I’ve not been one to share my goals out loud. I’ve been known to not tell friends and family when I race. I’ve long held odd, superstitious thoughts about goals:
…If I say them out loud, I might jinx myself.
…If I tell someone they might think they’re too big or too small.
…If I tell people, and then fail, I will be embarrassed.
I usually race with two goals: the ‘ever so reasonable’ one that I can share and the real one, the one I secretly hope for.
At some point last year, after finishing the Patriot Half for the second time, I realized that I wanted to see if I could PR this race as a 50 year old. More specifically, I wanted to complete a sub 5 1/2 hour 70.3 AND be happy on the run. This is what I wanted to give myself for a 50th birthday present. I don’t know why this felt so meaningful, but that didn’t matter. I just wanted it, like a toddler wants a giant, stuffed rainbow unicorn, I wanted it bad.
Owning the goal and being able to speak about it allowed me to find the right coach. Kathleen was the perfect coach for me and this endeavor. Where I waver in confidence about my ability in any given workout, she is confident about where it fits in the bigger picture of my goal. She was able to feed me the right balance of information, education, and support so that even the most craptastic workout was quickly redefined as useful learning.
The first few weeks of training felt really, really awful. I was sluggish. Struggled for energy and felt like I couldn’t get my muscles firing. I thought I was sick or crazy. I thought maybe I needed to accept being old (which was the opposite of what I was going for). I wondered whether the insane hot flashes that kept me from sleeping were to blame. I asked everyone I could find in my new age group for advice and thankfully got my hands on ROAR by Stacy Sims, PhD. Once I changed my fueling to include more protein, things came back together again*.
Even with proper fueling, there were days when I was certain my coach was crazy…the volume was too much…the intensity was too high. I’d never done this before! And I talked to myself, a lot. “Do you still want it?” “If you don’t want it, you don’t have to do any of this. If you want it, this is the path. Your choice. The goal doesn’t matter at all… except that its yours… if you still want it.”
I changed my 5am alarm so this goal was the message I’d see it every morning before I debated getting out of bed. This goal powered me through over 2,000 miles of training (81 swimming, 1707 cycling, 383 running) and countless hours of stretching, strength, and PT.
At the end of April, a hamstring issue severely impeded my running. Injuries and goals are frustrating. Trying to figure out the right balance of pushing through, treatment, and rest without panicking and making bigger problems is awful. It was the mental undoing and second guessing which felt endless and was exhausting. When the last call for switching to AquaBike email came out, I half thought or hoped that Kathleen would just tell me to give up and switch. (thankfully I didn’t tel her this until after the race, she said she would’ve hit me!)
Every workout during the final weeks leading up to race day was “show up, do my best, and trust.”
Race morning, thunderstorms threatened to wreak havoc with the swim and rain was forecast for the bike. These didn’t feel like the ideal conditions for my goal. I was pissed, but didn’t want to stay there. I reassured myself that I had done the training that under the right conditions, would have led to my goal, but I don’t control the conditions. The part that was in my power, I had done faithfully and well. All that was left to do was go out and have the best race in the conditions that the day brought. That’s it. Oh, and I could still try to be happy on the run.
As I pulled out of my parking space at the hotel Best Day of My Life came on the radio. I had a dream so big and loud… This song stuck in my head for the entire race. It was the soundtrack for the day.
The swim wasn’t canceled. I swam strong and reached the wetsuit strippers without feeling dizzy. The bike was drizzly, but not pouring and I mostly kept to plan for pacing and fueling. The transition to the run was the best ever. Better than any previous Patriot or any long training brick. The first half of the run I was moving along in zone 3…and then the hamstring did its thing.
Absolutely I had hoped it was miraculously gone and I felt so disappointed. In an instant, I regretted telling everyone about my stupid goal. I had a huge crowd of family and friends who had driven from all over to cheer me on. What was I thinking?! Ugh. This sucked.
Ok, so what?! If tried as hard as I could and missed my goal… failed… my family would be disappointed??? More likely they’d be proud of me for going for it! And let’s be honest, 5:30 meant nothing to them! They couldn’t care less about a number. Shake that off. And yes, I still wanted it, dammit.
Of course… I had also mistakenly pushed the wrong button on my Garmin and ended the triathlon, so I had no idea where I was in relationship to my goal. No idea at all. I started to see the absence of timing as a gift from the universe to help me reach my goal of a happy run.
I remembered that when I asked Kathleen before the race about my readiness she had said something like: the swim was good, the bike was good, and the run was the wildcard – but since I’d been running forever, she knew my muscle memory would carry me.
So I believed strongly that as long as I kept running, just didn’t stop, I could still make it.
5:22:48 – a 10 minute PR… at fn50!
I still feel immense joy just for being brave enough to not abandon my goal when it felt unreachable. I always learn from my athletic endeavors.
What I learned is that abandoning the goal won’t prevent disappointment. I don’t really talk myself out of wanting what I want. It feels incredible to let myself want something, even if I may or may not get it. I will survive disappointment. Just because I do not understand how something can come together, doesn’t mean it won’t.
And of course, when you have a great coach, always trust your coach.
*PSA: Women, in perimenopause and menopause your estrogen crashes. Estrogen was used to convert carbohydrates into energy that fuels your muscles. The fueling plan you’ve used successfully may not work anymore. You’re not crazy or getting slow or lame. You may just need different fueling. I did. Why don’t people talk about this?!