Friday, June 19, 2015

The Journey and Goal Setting

Fitness is a journey. You don’t ever reach one goal and just stop; you set a faster goal, a longer goal, a stronger goal, or a different type of goal altogether. This post is about my changing goals and myriad accomplishments.

I never intended to become a runner, but I joined a women’s walking group in April 2010 and we ended up peer pressuring each other into registering for a 10k race together. In eight weeks I used the plan “Day 1: Run as far as you can; Day 2: Repeat” to train from zero to run my first 10k faster than I expected in 1:16:19 on a day 85°F and 80 percent humidity, no less. I went on that fall to run my only sub-60 10k and sub-30 5k.

A lot of runners train to get faster and better at their chosen distances. I’ve never since been able to hit that 10-minute pace I so enjoyed and took pride in. Sometimes it gets me down, especially on days that I feel strong and swift and discover at the end of a run that I’m only hitting about a 13-minute pace. I find that I prefer to train for lots of new events with only a goal of finishing. I want to try everything.

In 2011 I ran my first obstacle race, the Warrior Dash, and finished in a respectable 00:40:51 after long lines at each obstacle and later that season attempted my first half marathon (13.1 miles). I was injured and under-trained for the half, and inclement weather shortened the course, but I finished and set a distance PR of about 4 miles that day.

Texas saw a dreadful summer in 2012, making it sort of an off year for me, though I did a couple mud runs with friends. That might have been the year I sprained my foot early on the course and walked the rest of it with my friends’ expressing their relief at not struggling to keep up with me.

I ran my first trail race in 2013, a brutal 10k that kicked my butt, but I loved every excruciating minute of it and its scenic vistas. The following month I proudly earned my first DNF at the Savage Race obstacle run. Choosing to DNF is one of the best life choices I’ve ever made.

At the end of 2013, I ran/slogged through a 15.2-mile Spartan Beast obstacle race. I went into it believing I could *maybe* make it through 9 miles and would definitely drop out. But the weather was glorious and I framed it in my mind as a beautiful afternoon hike. I finished in just under 7 hours and just barely before dark.

In 2014, I ran more races than any sane person should, including a dozen in May alone, and suffered several months of ITBS. I also ran two complete half marathons. Despite the pain and how much it slowed me down, I worked my way up to running for three hours straight. Running fast may get all the recognition, but running for three hours, even slowly, is no fucking joke.

At my second half marathon last year, I’d set a 3-hour time goal and was sad to come in at 3:04:00 until I looked back at how miserable and lonely and unmotivated I was at the start of the race that morning; the long, lonely, empty, shade-free course; the overuse knee injury that had plagued me and inhibited my training for 6 months; the last mile I’d spent limping and sobbing in agony and seriously contemplating dropping for help; the obnoxiously steep uphill final stretch; and all the money I’d raised for LLS. All things considered, that 3:04 was effing badass and an 18 minute improvement over my first half marathon less than two months prior.

I had spent most of the year with my heart set on completing the Spartan Trifecta, mostly just to prove I could, but I had such a rough time at the 2013 Beast and so much knee pain at the 2014 Sprint and Super that I ultimately decided not to go for the 2014 Beast and Trifecta, having already proven I could do all three within six months, even if I wouldn’t get the recognition for it. Giving up that goal was very rewarding in that it alleviated a lot of anxiety and dread and saved me a few hundred bucks, too.

For four years I’ve wanted to train for and run a full marathon (26.2 miles), but last year’s painful setbacks have me re-evaluating that goal. Last summer showed me how awful it is to log long miles in the heat for a fall race, so if I want to do a marathon, I’ll have to find a springtime event and commit to training through winter. This year I’m giving triathlon a go instead.

I like to give myself reasonable time goals to meet. My first tri goal was two hours, and I came in at 1:54. I have a bad habit of playing it down and telling people I’m only doing sprint tri’s for now, but there’s nothing easy about two hours of continuous cardio.

I’d thought I would go for a half Ironman (70.3 miles) this fall with an acquaintance but realized after the first tri how difficult that would be and decided that I am not interested in training for a 7-hour torture fest. I am, however, looking at an International distance triathlon in September, which is a distance twice as long as the Sprint, though hopefully I can get my time down.
So I’ve unexpectedly beat goals, met goals, fallen short, and found fulfillment in re-examining and throwing out other goals, which is an important ability to cultivate for one’s peace of mind.

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