Is it a goal?
Is it a limitation?
Before I go further, I'd like to thank a Rock-Star Loopster, Dean. If you missed it, Dean shared a transformation he's undergone in the past few years, in his 50's! It is pretty amazing. But beyond that, he encouraged others to share their stories, victories, and pictures of their first and most current race photos.
What really "got me" was reading all of the stories of transformation and progress that were posted in response to Dean's request. Even those that never got out of shape and have maintained a healthy lifestyle moved me! And then the dagger...a lot of people hadn't lost any measurable weight over the past few years but went from a bit pudgy to Fireman or Firewoman Calendar worthy.
Reading all of those stories changed my perspective, literally. I'm impatient, but worse, I have to admit I've been a bit petulant lately. I get frustrated because some arbitrary measure of success isn't happening. That is, I'm not dropping any weight. Since I haven't been racing I've not seen significant growth in that realm either. Having only six months under my belt since my first 5K, I've got the experience of an infant, which means, I lack the scope to understand that what I am doing is paying off. Reading those stories has given me confidence and patience.
Yesterday I had a great race, came up lame (my own fault really, I was out late the night before, didn't prepare for the race and wasn't hydrated properly and my calf was cranky before I started). Still, I'm charged over my PR (20:09, previous 5K was 20:33), not to mention it had a pretty serious hill. And while I wanted to do well on the race, I didn't have a strategy to break 20 minutes. I just ran.
I came up lame and limped, often hopped, the last quarter mile. And I finished in 20:09, a great time for me.
And I just ran!
So when is a goal a limitation?
In the Army people run a 2 mile timed test. Different times earn you a percentage. For my age group at the time, 11:54 for 2 miles was 100%.
With the exception of my first Physical Fitness Test, when I had the body of a heavy drinking, heavy smoking college drop out, all of my 2 mile times were under 12:30. But the goal was 11:54.
I wasn't happy with running low to mid 12's. I wanted that 11:54. BAD!
And the goal loomed large in my mind. It pushed me to run hard and, ultimately, fizzle before the finish. We didn't train to run a two mile race, we just ran four days a week, between 3 and 4 miles in large groups, usually at a painfully slow pace.
So each race everything stayed the same. I had the same training and the same habits...I also had the same goal and, most importantly, the same approach. I was anxious, wanted to prove to myself I could get it! And each time I had the same result, 12:10, 12:22, 12:xx...but not 11:54.
Then I turned 22. The time requirement to earn 100% changed from 11:54 to 12:35.
On the next physical fitness test I was very relaxed on the run. I didn't toe the start line, but instead mingled around in the back of the pack as the test began. I strode nice and loose, just enjoyed the experiencing of running.
I finished the run in 11:30.
I had no goal. I had ran 12:35 with bronchitis, literally. So, I just ran!
And this is what Dean's post, and the responses, led me to ponder. Perhaps goals (time-specific) are limitations. For me they are.
Who would imagine that huge improvements in running would be made by
him, and others, as they get well past their prime? How can people run faster
at 50-something than they did at 30-something?
Here's what I'm taking away, and what I'd like to share: I'm going to try my best to run (or ride) relaxed on race day. That's when I have the best time (both on the clock and in experience). My goal should be enjoying the gift of racing, being healthy and wonderful company.
I will train hard, see how it shakes out race day. If I place, set a PR or even win, who cares? That's not what this is about.
In other words, just run!
I thought that I'd share two pictures from the past. Here's one of me as a junior in High School:
And here's me at age 22, in the army, at some park in Seattle: