So, basically an expectation we place upon ourselves to be better than our current self. We give it a hard deadline, we put it all on the line for a calculated yet ultimately arbitrary guess.
We get lost in the abyss of future potential.
Please don’t misunderstand, I thrive on goals. I thrive and fall amid their achievement and defeat, one thing I was reminded of this year, is that little four letter word doesn’t define you, and it must exist on a balanced teeter-totter of progress.
After my spring adventure in Morocco and a mandatory recovery, I returned amped, super stoked, feasting on every mile I could taste. I could take over the world. I’d been chasing distance and it felt like time to visit an old foe. Speed.
Off the endurance junky couch and on the track, excitement and dread struck me after the final lap of my baseline mile test. I’d just run my fastest mile…ever. Dread you say, yes, now every workout would be planned to push that pace. Uggh, so it begins.
It was a summer of finding joy in racing, fast; letting the inner competitor out of the cage. Strategy, was not that of conservation for the many miles ahead, it was finding the target, SPOT. Putting their weakness against my strength, CAPTURE. Laying in wait while they would get caught up in the moment of my lurking steps, PASS.
I became the last minute racer, weighing all the weekend activity options before guiltily registering day-of races. I wasn’t really working towards anything specific, dreaded the start of every race before settling in around mile 3 triggering race brain. “THUNDERCATS ARE GO”
Training for the sake of training looses it sparkle pretty quickly.
ENTER GOAL: Finish off 2016 in San Francisco at the TNF Endurance Championship 50M. Local races in the cascades were a great way to get more involved in the community, be challenged by some great runners in the PNW. TNF, I was putting myself on the same playfield as the strongest Ultra Runners in the US and beyond.
I ran the numbers, mulled over past race results, compared elevation profiles, course descriptions; found myself setting a “goal.” If achieved, where would I stack against this field of runners? I was now fully investing in said goal.
Intervals, hill sprints in the rain, weekend races, all filling my legs with power and confidence. A few podium finishes did weaken the spirits, about a month out the what ifs were seeping in as the nights in the northwest crept further into each day, snow began to fill the mountain trails, this city of drizzle was dampening my spirits.
Race weekend arrived, I traded out our my thermal tights and rain jacket for a tech tee and shorts; a northwesterly reprieve. There I was on the start line of my goal chasing race. Calculating and recalculating potential scenarios, pace charts running through my brain, charged by the beauty of the Marin Headlands; I followed the train of headlamps headed off into the darkness of the early morning.
The race made its way the sun rose, I descended out of the headlands Muir Woods, leaving the groomed fire roads and on to signal track, rocky climbing through the lush green forests trails.
I hit the first ahead of schedule, the math was working, the goal was still in sight. The plan, the training, the body were all in alignment. What I didn’t know was what was yet to come. The stair-cased climb slowed the progress, the heat of the day began to settling in, I may have been out of the woods, but it was the dragging return climbs of the headlands that took its toll. The what ifs sneaking in with the passing minutes on, the sun draining the zapping of water and electrolytes from skin. I spotted the finish line in the distance and my goal time in the past.
Failure? I sat in sadness as I allowed this arbitrary number to consume me.
The bright side of the finish line.
That goal was a glorified guess. I had accomplished a number of things that day. I’d still run my fastest 50miler to date by 30minutes. All of my training had paid off, I’d crushed hills, 11 thousands feet of them, and placed respectably among an impressive field. I sat for a moment and took in this amazing land my two feet had wandered this sunny day in San Fran.
To be present in that day, those moments, the struggles; the pleasure of the chase, that is why I run.