Tag: goals

On Goals & Owning Them (Patriot Half)

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.

I did.

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.

Patriot Finish

*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?!

My not-so-epic goal (5 weeks later)

5 weeks ago I declared my not-so-epic new year’s goal…”just trying to have a clean chair.”

IMG_0038I’m obnoxiously proud that the chair is still clothing-free, and has been for all 35 days!

What’s been surprising about this not-so-epic goal though is how much I’ve learned about myself.

The first week was really, really hard.
“I was too tired to hang up my clothes.” “One day of clothes on the chair wasn’t a big deal.” “I was being anal, what difference did it make if I had a messy chair?” “I didn’t have enough time to put my clothes away.” “It wasn’t going to last, so what difference did it make?”

I was surprised by how little I believed in myself. I was also surprised at how much unsupportive chatter I had in my head – around something that I wanted. The amount of effort it took to talk myself into believing that I wasn’t actually too tired to hang up a belt was remarkable.

The second week was like new love.
After adding hangers to the closet (so there were actually enough to hang my clothes) things got easier. And after years of Saturday mornings spent cleaning my bedroom, I suddenly I had nothing to do. I found time! (This never happens.) By not making the mess, I didn’t have to clean it up. I’ve heard myself say this to my kids – It works! I basked in this glory, for days.

The third week it became infectious.
With my extra Saturday morning time, I cleaned out the home office. I emptied the overflowing in-box that held bank statements from March 2015 on, various school projects deemed worthy of saving, report cards, and a wide variety of other papers that were waiting to be filed. In this case, the filing cabinet itself was a problem. There was no room. Once the files were purged of their ancient artifacts, there was room enough for everything that we actually wanted to save. The in-box has been empty since.

The fourth week I saw a pattern.
I was far more likely to put something where it belongs if I didn’t put it in a “pile” first. Throwing my clothes on the floor led to picking them up. Putting them on the chair gave me a sense that they were “handled.” Putting papers into an in-box felt “handled enough” so there was never enough motivation to file them. A-ha!

I had a hunch that this might apply to the piles in the kitchen. The piles were just enough to ease the discomfort of “messy” but they took away the discomfort I needed to actually deal with the clutter. (This A-ha! felt like unlocking the genome)

The fifth week I got bold.
I de-piled the kitchen. It’s been clean for 5 days. This is a bigger, maybe-a-little-epic goal since there are 4 other pile makers here. But I feel more confident, armed with what I’ve learned from my chair. And my internal chatter is far more supportive.

The lesson: little successes can lead to new perspectives, capacities, and challenges.

But back to the chair… I’m so proud of my chair. Every time I walk by it, I smile. It makes me happy because it was impossible and really I’m genuinely surprised it’s clean, every time I see it. (like groundhog day)
Of course without the clutter, the lack of upholstery on the chair is becoming a thing.

Sports injuries suck, but opportunity knocks

witchcraft, spells, and potionsI was laying on an exam table for physical therapy, yesterday – not my favorite place to be. I trashed my left hip flexor on Saturday,  practicing bike remounts. (the kind when you just know it’s not good.) It was like being on a torture table because I knew the first step was going to be “rest”.  I hate rest.

(Note: This is not a cyclocross injury.  I’ve been “managing” it all tri season and hoping things would resolve on their own. My tri coach tactfully suggested that dealing with it would make a great off-season project. XC may not be the best rehab option for hip flexors.)

As an FYI, I get a little pissy when I’m injured and this sucked. I was riding my 1st race/ DFL high and looking forward to trying Gloucester with friends.
After the pissy phase, I entered the little crazy/desperate phase. I threw down 800 mg of ibuprofen, smeared on the biofreeze, and attacked the foam roller. After an hour without improvement, I made a desperate run to the pharmacy to buy Kinisio tape. After a bunch “How to Tape a Hip Flexor” videos on YouTube, my left hip was covered in black tape and I was hopeful. Specifically hoping for an overnight miracle cure.

