Hey, I made it.
Early in January 2015, while contemplating my previous year’s running performance, I felt like it was time to set myself a new goal.
When it comes to my hobbies, I usually am pretty reasonable. Some see me as dreamer, but I’ve grown up a bit. I am beginning to understand how life constantly gets in the way of our plans. I know, oh how I do know, how frustrating it can be when one doesn’t reach their self-described goal. So, I end up making goals that seem mostly attainable.
In previous years I had ran a couple half marathons, but never any races. In late 2014, I had just signed myself up for my first trail race. Feeling euphoric, I decided that 12 half-marathons seemed a reasonable goal for 2015. Essentially, I’d be running one for each month. Not 12 races, though. That seems like way too much commitment, especially, once you factor in travel, entry fees and other issues, like being in peak performance at specific times and dates. My running schedule has to be a lot more fluid; when I feel great I pound the miles, and when work keeps me busy and I have other commitments, I slow down my training schedule. I’m okay with that.
By the time I was gearing up my training schedule for my first race, the Hillbilly Half in early March, I felt ready for this new challenge.
And now in late December, I comfortably completed it. With room to spare.
I ran seven self-timed half marathon distance runs. Some exactly the 21km (13.2 miles) on flat terrain. Some a bit longer and with plenty of trails and elevation in the mix. In October, I wanted to push myself and completed my first 30km run. This one brought it to eight runs.
To get to ten, I counted two long and fast hikes into this mix. Yeah, to some this might seem like I’m cheating, but those long hikes take away some precious training time. The two hikes where a 25km hike up to two of the three peaks of Copper Mountain and the 40km traverse from Mt. Gladys over to Black and White Lakes. These adventures, if you know the terrain, are nothing to scoff at.
I’ll spare you and me from going deeper into the numbers. This can get a little nutty fast.
Yes, my accomplishments in 2015 don’t make me an elite ultra runner. My numbers don’t measure up to all the names we see plastered on outdoor ads. But you know what? I don’t give a crap. Setting goals and achieving them feels incredibly rewarding.
We don’t achieve all our goals we set ourselves. I really wanted to complete the Mt. Washington to Mt. Ellinor traverse this year. And guess what? It didn’t work out. #ThanksDouglas
What I am trying to take away from this aside from bigger goals for the coming year, to which I will get to in a bit, is this:
When I was younger setting goals and achieving them was not something I was taught. I had a great group of friends around me and we did a lot of cool things. It was always a team effort and always a team experience. Not once did I look in the mirror and said “I did that!” I experienced a great many things I would’ve never experienced without being part of this group. For this I am eternally thankful.
But it was always the collective that achieved the goal, the group that earned the recognition.
‘There’s no I in team’, they say.
This left me not believing in myself, leaving me asking questions like “Who was I without them?”
I felt I dependent on this team to achieve anything.
We all got older and those friends moved on, and more likely, I moved away from them. I lacked the self-confidence to believe I could do things. Yes, in my youth I had experienced some great adventures, but I could never believe I would replicate and own those experiences for myself. For the longest time, I felt like I could only function successfully by having a team around me. Not just those few friends, but anyone. I didn’t believe I could go and do this alone.
I don’t doubt that a team can take you further. There are times when working collectively, you can achieve more, but in our individualized and incredibly busy society, most of the time this team is missing. As adults, we might agree to pull on the same string for a few moments, but everyone’s load feels already maxed out. As we get older, we can’t expect that anyone is going to carry us.
Those seem like heavy words, but they feel cleansing to me. When I put my running shoes on and head out the door, I don’t do it for anyone but myself. I rarely share my achievements or challenges with anyone. Thus, when I return and look at myself in the mirror with salty sweat all over my face, I don’t owe this achievement to anyone. I did it and I own that.
(Well, that’s not quite fair. I am hugely grateful to my amazing wife for giving me the time and supporting me, especially on weekends when I do my long runs).
Alright, enough with the naval-gazing.
I’m already signed up for two races so far. In March I’ll be doing the Mountain Marathon in the Capital Forest. I’m very excited about this race. It will be my first full marathon, which will double the distance on last year’s Hillbilly course.
My second race will be the Squamish 50K race in late August. I can’t even put in words what I feel about being signed up for this one. I’m nervous and terrified, but also insanely stoked and confident that, by August, I’ll be in a shape to finish it without dying in the Canadian backcountry. This will be my first ultra marathon in an incredibly beautiful location in Squamish B.C. and will be my first race I’ll need to travel for.
On a interesting side note: The Squamish50 race is a race which earns you qualifying points for the UTMB in Chamonix. This may or may not have had an influence in my decision to want to run this race.
Reasonable goals, right?
Always set reasonable goals.
This article is an except of The Outdoor Society’s upcoming book release:
Summit Book 2016.
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