”. Uh, another 5k? ok? I guess? We found a local race again in downtown Warrenville on the 4th of July. Hilly course and a hot day. What could go wrong? Not much strategy for this but to go out around 7:00 pace and HANG ON. I knew I could do better in that 3rd mile than what I did in my 5k back in April. I did manage to do that this time and mile 3 was sheer will. 6:58, 6:54, 7:04. Still didn’t get that sub-7:00 avg pace, but I was really happy for this result, beating my PR from back in April, and equally happy to not do that again for a while!

August to December – Marathon Training, Getting Injured, Surgery

In May I learned I was accepted into the 125th running of the Boston Marathon in October. It was a unique year holding Boston in the fall (delayed due to covid), and I stumbled into the once in a lifetime opportunity to qualify and race Boston the same year. So, summer began my marathon training as the long runs got longer with a lot of marathon paced miles. August was my highest mileage month of the year and ever at 201 miles.

On Labor Day I had a 21 mile long run with 6x 2 mi @ marathon pace with 1 mi recoveries. Pacing was all spot on. I felt good, not amazing but with the usual amount of ache you’d expect from 21 miles. I had an easy 7 mile recovery run the next day which also felt ok. Rested the next day and did some light strength training. I went out the following day and immediately started feeling an ache in my foot. It was a new pain, in a different place from any of my previous ankle issues and was a pain that grew sharp pretty quickly. I didn’t make it 2 miles before I stopped and walked home.

I spent the following weeks resting and doing all the rounds with doctors, PT, MRI, etc. It was a torn peroneal tendon which had shown on a previous MRI so initially we treated it like tendonitis and I held out hope as the days got closer to Boston. When resting, rehab and cortisone weren’t helping I eventually conceded that I was out of time and had no interest in a pain fest or walking for 26 miles. My Boston was done.

The plan was no running for 6 weeks and wear a boot. While on vacation we did a short easy hike and while out on some uneven rocks (I know, not the smartest!) I felt a sharp pain again in my foot. When we got back I went back to the surgeon and we determined that the root cause was an ankle bone fragment from a previous injury (from an ankle break over 20 years ago) that never healed properly. It had put stress on the ligaments and tendons and likely caused my injury. On December 2nd I went in for surgery.

While all of this has been a bit devastating, emotionally I’ve handled it ok with some perspective and gratitude for the many positive things that came from my year of running and life in 2021. It’s a setback to say the least but I’ve been here before and have confidence that my body will heal and I’ll be able to return to what I love to do.

See my upcoming post on 2022 goals. Happy New Year friends, and as always…. happy running!

One thought on “2021 – My Running Recap

  1. WOW!!!!! Most of this I never knew, Nicole. How’s that possible? You should be extremely proud of yourself for all you’ve accomplished. I know I am proud of you, for sure!

    While my entire running career lasted a half block from our FV house to Stonecress when I got a side ache, I’m pretty proud of the 1849 miles I walked in 2021. I guess it’s all relative: 50 yo vs. 76 yo.

    With lots of love and pride… *Margie *

    On Sat, Jan 1, 2022 at 5:37 PM Run | Rise | Shine wrote:

    > nickimonson posted: ” 2021 Running Recap: It was the year of the PR, BQ > but no Boston, and Surgery! In 2021 I ran 5 races, PR’d in every race and > distance from 5k to the marathon, and qualified for Boston. All of this in > the year I turned 50. I’m just gonna let that si” >


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