Friday, August 6, 2010

So What’s Next? Not an Easy Answer

It’s funny the way endurance training works. You’re forced to plan 1 or 5 or 12 months ahead of your race in order to prepare. The question of “What’s Next?” requires just as much math as is does consideration of personal ambitions. The calendar only has so many months, and it can be a tricky dance between what I want to take on versus what I can realistically manage.

Since we are inching out of the summer of 2010, I’ve started to piecemeal a race schedule together for next year. I’m already signed up for the Goofy Challenge – where I will run the half marathon with my mom (followed by Disney vacation!) and the full alongside some good friends and twitter folks (@goofy57runner @MrBrettYoung, @maddyhubba, @jenn_if_er, @petfxr … and others. Please @reply and let me know if you are going!)

But this schedule looks beyond Goofy (January 8th and 9th, 2011) to the summer season. Why so far out? I only have two races on my radar. Two big ones.

American River 50 Miler April 2011

Ironman Coeur d’Alene, June 2011

Both of these races are cornerstones of my personal athletic life, and of this blog. I am officially signed up for IMCDA 2011. In truth, I’ve been signed up for a while (two weeks after I completed it this year), though I kept this information to myself in case I thought it an impulsive decision and I wanted to back out. I have decided it is not.

I will train to be a repeat Ironman. I can’t expect to capture the awesomeness that I experienced during my time in Idaho this year. But I will train with the hopes of creating equally awesome memories next June.

The AR50 is the wildcard in my schedule. Also happens to be the day after my birthday. It’s a sentimental race for me. It was my first (of two) ultramarathon. It was proof to me that I could accomplish something I really wasn’t sure I’d success at. It taught me Focus. Persistence. Patience. Returning to the beautiful American River course in Sacramento would mean tapping into those treasured disciplines again.

The debate I am waging – to sign up for the AR50 in addition to my day job, training for the IM and coaching TNT – is a very careful one. I’ve never had to so thoughtfully consider my race schedule and how it affects my life. Maybe this is a sign that I am finally an adult (…who still eats Dunkaroos).

The volume of my day job is greater than it ever has been, which is a good thing for me professionally.

The time I dedicate to coaching is very important to me as well – I do not cap any hours I spend doing that. And I need to consider how my race schedule may affect everyone who is a part of my TNT family.

The distances I aim to complete require much time and effort to prepare for. That’s why I choose them in the first place. While I have gotten a bit stronger and faster, I train by minutes not miles. So being extra fit or a little slower doesn’t change the amount of time I spend training.

The root of this debate is a familiar topic in my writing – the balance of life and happiness. Can I balance all four of these challenges successfully? What does ‘balance’ mean? What does ‘successfully’ mean? Will I be shortchanging any of my training, my participants, my co-coaches, my social life or my health? Or can I transcend what I perceive are limitations and prove that I really can have it all?

That's the key to having it all: Stop expecting it to look like what you thought it was going to look like. -Cindy Chupack, Sex and the City

I work because I like making movies, I enjoy being productive with a team, and life isn't free. Bills and such.

I coach to share my love of sports, honor the people who inspire me, and help find a cure for blood cancers.

I train for triathlons to challenge myself and show others that they, too, can do what is seemingly impossible.

I run because it makes me feel whole and in tune with the universe – yes, hyperbole! I want to do all of these tasks, and I want to work to better myself at each of them.

What I am risking by taking on so many challenges at once is the change at shortchanging one or all of them. Failing at them. It would be a failure to not give each the attention they require. It would be a failure to not “be present” – to be engaged – with each challenge in their moments. It would be a failure not to complete either race (though a bigger failure not to start, some may argue). And it would be a failure to miss an opportunity to inspire someone else.

We can learn a lot from failure, of course. But it is shortsighted to set myself up for it? Or is this another perceived limitation? A barrier that is not even there?

There are boundaries to navigate: only 24 hours in a day, the necessity of sleep, and my arch nemesis known as LA Traffic. But there are sacrifices that I can make: TV, mindless internet surfing, maybe even writing. All sacrifices in a search for deeper joys and personal satisfactions.

I’m very conscious that this is a philosophical post centering on a superficially small decision – pay the race entry fee for the AR50. Tape the calendar to the fridge. Get going.

But, as I am sure any dedicated athlete experiences, the races are always more than just miles on the pavement. It’s a way of living. This is what I debate. This is what I chase. Not the finish line banner and a telling digital clock. Not medals or jackets (though both are good reminders). I chase the pattern of discipline. And I chase in hopes that others join me and we create a common thread together.

The AR50 sells out in the winter, but as a planner, I will give myself through August to decide, and then I’m in or I’m out. And once that’s laid down, off I go with my goal or goals in sight.

Fire can cook you food or it can burn your hand. Depends on how you wield it. Same goes for ambition. Harness it correctly and it will take you to a reality that is beyond your imagination (…I sound like Gene Wilder in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). But mishandle it and you will get very, very tired.

So in short time, I will have a full answer to “What is next?” Until then, I've got mountains to eat for dinner.

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