On (Not Quite) Letting Goals Go

So Kaiser weekend came and went, and my bib stayed firmly in its envelope on my bookshelf. This took a lot of willpower, especially as I rode my bike on the course on Saturday and felt fantastic, especially as I thought, “Well, now that I’m fairly certain nothing’s broken, what would be the harm?” Going to a comedy show and having some cocktails and getting home late enough to ensure I’d sleep through the race start helped, and I stayed far away from Golden Gate Park and let my no-really-it-should-have-been-a-PR-if-not-sub-2 race go. Yeah, I got a little jealous reading about all the awesome PRs — I’m thrilled for lovely runners who had great races, but that doesn’t preclude a little moping. Still: looking ahead, bigger goals, and all that.

But. But.

It’s hard not to look at these last few, um, months of training and feel disappointed. Let’s go back to 2011. I start the year coming back from injury, do all my “training” for Kaiser in six weeks, and somehow PR. Then I get busy, write a master’s thesis, sign up for (and drop out of) a bootcamp class that basically steals all my energy and my workout motivation for a few weeks, and run a total of 100 miles in the next four months. I “race” twice, but both are fun runs with friends. I’m running, I guess, but I’m not really thinking about running.

In late May and early June, I go to Europe. Pete and I run everywhere, and it’s one of the most special things about a trip that was already pretty darn special. I love that there’s no pressure on these runs; we’re there to see things, and if we want to detour around a zoo or get a drink in the middle or get stuck at every freaking stoplight in Barcelona, who cares? We’re there to explore. I love these cities, and I love running again.

I get home and I want to run. I’m unemployed, so I want to run a lot, and because I’m unemployed, I can run a lot. I look at the paces I’m running and decide it’s high time I go break 2:00 in the half-marathon. I find myself a nice, flat race and a nice, flat 10K about a month before. I sketch out a training plan, and I get to it, because applying for jobs is a miserable crapshoot and following a training plan is something I can control.

I run 12 miles the last week of July, and at mile 11, my knee starts to hurt. I run the 10K the next weekend, and I PR, but then I want to cry when I try to get out of the car for brunch. (It’s a good thing I do get out of the car for brunch, because that’s the brunch where we discover the life-changing breakfast sandwich combo of eggs, cheddar, and jam. Try it; it’s no joke.) I find my awesome MD and my awesome PT and start fixing my IT band, or fixing the rest of my body so it doesn’t piss of my IT band, or whichever; it works, but not before the race that was supposed to be my first sub-2 attempt turns into a casual jog with walk breaks.

Things get bleak for a while, and then they get better. I’m running well. I’m running stronger. I’m running Nike, and the hills eat me for breakfast because I’m only just getting back to a regular training volume and am still avoiding things like “hills” and “speed” and “hard runs,” but I come out feeling OK. I come out feeling not done.

I register for Miami. I go back to the track. I work on being fast for the first time since early July. It feels amazing; I set an unofficial 10K PR in training the week before the race. But we know how that ends.

I come out feeling not done, again. I register for Kaiser. We know how that ends.

From June till now, I’ve signed up to run four half-marathons with my eye on breaking two hours. I’ve had two of those attempts derailed by injuries that are minor in the grand scheme of things (for which I’m thankful, don’t get me wrong) but undeniably poorly timed. My best time of the four was a minute slower than my PR.

I have no doubt I’ll come out of this a stronger, smarter, and maybe even faster runner, one who runs mile repeats and who faithfully does her PT exercises twice a week. That doesn’t change the fact that I’ve been training for more than six months for a race that I feel like I haven’t really gotten to run yet.

And, if I’m smart, I won’t ever run it. What I should do is put my head down and focus on kicking Olympic tri ass in May and starting marathon training in June and making it out of there in one piece. What I should do is wait till after Berlin and pick another goal half in, I dunno, December?

But — and this is a stupid thing to say, because I run for fun, and I run because I love it, and it’s not like anyone’s winning any races around here — that still makes the last six months of training feel ever so slightly like a waste.

This is my immaturity talking. This is someone who’s just transitioning from (hobby) runner to (hobby) racer, someone who hasn’t quite accepted that sometimes races just don’t go the way you want them to and you have to say, OK, that sucks, but the season’s over, and the moment has passed, and we’ll put in the work and try again next year. I’m not used to that yet. The idea of shelving this goal until it’s practically winter again seems absurd.

This is why I end up on the Oakland site at least once a day, finger hovering over the register button. I may know deep down that I’m never going to run the race I’ve been training for, but my brain still wants me to try.

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3 thoughts on “On (Not Quite) Letting Goals Go

  1. katie says:

    ugh. so hard to make these kinds of decisions, and girl, I have been there, I was injured 1-2x a year for about 6 years in a row. so I feel your pain, and I don’t have any advice, other than, try to be as smart as you can.

  2. Kristina says:

    I would be SO upset – I think it’s totally fair to be frustrated and deeply disappointed. I spent two months last year not running because of a swollen bone in my foot. It would have been horrible if I hadn’t been able to swim and bike – that really did help me mentally. I’m definitely better, but I have to recognize that with a screwed up knee (multiple tears to ligaments and one operation), high mileage is not the best thing for me.
    Good luck as you take care of yourself! And kicking Olympic ass is a pretty good goal to me!

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