Tag Archives: Goals

A Speedway and Some Bluster: A Tale of Two Halves

Definitely a good hair day. In the parking garage afterwards, all smiles.

I ran my second half marathon in eight days today.

That’s insane on its own merits, but add in 30 mph winds and sideways rain, and it’s even crazier.

I ran the Indy Mini Half Marathon last weekend in Indianapolis with a bunch of friends. It was a great race: extraordinarily well organized, a wide variety of live music and cheer squads along the course, and a whole lot of fun. But it didn’t go not quite as planned, and my time of 2:36:19 left me wanting more. I had gone in with a goal of 2:25, but several factors conspired against that: four hours of fitful sleep, no caffeine, and hordes of walkers who had no intention of running a step and needed to be passed.

I know I ran my best, and my running partner Mark was fabulous – we ran the entire thing, minus the aid stations, and he kept me distracted with stories of French Revolution decapitations during the last mile when my calf was cramping. I had a great time and wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

But my time bugged me. As I wrote yesterday, numbers can be very motivating, to the point that we’ll do crazy things.

Tuesday night, on the train home, I had a thought: I knew there were three local half marathons this weekend. Why not sneak off to one, alone, and get the vindication I craved?

I emailed my friend Beth, who wholeheartedly endorsed my plan as she gave great advice about embracing the experience and everything happening for a reason. She also said, “Maybe Indy was meant to kick you in the ass and set off a spark to run more, try harder, and do another race.”

So I did.

I looked at the weather forecast, which predicted low 50s with a chance of rain. That’s exactly what had been forecast in Indy, and it had worked out fine: the temperature had been perfect, and the mist had started around mile 7 and grown into a full-fledged shower by mile 9, but I had barely noticed.

I talked to David, my running guru and colleague, and he enthusiastically supported the idea, giving me more encouragement. So Thursday afternoon, hours before the deadline, I signed up for the Chicagoland Spring Half Marathon in Schaumburg.

Last night, I left a friend’s house early to get to sleep. My stomach was in knots, and the rain woke me a couple of times. When the alarm went off at 5:30, I drew back the curtains, gingerly willing against rain as I opened my eyes.

The windchill was 34, with 30 mph winds and mist, but it wasn’t pouring. I thought about crawling back under the covers and just enjoying my race shirt, but I had told a couple people my plans, and knew they’d hold me accountable. Or at least ask about it.

So I dressed – short sleeve shirt with arm warmers (which I never removed), long pants, and my rain/wind jacket.

I’ll recap the race itself later, but suffice it to say, the last three miles were the most difficult I’ve ever run. We ran directly into the 30 mph northerly headwind, along the corporate wasteland that is Martingale Road (essentially a frontage road for 290), with nothing to block the wind as it blew rain sideways into our faces. There was nothing to look at and distract us, and my hamstrings and calf took turns cramping every few steps. It took every ounce of determination, every mantra I’ve ever heard, every squish of my water-filled shoes to push forward, nervously eying my Garmin as it ticked closer to my goal, eroding the early miles I ran too fast with the 2:15 pace group.

But I finished, at 2:24:30ish (by my Garmin), sprinting the last couple hundred feet to make sure. I couldn’t even balance on one leg to remove the timing chip strapped around my ankle. I hobbled slowly through the finisher’s area, collected my medal and banana, and wandered to my car.

It may have been ugly, but I’m so glad I dragged myself out of bed and over the finish line. Vindication is cold, wet and miserable, but oh-so-sweet.

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Motivating Numbers

I’ve always liked tracking things. Numbers. Data. Change. Improvements.

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve likely seen me whining about Stats class the last five months. (Never fear, that’s ending in another few weeks!) But in reality, it’s been very interesting and has opened my eyes to a new way of thinking. (More on that in a later post.)

Since I became serious about my health two years ago, I have tracked everything to do with my workouts. I have spreadsheets for my strength training that list every weight used with respective reps and sets. I print off blank calendar pages every month so I can have an easy visual for when I work out – so if I notice too many blank days in a week or month I can push myself back into action.

And on DailyMile, I’ve found a whole community of like-minded numbers nerds, tracking every tenth of a mile.

Looks like he missed a couple of spots.

