Sunday, February 9, 2014

Process

It’s never simplistic when it should be.  I enjoy writing; on occasion I have even been paid to do such. I like running, both pertaining to my own journey and that of the sport.

Yet, there is always something more intertwined into what is (was?) supposed to be my place to madly type away in regards to training, racing or things running-related. So, this is an attempt to strip that excess off & out of the effort, see how that feels, and take it from there.

A mistake I constantly made last year was what I did upon experiencing important moments and milestones that mattered as I started to race and train with consistency, with a bit of confidence. I’d write, but what I would do with the output…it didn’t matter.

That changes. Doesn’t matter if you read this because you know me in some form or fashion, or merely delight in the drifting anonymity that digital voyeurism provides as you pass by. Either way, welcome.

 I went into 2013 with some goals. Let’s see how those worked out.

1. Regain moderate sense of fitness & running confidence by years end.

Indeed, I did. After too many instances of repetitive, disappointing efforts in the previous few years, I signed up for a half marathon as a means to see if the interest and focus was still something within. That certainly served as a nice catalyst in accountability, enjoying a set routine and challenging myself. I know it led to good things.

2. Be prepared & healthy for every race.

This is a dorky thing I made, there is no other means to describe such. I need to work on my captioning skills. 
March O'Madness 1/2 - 1:58:35 (PR)
Race Thats Good for Life 5k - 23:10
Soldier Field 10 Miler - 1:17:23 (PR)
Four on the Fourth 4 Miler - 30:07 (PR)
Run for Walk 4.1 Miles - 30:01 (PR)
Fort2Base 10 Nautical Miles (11.5 Miles) - 1:34:16 (PR)
Chicago 1/2 - 1:47:00 (PR)
Moraine Run for the Hills 1/2 - 1:58:02
Frank Lloyd Wright 10k - 47:22 (PR)
Madison 1/2 - 1:45:19 (PR)

…Not bad. And while I wasn’t entirely satisfied with all my efforts because I am ridiculously hard to please and am constantly forward-thinking, I took something away from each race in a very new-to-me area of grey beyond good race/bad race, be it enjoying the scenery, camaraderie from fellow runners, pushing myself or just going after an arbitrary time goal because I'm stupid. That really was more enjoyable than not racing as I had in 2012. Don’t really feel like doing a babbling play-by-play of each race, but I’ll touch on a few momentarily.


3. PR 1/2- marathon by 15 minutes.
4. PR 10-mi by 9 minutes.
5. Flirt with 22min 5K.

Time-based goals are tricky bastards, aren’t they?

Half marathons and I have a very odd, dysfunctional relationship. I question each time I register for one…yet I ran four last year. Of the four, each one was so unique an experience, completely different than the last. March Madness was my first race—that I prepared for, that I actually was at the starting line for—in a long while.  The last time I ran a race of that distance was…2010. I had to look that up, to be honest. 

In the training miles leading up to March, I wanted to be out there. I didn’t think I would be ready, but I wanted to prove to myself that what I wanted still mattered. Probably could have selected a much more forgiving race, but the drive out to a suburb unknown, the moments of quiet solitude on the course and feeling humbled by the hills –it was all great. And invigorating. If not for that first race, I probably wouldn’t have done much last year.

The humidity and a slight case of hubris got the best of me at the Chicago ½. Under the weather, I made a decision that the Moraine ½ was going to be an easy training run after realizing it wasn’t going to be my day, and was treated with discovering the beauty of a state park previously unknown. Felt like I ran out of gas come November, but once I got going in Madison, I went for it and closed the year with a PR, only missing my goal by 20 stinking seconds.

Got my PR at the 10-mile distance on a perfectly cool day in May, largely in part of breaking away from a fear of running with someone, and finally, oddly enough in hindsight, only raced a single 5k, in April.
Ran the last 3+ miles of a training run in mid-fall in upper 21 minutes, so that one doesn’t bother me as much—I established that possessed the speed, I just never paid for the opportunity to do it in a race.

A lot happened in 2013, but to pare it down to a bite-sized nugget of a notion, I got to reap the benefits of caring about myself.

As for 2014? I know, given the date on the calendar that this combined recollection/looking at the New Year comes off as a bit tardy, but the year hasn’t started off all that great. Frailty in the wellbeing in my family (or lack thereof), saying goodbye to a friend of indescribable importance, adjusting to a new work environment, apparently it was abnormally cold out, and hell, my childhood dog died. Been quite a six-week stretch.

(So much for that separation I desired at the beginning of this.)

Like I said, it’s always something. Yet, in the face of all that is heavy and hard, I’ve got my wits about me. More importantly, I found a means of crafting balance and control internally. Don’t think I would have been able to find that if it wasn’t for what running provides both mentally and physically.

Enough of that. So to more accountability, here are my goals for 2014.

1. Write more frequently.

I’ve been writing a lot, taking advantage of taking off at lunch and sitting somewhere to scribble. I just fail to take the next step in putting it out there for eyes and criticism. I’m going to be better about that. I’m excited about my upcoming training cycle, and I’m figuring out how to write about it that makes sense to me. Stay tuned.

2. Become more competitive in my age group.

The world tells me I’m on the cusp of a highly notable shift as I enter my third decade as a person. Hooray? I had four top-10 finishes in my age groupings last year. Once I get into the 30-34 territory, it’s going to be even harder, especially for some of the larger races. I’m excited.

3. Attend one summer all-comers track meet.

This is the most foolhardy and more personal of goals I will openly state, but I’m putting it out there. I cannot wait to race on a track, even if it means slightly embarrassing myself in the process. Once I stopped allowing the notion of failure in past experiences to define me, failure doesn't really scare me much anymore. 

I’ve had these forever, I got them when my feet were still (for lack of a better term) broken. I think its time to use them.
In black & white to reduce leg pastyglare. 
4. 8-10 CARA races (Run DG 5 Miler for the first time in 13 years).

Still figuring out my schedule, but June 22 in my hometown is in my sights. Two days before my birthday, no less.

5. Patiently build up to prepare for marathon in fall 2014/spring 2015.

It’s certainly fair to point out that I gave myself some cushioning in this, and I personally construe that as cheating in a way, but I have a half marathon benchmark (time withheld) to attain before I go after a marathon. But I’m letting my Wisconsin Marathon effort in early May dictate if I sign up for the Monumental Marathon (in Indianapolis) or focus on shorter and faster efforts for the fall.

6.Break 20 for 5k, (Current PR 23:10 Lifetime PR: 20:28)
7. 67 minute 10 mile (1:17:23 in 2013)
8. 1:30 half (1:45:19 in 2013)

Make no little plans. I want to do what I can to stay healthy, tap in/hone my speed, and have a great year. I firmly believe that ability never fades. I think it’s time to prove that.

My running club decided that on top of the list of goals, we should select a single word that sums up what we want to accomplish in 2014. Thought about it a bit, and I had to go with the notion of:

Process

I like it because it’s flexible. To me, it forces hard questions to be asked of the self.
 “How do you take in what you experience?” “How do you break things down and make that which is overwhelming manageable?” “What keeps you from quitting?” “What steps are required to be successful?”  

And the big one: How do you achieve that which you care about, even when others may find such laughable. Or worse, not even acknowledge.


That’s what I want to work hard for this year, and I think my goals reflect that. I won’t disappoint.

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