Can you remember the last time when you completely exceeded any and all of the expectations you had hoped for? Remember how it sort of left you breathless in disbelief? I had one of those days this past Sunday and boy, did it feel good.
As those of you who have been reading here for a while know, one of my goals for the year was to run a half-marathon in under two hours. I’ve been training for the Publix Georgia Half-Marathon in Atlanta since December and was pretty encouraged lately by my training times. Still, there are so many unknowns on race day…like your stomach not digesting the pre-race meal well, getting tripped by another runner or poor weather conditions, just to name a few.
While I felt prepared, you could not have convinced me a week ago that I would be able to pull off this kind of effort.
I ran the 13.1 miles in 1:46:28. That’s an 8:08/mi. pace. That time placed me 882nd out of 8,743 total finishers and 135th out of 792 in my age bracket. Not bad for a 40 year old. And just in case you think I’m lying to make myself look good (ha-ha) you can check out the official race results here by typing “Fourman” in the search field.
I’m still trying to digest what happened Sunday morning. I’ve never run that fast, for that long in any of my trainings. To put it into perspective, that’s 14 minutes faster than I ran the same race last year. I find it amazing that an additional years worth of running could result in that great a change.
The semi-scary part to me is that I know I can do better. I’ve only marginally begun to focus on proper diet and nutrition, something essential for runners. I could stand to lose 5-7 more pounds (which would equate to running 15-21 seconds faster per mile). I haven’t worked out my legs or my core by doing runner specific training exercises. I also need to work on my running form. If I can knock another 14 minutes off my time next year, I’ll be within just ten minutes of this year’s winning time for my age bracket. Hmmm…Do I smell a 2014 goal coming on?
Here are a few more selective thoughts I’ve had since race day.
When you are in the day-to-day grind, progress can be hard to see. One day you are up, the next day you’re down and it often feels like you are not generating momentum towards reaching your goals. I think that is because the time frames between evaluations are so short. We constantly analyze ourselves day-to-day, to the point where we might become to obsessive about it. Maybe it would be helpful to take a step back and gauge our progress over a longer period of time. It was tough at times to see how much better I was getting in the here and now. But now that I have markers 12-months apart the evidence is overwhelming. I’m a much better runner than I was a year ago at this time.
Accountability is very powerful. In January, I had announced this goal to anyone who wanted to listen and I knew today I would have to give a full report. This may sound silly, but that accountability to those who supported me and gave me a word of encouragement along the way, really pushed me during the race (especially around mile 10 when I was going up a long hill). There was no way I was going to allow myself to have to sit down in this chair and type out the words, “Well, I didn’t quite reach my goal.”
Be realistic old man. I can’t compete with the 20-year olds whose names littered the top 30 finishing times. I shouldn’t expect myself to. I can only be who I am and develop goals that are appropriate for me.
It really only matters what those closest to you think. So, it’s post-race and I’ve changed back into my warm-up suit. As we are leaving Centennial Olympic Park to go back to our car, I put on my sunglasses to shield my eyes from the bright morning sun. My 6 yr. old daughter, completely caught up in the race day atmosphere, slips her hand into mine as we walk. She looks up at me and says, “You’re cool daddy.”
Planning leads to better results. I prepared differently this year in the two weeks leading up to the race. I ate better by including foods with more protein and carbs. I cut out sodas and ate a lot of fruit. I drank Gatorade almost exclusively from Wednesday on so as to hydrate my body properly. I took extra gel packs to consume during the race. I even memorized the course, mile by mile, and developed a plan of attack ahead of time. I knew when the terrain would change and I would be able to push myself on a downhill. I knew that coming out of Piedmont Park, I would be faced with about a mile and half upslope. I believe the pre-race planning was a major factor in helping me accomplish my goal.
I have one more thought about the race (and life) that I just can’t shake out of my mind. It will have to wait until Thursday though because it’s a post in itself and I’m already at 900+ words today. It may be a bit controversial too, so I want to give it adequate space.
Until then…keep running!
When was the last time you exceeded your expectations? How can we keep from getting so caught up in the day to day?
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