In fact, my DailyMile friend Mike recently posted this map of his most recent “run.” You see, Mike had finished his long run for the weekend and realized he was a mile shy of 60 for the week. Being so close to a milestone like that is enough to drive you crazy. So, at his wife’s suggestion, he strapped on his Garmin while mowing the lawn to get one more mile in, albeit at not nearly the same intensity of a run. (Though he did note his back yard pace was slower, as he had to pick up the kids’ toys.)

I do that, too. Before I run, I usually map out an approximate route so I know about how far I have to go to get in a five mile vs a nine mile run. But inevitably, variations occur, often to avoid traffic or red lights. (On hot sunny days, I’ll reroute to find shade.) If I get back to my house and I’m at .8 or .9 of a mile, I usually try to “top off” my mileage by taking a quick spin around the block, which is about a quarter mile.

Numbers are good because they keep us honest. I think that’s why I like DailyMile so much: it blends the hard data (“I ran x miles in y minutes for an average pace of z.”) with the more subjective (“My bikram instructor sounded like she was running an auction. Or perhaps hog calling.) Both pieces work together to motivate us, and to reward us when we hit the random thresholds we deem so important.

Of course, there is the downside: when you let a numeric goal get to you. But more on that in another post.

Do you find numbers motivational? Or do they play tricks with your head?

Why I Lift Heavy Things

I love strength training.

I love lifting heavy things, making myself stronger, making it easier to haul groceries or 40 lb bags of kitty litter or 6×8 ft fence panels.

Last year, I followed the New Rules of Lifting for Women program, which introduced me to a world beyond 3 lb, neoprene coated dumbbells. I scoured Craigslist and assembled a kick-ass gym in my (very cold) basement. I did deadlifts and squats and rows and cleans.

It was rough going at first, but once I got through the initial what-the-heck-am-I-doing phase, it was golden. I looked forward to my lifting workouts and always felt great afterwards: powerful, energetic and ready to take on the world.

But in late spring, the siren call of the outdoors got stronger. After spending all day (and all winter) indoors, I really didn’t want to go down to the basement and lift. I was running more, and loving that, too.

Strength training went by the wayside. I was lifting only once every five or six weeks, and paying for it each time with a week’s worth of achy muscles. I was still adhering to New Rules of Lifting (NROL), but by rarely lifting, I wasn’t making any real progress.

Once it got cold, I returned to strength training, and remembered why I loved it. But I had lost a lot of my baseline strength, and while Stage 6 of NROL ostensibly prepares you to do a chin-up, I definitely couldn’t. No big deal, though, as I finished the 7th stage of the program just before Christmas and felt pretty good about it.

I’ve learned that I need to follow a prescribed program that tells me what exercises to do in which combination, so I picked up Rachel Cosgrove’s Female Body Breakthrough. Though the tone is way too girl-talky for me (and the liberal use of exclamation points makes me cringe), the program itself is well-designed, with plenty of core work and a good variety of heavy weights and body-weight exercises.

Once again, though, Cosgrove’s program includes chin-ups. And once again, I screwed my chin-up bar into the door frame – and hung there, a dead weight.

Damn it, I want to do a chin-up. Just one is fine.

So I will. It may take all year.  But mark my words, I will be able to do a single chin-up.

And this summer, I’ll keep strength training as an integrated part of my weekly workout schedule. Maybe by cooling down post-run at the playground around the corner. Monkey bars would work for chin-up practice, right?

Lesson Learned: One More Block

#reverb10 seems to be all about the lessons you’ve learned over the past year and how you can apply them towards 2011. So today’s prompt (Lesson Learned: What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward?) feels a bit repetitive. But perhaps that’s the point: by asking us the same questions in 31 different ways, maybe true enlightenment is around the corner. (At the very least, I’m building good blogging habits.)

I’ve learned a ton of lessons this year, from cooking and glazing windows to calculating the price elasticity of demand. I learned how to take better care of myself. I learned how to run. I learned to embrace the rain rather than cower from it (to a point. I still won’t run in a downpour).

Mostly, though, I’ve learned to push myself harder. Not to the point of futility and frustration, but to the point where I can do better. By constantly raising the bar and pushing myself a bit, I force myself to stretch, which leads to growth.

It’s one thing to stay in your comfort zone, to know that you can accomplish something and keep doing it. It’s a completely different thing to push yourself just slightly beyond what you think you’re capable of doing and then celebrate when you reach it.

