Reflections on 2014
I don’t like to set New Year’s Resolutions. Too easy to make, too easy to break.
As a runner I’ve learned how to set goals. Part of setting goals is staying focused over the long-term. A New Year’s Resolution to lose weight is easy to make after a few beverages, but difficult to keep when pizza shows up the first Thursday evening of the year.
Runners know that goals can be changed. If a runner gets injured, they adjust their expectations for the spring marathon. On the other hand, if training goes well and they stay healthy, a runner knows how to push just a little bit harder.
Setting a goal isn’t like jumping out of a plane and knowing the earth will soon be under your feet. As in life, a running goal may never be met. Life gets in the way. Sometimes the body fails us or we fail our bodies. Shit happens.
Running has taught me a lot about life, living and how to go after what I want. It takes work, determination and will power to reach your goals. If a goal is not your own, it is very difficult to stay on track over the long run.
Over the past few years I have come to understand the ephemeral nature of goals I am not committed to.
Goals for 2014
My big goal for 2014 was to achieve a marathon PR. My marathon PR is 3:47:35 set at the 2013 Baystate Marathon.
My first marathon of 2014 was The Boston Marathon. My finish time was 4:04:15, a full 26 minutes 32 seconds faster than my last Boston in 2012! I did not realize how massive the improvement was until a few weeks after the race. I was shocked and actually LOL when it hit me.
What the hell happened out there? I would never set a goal to knock that much time off of a race. I was pretty pumped about achieving my ultimate goal for 2014.
Bay of Fundy International Marathon
Seven weeks after Boston I ran the 2nd Annual Bay of Fundy International Marathon. I took about two weeks off after Boston but jumped right back into marathon training mode. Heading out to Lubec I felt strong and prepared.
To pick up my number I had to drive part of the course, so I drove the entire course. It was one hill after another. Not Great Bay hills, but lots of hills.
I was there for the experience and to share the experience with my sister. She got to see some of my running crazy.
I ended up running Bay of Fundy in 4:02:59! One minute and 16 seconds faster than Boston! Again, I was shocked. All of those hills, a much tougher course than Boston and I improved my time.
I was feeling pretty good and my confidence was high. All summer I kept up with my training. I had pretty good weekly miles and stayed healthy.
The slow burn
As the summer turned into fall I began to feel the fire in my belly dwindle. By the time October came around and it was time to taper I had been training for a marathon about 7 of the past 9 months.
I’ve never trained at that level with that much focus for that long. It was new territory and I could feel the light fading. The joy of the run was fading.
In the weeks before Baystate, I didn’t experience any “taper tantrums.” I embraced the taper, it was finally here.
Baystate Marathon 2014
Baystate was a solitary affair and the focus continued. I had a great time talking with fellow runners, but I was singularly focused on the task at hand.
It was colder than I expected and I had a pre-race disaster that many would consider a big disaster. I was locked on my target and never missed a beat.
Other than that, my pre-race routine was executed perfectly. I knew the course and I felt prepared. Other than the cold, I felt conditions were perfect for me.
My finish time was 3:49:27, almost 2 minutes slower than 2013. I was very disappointed. What happened?
I trained consistently, avoided injury, knew the course, dressed appropriately. I executed 95% of my plan. The things I missed and issues I had were not that significant.
Reflections and revelations
In the weeks following the race I just felt bad. I failed. I let my self down. I worked so long towards this goal and then I couldn’t do it.
As time passed and I had time to think, certain things became clear:
- I had never trained for and run three marathons in a year
- I had never trained that long before
- I was burned out by the time my goal race rolled around
- I may have become too confident and lost the necessary respect for the distance
I had run “a race too many.” I’ve run two marathons a year several times. I was not prepared for seven months of focus and dedication. I had gone beyond what I was capable of, at the time.
Looking back I do not consider this a failure. It was learning experience. Just like you have to build up to running a marathon, you have to build up to running a lengthy running schedule.
I’ve run 12 months in a year before, but shorter races. It’s much easier to stay in 5K and 10K shape than it is to stay in marathon shape.
2014 was an exercise of will power. Not the execution of will power, but exercise in the sense of building. I found a new frontier, a new end of the rope. Like a weight lifter who finds his maximum lift, I had found my maximum.
Hitting a maximum is not the realization of a limit. Just as a weight lifter gains strength by going to the limit, my will and self-knowledge grew in strength.
I found my limit. It is familiar territory. I know where it is and what it feels like. I will go there again. Possibly in 2015.
Run well my friends,