Thursday, November 7, 2013

Revisiting and Evaluating Goals - Success or Failure May Be All About Perspective

Earlier this year I set a few goals for myself. Here's the post where I discussed the four goals I wanted to accomplish. I hoped to cut a few pounds, perform well in a trail race, run a fast mile on the track, and truly crack 5.12 on lead. With two months left in this calendar year it seems like a good time to revisit my original goals and begin evaluating whether or not I was successful.

During most normal winters I weigh about 190lbs. This spring I decided to see if I could cut back to 175lbs. I figured this would help with my running. It would also allow my partner to more easily catch my lead falls. She's about 115-120lbs and the large weight difference is hard for her to manage if I take more than a short lead fall. Initially, losing weight was not easy. During the first few days my body went through a few physical adjustments that left me feeling really hungry. I was careful about what I ate and drank and I continued to train hard for running. I didn't climb at all for most of the summer. At first I didn't really lose any weight. By the middle of the summer though, I was 176lbs each morning. When I returned from the Bugaboos in early September I was still 176. Right now I'm about 182.

I finished 11th in the Pfalz Point Trail Challenge. I was hoping for a top 5 (or top 10 finish) so I was a bit disappointed with my results. Additionally, my overall time (about 7:00/mile) was a bit slower than I'd hoped.  Looking back at the training cycle I realized a few things I should have done differently. Taking the month of August off from training to guide in the Cascades and climb in the Bugaboos was really disruptive to my training schedule. It broke things up so much, and when I resumed my speedwork workouts I was left with pretty severe tightness in my upper hamstrings.

Since September 22nd, the day of the Pfalz Point race, I've run maybe ten times. My body has recovered, and the occasional run feels much better than running 5 days each week. I no longer have as much chronic pain and tightness in the upper hamstring/piriformis and my legs muscles aren't excessively tight nor tired. I've taken advantage of the break from endurance exercise to climb more frequently. I weigh less than I did during previous rock seasons. This, in conjunction with a focus on very deliberate footwork, has helped me to climb a few more challenging climbs. Over the past two weeks, I've successfully climbed 5 routes in the 5.12a or 5.12b range.

How about a 5:00 mile attempt? It hasn't happened yet, and I don't think it will happen this year. I've been dealing with hamstring tendinitis for months now, and speedwork is undoubtedly the culprit. No goal is worth it if it means I create even greater chronic pain for my body.

Looking back, I see that setting arbitrary numerical goals for myself was both helpful and harmful. I never reached 175 lbs., but I did lose 14 pounds for the running season. Finishing 11th in the Pfalz Point Challenge, with a slower than anticipated time was a bit of a letdown. However, it's the first long trail race I've ever run, I took a month off from training only one month before the race, and had an overly long training cycle. I think by most measures, finishing strong and avoiding injury during 6 months of training should also be counted as a success. I'm climbing harder than I ever have before, and I'm happy about this too. Next rock season I'll have a whole new, more challenging set of projects.

Mostly though, I've realized that success comes not from achieving my goals, but from pursuing them. I love movement. Each trail run, no matter how straightforward or rugged, was an excuse to spend time in the woods, living in the moment and focused on the terrain directly in front of my feet. I don't actually care that much about the grades of climbs either; I love climbing for the exactness of the movement, the singular focus, the total body coordination, the problem solving requirements, and because it brings me closer to the people with whom I've chosen to spend my precious free time. These things and others like them, not random arbitrary numbers, are the reasons we set goals for ourselves.

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