That’s one reason I run so many races: having a goal on my calendar pushes me to train regularly and work to get faster. I constantly set goals, and I like checking in periodically to remind myself to push towards them.

In fact, when I ordered my RoadID, I knew exactly what to put as the “motivational” line of text after my emergency contact info: One More Block.

During every run, I look at those three words and push myself one more block, and then another, and then another. Every extra block I go before the turnaround translates into two blocks. Those extra blocks add up to extra miles.

So over the next few weeks, I’ll be setting some aggressive 2011 goals to push myself to go just one more block. And hopefully a year from now, I’ll be thrilled with how those extra blocks added up to achievement.

This post is part of #Reverb10, a month-long project to reflect on the year nearly gone. Read all my #Reverb10 posts, or learn more.

Running Goals

Soon after I started running in March, I joined The Daily Mile, which I’ve heard described as “Facebook for Runners.” That’s pretty apt: the people on Daily Mile (mostly) vaguely know each other, but by interacting with friends’ friends, you build your network. Only this network is made up entirely of runners cyclists and other people interested in fitness.

It has been incredibly helpful and supportive as I’ve gone from Couch-to-5k to my first 5k to looking ahead to my first 15k (gulp).

As you post workouts, people provide good comments, advice and support. It’s so motivating after a tough run to have someone tell you it’s okay, the next one will be better. Plus, there’s a certain level of accountability inherent in publicly logging your runs. If someone doesn’t post for a couple weeks, Daily Mile gives you an option to send them a note saying, “I miss your training!” (Not that I’m the nagging sort.)

One thing I really like about Daily Mile is that you can set goals. When I first joined, I set my goals as: “Break 30 minutes in a 5k at some point this summer, be able to run 5 miles by Labor Day.”

I’ve hit both those goals – and blown them out of the water! I’ve had two sub-30 minute 5ks, and I’ve run 5+ miles several times recently.

So it’s time for new goals:

Run the Hot Chocolate 15k; Run a 10k in under 60 minutes; Break 27 minutes in a 5k

Here are my (tentative) race plans for the rest of the year. Join me at any of them, or just follow me on the Daily Mile!

Sycamore Pumpkin Run 10k – October 31 – Sycamore

Hot Chocolate 15k – November 6 – Chicago

Thanks a Lot Turkey Trot 5k – November 25 – Elgin

I’m also considering the South Elgin Harvest Hustle 7k on Oct 2, the World’s Largest Corn Maze 5k on Oct 17 in Spring Grove,  and potentially the Dec 5 Cross Country Challenge in Gilberts.

Join me for any of these, or let me know if there’s another one you’re curious to try!

(Psst… and if you’re thinking about starting to run, a 5k is a great goal that will help motivate you! Coincidentally, the Nov 25 Turkey Trot right here in Elgin is 72 days away… just enough time to start and complete the Couch-to-5k program!)

Ready, Set, Go! Second Half Goals

I’ve always looked at my late June birthday as a bit of a sanity check. It’s a chance to step back, take stock and make sure I’ll be happy with my year’s accomplishments. Matt Cheuvront over at Life Without Pants urges the same thing.

Last weekend, while cleaning off my desk at home, I found my hastily jotted New Year’s “to do” list. Some of the items are resolutions, others more household chores. But let’s see how I’ve done:

Drylock & Paint Basement – Um, not yet. Though every time it rains and I tiptoe downstairs, fingers crossed that everything’s dry, I remind myself I need to do this.

Apply for (and get into) Grad School – Well, the application’s done… now the waiting part.

Finish New Rules of Lifting for Women – Nearly there. I started NROLFW last fall and absolutely love the challenge. (Basically, it teaches that women should put down the pink Barbie weights and lift really heavy things.) I’ve finished six of the seven stages but took a break to focus on running while the weather turned nice. I plan to tackle Stage 7 in the coming weeks.

Paint or Stain the Fence – I put up a new fence late last fall and was told to let it weather for at least 4-5 months before painting, staining or otherwise weatherproofing it. It’s time.

Relaunch My Blog – Here it is!

Get More Sleep – Ha! But actually, I’m starting to do better with this. I function so much better on 7 hours of sleep than 5.5 hours. I’ve been trying to get upstairs by 11 on weeknights, with light out no later than 11:30.