I woke up on Sunday – no miracle. Crap. Maybe a pre-ride lap at Gloucester would loosen things up. It didn’t. It merely confirmed the absence of an overnight miracle. Crap. I went back to pissy.

Back into spectator uniform
Me, pissy @rsgloucester

Somehow, while I was trying to rationalize something pretty stupid, I remembered to eat my own dog food.  I checked my activity against my goals – I felt frenetic, so I knew something fundamental was off. My goals for all of this athletic stuff is to 1.have fun; 2. appreciate what my body is capable of; and 3. be healthy & smart so the fun and the body last as long as possible. I could push through this race, but I was stressed and it was unlikely to be very fun. It could also lead to a longer period of rest for recovery and could even mean no more races this fall and/or no hard training for a while.  None of these were acceptable to me. I unwilling to accept the downside of racing today. Since I wasn’t favored to win and wasn’t taking home any prize money to feed my family – I made the choice that was best for my long-term / overall goals. And remained pretty pissy about the whole situation.

On Monday I got my PT prescription and my initial exam was set for the next day. My hip flexor was definitely healing and feeling much better – almost enough improvement to rethink PT. If I hadn’t said something out loud to Jason, I might have “waited”, but I promised I was taking care of this. I really didn’t want another DNS.

Tuesday morning, the pissiness finally started to fade. I resigned to my situation. I do believe that every injury is a message from my body which I’m usually too dense to hear the first few times.  My ever-so-helpful body elevates the warnings until I finally pay attention.  The simple message here was that I needed to invest in my hip flexors if I wanted to continue to push faster cycling and run times. It wasn’t going to happen without a new strategy. I want to be active until I’m ~100+, so I “choose” to participate in a healthy sustainable way. Sigh.

Once I accepted my injury, I felt less crazed and could see how modifying short term plans actually better supported my long-term goals.  I relax ed a bit. This was when the new opportunity represented itself.  This injury actually gave me a restart on cyclocross.

As an enthusiastic human, I frequently start things in the middle. (I was the kid who spent more time thinking of a band name than learning how to actually play guitar, when starting a rock band.)  We had skin suits designed and delivered before I even had a CX bike, let alone ever rode on grass, dirt, or gravel (forget sand, mud, or wood chips). In my usual enthusiasm, I got my cross bike and jumped into skills classes without learning how to ride off asphalt! These details may have occurred to someone else a little sooner, but I get so darn excited.

Opportunity in InjuryIn that moment it occurred to me that this could be a better (probably more fun) approach to CX. And it works with PT and modified training – no mounts or dismounts or big hills for a while, but I can ride flat on a variety of terrain, do turning drills, and get comfortable on my bike – learn how it works and return to drills when I have a better foundation. Brilliant.

Sometimes my body is much smarter than my brain. Without an intermission – I guarantee you I would have continued to slam through drills and be the slowest human between features – ever.

Cranberry Trifest, IV

milestonesThe Cranberry Trifest is this weekend. This is my milestone race. Like I mark my kids’ growth on the doorway on their birthdays each year, this where measure my progress as a triathlete.

Cranberry 2011 – My first-ever olympic distance sign-up.
I had a good running base from doing the Boston Marathon with Team in Training. We usually cycled a decent amount in the summer. Hurricane IreneI’d have access to a pool – I’d never swum further than a ½ mile and hadn’t done that in a decade, but I felt comfortable enough about the other two.   The week before the race, I decided to rent a wetsuit. (I’d never been in one before) It was a very busy week at work, so I never got to try it out. My training was all about being able to complete each distance.  Speed wasn’t a consideration, at all.

Hurricane Irene canceled the race –DNS. There was no triathlon for me in 2011, but I was hell bent on trying out the wetsuit.

