Monday, January 09, 2012

A New Year, A New You

When I see Jennifer Hudson on these Weight Watchers commercials, my first thought is:

DAMN.  She looks fine.

But, it also got me to thinking, what is about a new year that makes people think "cool, I'm going to make lifestyle changes that will last forever. Effective 1/1/12."  The #1 resolution has got to be "get in shape."  But "get in shape" isn't a measurable goal.  What is "in shape?"  Round, after all, is a shape*.  Goals need to be measurable, as it's these metrics that determine our success, or failure, in achieving them. 

Sometimes you're hungry.  Sometimes you're really hungry.  And sometimes, when you're really hungry, you're faced with an opportunity to eat a 36oz (post-cooked) burger, topped with a couple of tomatos, many slices of cheese, mayonnaise, an over-sized pickle, and a ton of lettuce.  Not to mention the bun.  Oh, and the plate of fries.  Then the waitress tells you that if you eat the whole thing, by yourself, it's free and you get your picture on the wall.  THEN she tells you that if you eat it in the fastest recorded time (30 minutes), they name it after you. 

Coincidentally, I faced this very situation 7 years ago.  It was a burger joint in Chicago, and while I didn't go in with the goal of eating this behemoth burger, once I was presented the challenge, I heartily accepted.  I knew not how to approach eating the thing, so I cut it into more manageable quarters.  The first quarter I consumed in 3 minutes.  The 2nd, another 3 minutes.  I was halfway done at just 6 minutes into the ordeal.  But my eyes were much larger than my stomach.  3rd quarter, 10 minutes.  Slowing down, but I still had 14 minutes to eat the last quarter (and the fries).  The meat was cold and rubbery, barely cooked.  My hand was shaking as I scooped up the little bits of beef.  I had the meat sweats.  Ultimately, I finished, but it was painful, and it had taken me 35 minutes.  I had lost 10 years of my life by consuming the burger, but I did it.

How is there a correlation between eating a grossly oversized burger and my personal athletic goals?  It's actually pretty simple.  Sometimes I dream too big.  With the burger, I was lured by the fact I could have my name live on in glory if I ate it the fastest, and perhaps overestimated my eating abilities.  I looked at the pictures of the people on the wall, previous burger-eaters, and they were all morbidly obese Chicagoans.  And, with the exception of the guy who had eaten it in an inhuman 30 minutes, all the others were over an hour.  I had eaten it in the 2nd fastest time ever, but I felt like I had failed because my goal had been set so high.

With running, and triathlon, I have always felt I could achieve more.  No matter the distance, I always felt like I should be able to go faster.  Under 2:40 for the marathon, under 2:00 for a legitimate Olympic distance Triathlon, under 9:00 for an Ironman.  While they were reaches, and I knew how hard I'd have to work, I felt that if I worked hard enough, I could definitely achieve them.  Ambitious goals are partly to blame for my most disappointing results: NYC Marathon 2008, Boston Marathon 2009, any and all Eaglemans, 2012 Ironman campaign.  What makes it even more frustrating is that since getting hit in 2009, I've even scaled my goals back to more realistic ones, and have still missed the mark. 

Since I don't want to dwell on my past disappointments, I'm going to realign my goals, and how I measure success, for 2012.  To say I want to run a number of miles is really arbitrary, even though it can be measured.  I can say I want to run 2500 miles (50mpw) but the reality is that I probably won't hit that.  And whether I do or don't, if the total number of miles run doesn't result in certain time objectives, I won't have reached my goals.  Here is what I aim to accomplish in 2012:

1. Race LESS
3. Race FASTER

Broken down, it's really that simple.  I raced 30 times last year.  Too many.  I, like many, get excited when it's time to race, but I want to make them count more this year.  My target for this year is 16.  And instead of a season that includes two iron-distance triathlons, this year will include none.  I have two marathons on the schedule, but outside of that, my longest events will be Eagleman and Survival of the Shawangunks.  And despite what I know about my limits, I believe I can still turn the old legs over, so I want to target certain events and distances that I believe I can run Post-Collegiate PRs in.  Here's a list:

Mile - 5:00.11 (Maryland Alumni Mile, 2011).  Aiming for 4:40 at downhill mile, 4:50 on the track
5k - 16:48 (Shamrock, 2008).  I will be running Shamrock again this year
10k - 35:26 (Pike's Peek, 2007).  Running this one again this year.  Home to my 34:08 PR (2003)
Club Challenge 10 mile - 58:55 (2009).
Half - 1:18:38 (PDR, 2011). 
Marathon - 3:10:51 (NYC, 2008).  Running this one again.

I'm not sure if I'll get to run a flat 10 miler, but if I do, I'll be aiming for my 58:12 (Broad Street, 2008) PR.  They are challenging for me, but all attainable, particularly if I back off triathlon a little bit.  My actual time goals include getting under 35 minutes for 10k at Pike's Peek, and running under 2:50 at NYC.

Since I do have a few triathlons on the schedule, I'd be remiss if I didn't post some goals for them.  But I really am not sure yet, since I haven't ridden my bike in 6 weeks, if I'm going to start again.  Those will have to wait. 

The main thing for me is being resolute, in preparation for and execution of my goals.  It's painful to realize that you may not achieve what you believe you can, but we still get out there every day and pursue the dream.  I have to take a step back, come up with a plan for whatever it is I want to get out of athletics, and stick to it.  "Just finishing" was never a thought for me with the burger, just as it is never a thought for me with Ironman.  I want to do more than just finish, but right now, maybe it's not in the cards. 

For now, it was a good first week of 2012.  With my 17 mile run on New Year's Day, I realized that I ran 17 mile long runs on both Christmas Day and New Year's Day.  I feel like that's pretty good, because on those two days in particular, it's almost always easier to NOT run.  After a lot of Bowl-watching (including the OTs and the late nights!) I managed to get into the pool to the tune of 13,200 meters, including yesterday's 4200m day.  I feel good about that, as it's almost as much as I swam all of last January.  I also ran 40 miles, and it was a weird week.  Tuesday was SO cold - 22 degrees, with a much colder windchill, and we were on the track.  I didn't enjoy the cold, and felt uncomfortable running hard in it.  But then it warmed back up, and by Friday, I was running without a shirt again.  Saturday morning was a chill, but hilly, 10 miles, and I felt my legs coming around.  I decided to not run yesterday and this week is going to be pretty light.  Running a marathon in mid-January is a weird way to start the year!  Firmness of purpose.

Headed to Charleston on Friday, just in time for the temperature to dip a little here in Baltimore.  And, even though my race is run concurrently, I'm excited for my friend Chrissie Ramsey, who is running Saturday's Olympic Trials Marathon in Houston!




alyssa said...


Andy said...

you are all business in that second picture.

Daniel said...

Ok that burger is FREAKING INSANE.

I also agree completely with your idea of racing less. As someone who probably did close to 30 races also, it's just way too damn much.

Physically and mentally, there are only so many all out race efforts you can have in a given period of time. Focus, and make the important stuff count!

Meg said...

I have so much more respect for you now. I had no idea you were such a competetive eater.