Run a 5k – Done, and itching for another one! I ran the Elgin Fox Trot 5k on Memorial Day and notched a 30:32. Now I’m looking for a good race to break the 30 minute mark.

So I’m doing okay. But there are a couple to add:

Discover New Music – There’s nothing really WRONG with the fact that most of the music on my iPod is the same stuff I listened to in high school. But there’s so much more out there! I’ve started occasionally downloading Amazon’s daily free mp3, and I want to make this more of a habit.

Read More – I never thought this would have to be a stated goal, but I really am happiest when I’m in the middle of a good book. I need fiction in my life to balance out all the newspapers and work-related reading. (I just tore through all 371 delicious pages of The Kite Runner in two days and it felt awesome.) At the same time, I do want to mix in the occasional “business” book.

Talk to Strangers – Just saying “hello” to strangers and allowing myself to engage in conversation is a good thing. I need to do more of it.

Plan My Meals – Rather than randomly strolling through a grocery store and grabbing food willy-nilly, I occasionally have actually sat down and planned out the menu for a week. It’s been hugely successful. Let’s make it a habit to try to eliminate the Thursday night PBJ.

I think that’s a pretty good list. What are you trying in the second half of the year?

2008 Plans Recap

A little over a year ago, I started this blog and listed my home improvement/repair plans for 2008. Let’s check in and see how those turned out, shall we?

Replace the back door. Complete! Well, kind of. I did indeed replace the door in July with the help of my parents and boyfriend. However, we’re not yet quite done… I have the trim stained but it needs to be cut to the right size and installed, and, lacking the right saw to do so, it hasn’t happened yet. And I really should put a fresh coat of paint on the door itself – I bought the paint in August but now it’s too cold. I can’t wait until I finish and can actually enjoy the completed result – though I’ve already noticed the far superior insulation compared to previous winters!

Install a utility sink in the basement. Not yet, but now that it’s winter, the need is even more pressing.

Fix the two broken panes of glass on the porch. I kind of replaced one but have to redo it. The story merits its own post.

Remove the wall AC unit in the living room – a remnant of the days before central air – and replace it with a window. COMPLETE as of Monday! And it looks so much better and brighter!

Replace some windows. COMPLETE as far as my budget currently allows. Monday, I replaced three windows in the living room and both in the office, just in time for the cold snap. And yegads, what a difference.

Now to prioritize for 2009… and complete the delinquencies for 2008.

Plans for 2008

I was over at a friend’s house today. She and her fiance are new homeowners, so we’ve been sharing lots of advice. On her fridge, they had posted a list of things they wanted to do or buy for their home in the next year, along with estimated costs. Such a simple, smart idea!

I’ve made similar lists – on the back of napkin, on the back of a receipt – but tended to view them as more daydreamy.

But now that I think about it, here’s my to-do for 2008:

Replace the back door. I dawdled on this all damn summer, and now that it’s cold, I’m reminded WHY this was so high on my list. Plus, then I might actually be able to have a screen door that fits, enabling fresh air in the back half of the house without aiding the cat’s escape.

Install a utility sink in the basement. Once I shut off the water to the hose for the winter, I have to clean the cat’s litter box in the bathtub, since it’s the only sink big enough.

Fix the two broken panes of glass on the porch.

Remove the wall AC unit in the living room – a remnant of the days before central air – and replace it with a window. I cannot wait to have a lighter, brighter living room.

Replace some windows. The priorities are the upstairs bathroom and living room. Depending on funding, I’d love to do the guest room and upstairs hall, too, since then the entire upstairs would be done. Bonus: They’re all the same size.

The big, ultimate project for next year would be remodeling my bathroom. To do what I want to it, I’d have to remove a wall, the tub and toilet – and might as well do the sink while I’m at it. My current tub is miniature – only 4 feet long – so I want to replace it with a corner unit and remove the pesky wall so I can actually have a functioning tub. However, since it’s my only full bath, time is of the essence. This is all pending the money to do so, though.

There are another dozen little projects I could throw on here, but these are the priorities. If I keep it short and sweet, I’ll crank through them, right? There are also bigger projects looming – like rebuilding the garage – that will have to wait until more funding becomes available.

This only reiterates my belief that I should never have a reason to complain of boredom.