Cranberry 2012 – Do-over.  Same training approach: Run a lot, bike a lot, swim some.
I quickly broadcast my newbie status by racking my bike in the wrong place. And that’s when I fell in love with the triathlon scene. Two very supportive racers helped me find my (clearly marked) spot and answered all my newbie questions. They were amazing and I was so nervous. I thanked them both for being so nice. As they left for the swim, one of them turned to me, pointed to the other and said, “And just so you know, she’ll probably be on the podium today.”  That moment still sticks with me. There she was helping me and treating me like a peer, the whole time.Pedaling and smiling all the way

The swim was fine.  I survived being swum over by the men in the heat behind us. (I didn’t need to swim backstroke, at all.) Getting out of the wetsuit was hilarious. The bike was gorgeous.  There wasn’t a picture from that day where I wasn’t smiling on my bike.  I did lose all my nutrition from my pockets. The run not awful, the lead feeling in my legs was brief. My goal was to finish.  I did. 2:57:58.

I was hooked. I was so fired up that I signed up for a Half Iron Man six weeks later.  (That’s a different story)

Cranberry 2013 – My first “triathlon season”.  I’d  done 3 sprints and 1 oly that summer. Cranberry 2013 Finish I’d started swimming in April, and had joined a group of open water swimmers. I started cycling earlier, too.  My nervousness was now just the pre-race anxiety that I’ve always had.  I arrived and met the same two women from the previous year.

It felt like coming home. Everything went so much smoother than the previous year. I was comfortable in my wetsuit and in the water.  The bike was still my weak spot, but the route is so pretty through Lakeville, that getting passed didn’t bother me. The run was hot again.  I had hoped to feel stronger on the run, but held a good pace. My goal was to finish and improve my time over the previous year. I did. 2:43:03.

Cranberry 2014 – 2 days away. This will be my 3rd Olympic of the 2014 season. I haven’t raced since Lowell in July, but I’ve been working with a great coach this year and feel stronger than I ever have. My training has had lots of ups and downs around family situations, but it’s been steady. I’m excited for this weekend to see where I will measure on my door frame.

Stubborn Goals

Be stubborn about your goals, and flexible about your methodsOk, here it is, as clearly as I can say it…
Nationals is in 2 weeks and I’m not going. I committed to a goal back in October, when I registered for the 2014 USA Triathlon National Championships – Olympic Distance. – and I’m not going. Ugh.

I delayed and languished over this decision for weeks and finally made it about a month ago. I just haven’t been able to declare it, clearly enough for anyone to know.

I’ve been very busy torturing myself with doubt and second guessing.   “Am I just scared?” “Would I ever go?” “Should I just suck it up and go?” “Who did I think I was sharing this crazy goal?” “Am I wimping out?” “Why did I ever share this with anyone?” Ugh. “What was I thinking?” “This is why I never share my real goals out loud.” (This feels an awful lot like failure.)

Trying to avoid going back on my goal and feeling all this, I reconsider sucking it up, going, and making the best of it. I could do that. But that feels worse. I want to stay close to home now. The stress of going is definitely bigger than the stress of accepting a decision to withdraw. I know it’s the right decision for me. and my triathalife.  Again, ugh.

Nationals is in 2 weeks and I’m not going…..this year…

I’m actually still very attached to my goal of competing in Nationals and wearing a Team USA uniform to World’s. I’m no less passionate about this vision than I was the first day I saw a picture of my coach in her Team USA kit, competing in London. This is a real, stubborn goal and I’m not letting go of it. I’m only letting go of my timeline.

My training over the past year has been an excellent investment.  I’ve learned a ton. I ave a ton still to learn. (This is possibly the most exciting part of triathlon for me, btw.) I’m an age-grouper and I do this for fun. How I arrive at nationals, whenever that may be, is just as important to me as getting there. I want to be free of worry, fully present, and able to enjoy the experience – even more than I want the Team USA kit.

I still feel disappointed that I’m not going this year. I hope I can qualify for next year. If I don’t, I know I’ll get there someday . If nothing else I’m persistent. Some might say stubborn.