Last year was a year of gratification for work put in - I followed my training plan to a T, hit some wonderful new records (mileage ran, race times etc) and generally kept injuries to the niggling. I expected much the same and a little bit more from this year, it only being my 2nd full year of 'serious' running. I felt confident building on a decent foundation but also saw the opportunity to just push the envelope with my goals. As I've grown older, I've found myself getting less gutsy, less motivated and more inclined to keep to my comfort zone - running was my way of transcending this.... In simple goals, I saw my to-be-fulfilled potential and new found fearlessness.
Sadly, plans get thwarted, as they do. First, my LA marathon plan had to get canned because the business trip (that was to get me to LA) ended up a week earlier than the race itself. In addition to that, my training has been interrupted every 1-2 months or so with my foot flaring up (2-3 times now), unexplained fatigue and various illnesses (colds, tummy trouble). I am not one to visit the doctor any more than once or twice a year at the maximum, but this year has seen me at the doctors a few more times than that.
I'm happy to say that I am not seriously sick, thankfully. What has turned up though is a range of dietary intolerances, including eggs, dairy, wheat, gluten, yeast (and a number of other items that I won't even begin to tackle because I won't have anything left to eat!) that is likely to have contributed to my ever worsening issues with heartburn and gastrointestinal discomfort, as well as my fatigue and susceptibility to infections.
My foot is yet a whole other story. I hurt 1 foot in Feb when I ran my longest run ever. That went away, before my right foot started up in the summer and has never really resolved. Even as I speak, the top of my right foot is swollen and a bit bruised after my 16km run yesterday. There's a pattern of it hurting after my long runs, then easing back within 1-2 days to a "minimal-but-I'm-still-here" level for the rest of the week as I've tried to still hit as much of of planned training as possible but of course, never quite letting it heal properly.
So as I head into race week (I'm doing the Unicef Half Marathon at Hong Kong Disneyland again this year), I'm wondering what my 'goal' ought to be. I'm feeling just a little bit beat up and less than confident. My original plan had been to better last year's PR, and secretly, I was hoping to get my time down to 1:52-1:53. But realistically, I accomplished my training this time round at about 50-70% of the level at which it was designed (with the bulk of the tempo/speed sessions missed or compromised) and I'm conscious that I have an injured foot.
Is simply turning up and trying to enjoy it while I do my best enough of a goal? Or even if it is one, is it enough to make me feel satisfied, like I've achieved something after all this hard work and angst? I wonder, what will I have to speak of when this year is over? To what end have I committed myself and what will I have to show for it?
"When you run, there are no mistakes, only lessons. The art and science of ultra running is a process of trial, error, and experimentation. The failed experiments are as much a part of the successes as the combination that eventually works.
Lessons will be presented in various forms and intensities. Each lesson will be repeated until it is learned. When you have learned one lesson you will be presented with another.
The learning of lessons does not end. There is no part of your running experience that does not contain lessons. Each time you run there are lessons to be learned.
Life's answers lie within. Life's questions can be answered from within. Running is the medium through which these answers will be revealed. All you have to do is look, listen, feel and trust.
As you advance to greater challenges, you will continue to gain knowledge of yourself. Periodically you will be required to reach ever deeper in to your inner being, seeking out the strength needed to continue the endeavor of the moment. The strength you seek is layered within. The number of layers in infinite. All you have to do is believe, have faith in yourself, and expect to find that which you seek." - Keith Pippin
And so it is, bringing me back to Acceptance. I am a control freak/perfectionist who thinks - if you don't have a chance to get that 'wow' result that you were aiming for, it's a let-down no matter what. It's a disappointment to even try. It's even more of a defeat if you still go and 'prove' yourself right, "I told you so... why did you even bother?". What honour is there in turning up anyway? Will you gain anything at all?
There is a kind of denial/resistance in that mentality, a turning away because I do not like what is happening and refuse to accept the limitations subjected upon me. There is a feeling that it was my own fault, I MUST have done something wrong or simply didn't try hard enough. The thinking revolves around me and what I do (or do not). And then I flip completely in the opposite direction, feeling the victim for being subject to my body and my failings - I tried my best but it failed me, so I throw my hands up in despair and surrender.
But Acceptance, as I am learning, asks me to tow the middle ground. It says, "I agree that you are not 100%, but it seems to me that you could still finish the race. Let go of your fixations, of your expectations. Allow other ways of seeing and experiencing to show you what might be lying in wait at the finish line. Sometimes you can just show up and be there. It doesn't always have to be perfect, who knows what is in store?".
This is, for me, a lifelong lesson... how true that "Lessons will be presented in various forms and intensities. Each lesson will be repeated until it is learned." Balancing ambition with acceptance. Sitting with discomfort and disappointment, not turning away and giving up. Putting in the effort and knowing that that is 'good enough'. Recognising the doing and determination rather than just result.
This Sunday morning, I will read this again and remember that I can go and give it my all, and still have a good run.
Goals are good, but Acceptance, even wiser.