Coming To Grips With Reality

Last night, we started watching the movie Wild, which portrays Cheryl Strayed’s solo undertaking of a massively long hike up the Pacific Crest Trail. Unfortunately, yet another Rogers cable service glitch meant we couldn’t finish watching the movie. But I did at least go to bed having seen a good amount of grit and determination portrayed rather impressively by Reese Witherspoon.

Just before we lost the ability to watch anymore, a key moment in the film — at least for me — took place. Strayed is warned not to continue through an upcoming section of the trail due to unseasonably high snow/ice pack. Since her personal quest is much more than just “hike the trail”, Strayed is not pleased at the prospect of taking a bus and missing a significant distance of her hike. The suggestion given is that she extend her hike at the end. No point in being stubborn and doing the dangerous portion and risking not finishing at all (aka dying) just to prove something to yourself, when you can still prove that something with a bit of lateral thinking.

I’ve spent a long week mulling over whether I should still pursue my set-at-the-outset-of-the-season goal of doing an international duathlon to finish the year. Three weeks ago, I thought I would be doing it, willing to take a DNF over the prospect of a winter of “should’ve”.

Given how badly my foot felt after last week’s test, I’ve struggled anew with the decision this week in particular. While trying is better than not trying, I really want to complete my final race of the year. And while I don’t want to spend the winter wishing I had tried the longer distance, I also need to be realistic with what’s going on in my foot. This isn’t a question of my fitness, which I’m confident is there. It’s a question of being hurt. Given how the season started, I should be feeling pretty good that I’ve done what I have, not lamenting what might not be.

The season’s goals were, in a nutshell:

  • do four sanctioned duathlons, including one international distance
  • run 5-10k distances at 4:50/km or better (2014: 5:01 avg)
  • run 2-4k distances at 4:15 or better (2014: 4:23 avg)
  • average 32km/hr on the bike
  • place in my age group (top 3)

I’ve done fine of 4 of 5 of those goals — including exceeding the run paces, astounding myself in a season when my run training has suffered due to injuries.

Goals are there to guide us and inspire us. That doesn’t mean we’re beholden to them. Any good long-term goal-setting exercise includes a check in at some point to evaluate and adjust. I guess it’s time for me to do so.

When I picked Lakeside as my international distance race, I knew it carried an inherent risk — as the last race weekend, it could be cold and rainy (it sure was last year), I could be injured by the time it came, or a myriad of other things. If I couldn’t do the long race, I wouldn’t have another shot at one before winter. But this is how my race season shook out, so I took the risk.

If I complete one more race, I’ll have four races this summer. It’s just a question of whether that is at an international distance. While the Guelph Lake 5i50 race that started my season was close, at 52km total, it was 3km shy on the run.

And upon waking up this morning, I came to a decision. I’m going to pull a Cheryl Strayed — apparently my subconscious processed that movie overnight.

The international is out. But I’m going to end on two more sprints, making five total races for the season (assuming I finish them both!).

The brick sessions I did last weekend and again this weekend showed me clearly that there’s no way I can complete a 10km first run and carry on with my foot as it is. Since there are no other international races on offer before the season ends, I can’t find a replacement that puts the short run first.

Next weekend is Guelph Lake II, with a 2/30/7 sprint duathlon. I did this race to close my season last year, and while 7km running through Guelph Lake Conservation area isn’t exactly thrilling, the race is my home turf, and familiar — I’ve done GL I and II a total of three times so far. It’s generally a big race — last year there were over 125 duathletes racing.

One week later, I’ll race at Lakeside — where I had hoped to do the full distance duathlon on the Sunday — on Saturday, in a short sprint to end my season. It’s a 5/20/2.5 race — a true all-out sprint. There will be fast dudes to race against. This will be my final race of the season, and I’ll go into it aiming to beat my pace averages for each leg — whatever the weather!

While I’m obviously disappointed at the prospect of not meeting all my goals this year, I think this solution provides the best compromise. The challenges are there: whether it be my first try at racing back-to-back Saturdays, the mental hurdle of yet another Guelph Lake long run (so boooring!), or quite honestly, the hardest challenge of all — accepting my limitations.

And from there, off I will head into the winter, looking to resolve this foot issue so next year can be about testing my fitness, not my pain tolerance.

A part of me feels at peace with this decision. The other part still needs convincing. Chef d’équipe is working to support the second part. And at least, now, I can go register to race, and stop tossing and turning over a single goal.

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