Friday, August 27, 2010

It's All Relative

I've got a pretty busy October lined up. I'll be pacing my friend Bill (Fishadad) at the Smuttynose Half-Marathon in Hampton on October 3rd. On October 9th, I'm participating in a wedding, and on October 17th, I'm running the Bay State Full marathon. On October 31st, I'll dress up like a pumpkin and run around the neighborhood. OK. Maybe that last part isn't true, but it sure would be fun.

My stretch goal for the Bay State marathon is to break the magical 4:00 mark. Based on my half-marathon distance PR at the VCB 1/2 earlier this year (1:51:04), the MacMillan calculator puts my equivalent marathon time at 3:54:14, or an 08:57 pace. The pace required for a 4:00 flat marathon is 9:09. Last weekend, I went out and ran 17 miles and averaged 9:01. I feel pretty positive about that run, and about my chances at Bay State, for several reasons -

1) I've been putting in the miles. I've been following the the Higdon Novice 2 program and making small tweaks here and there - like adding Yasso 800's on speed days and running progression when I'm feeling up to it on Tuesday/Thursday runs.
2) I've added cycling as a cross-training element. This has made a huge impact on my breathing and overall fitness.
3) I've been running in the VFFs, which has started to change my stride. I find that I'm able to get higher turnover with a more upright posture, and I'm not heel striking as hard/bad as before.
4) HILLS. Everywhere I train near my house is hilly. Bay State is flat. Hills are speed work in disguise.

That said, I still have a lot of time before the marathon to bolster my chances of a sub-4:00 showing. Like everyone else, I often do most of my reflection/thinking during long runs. This past weekend, while out for 17, I got to thinking about my fitness level, and my goals for this fall, and how they compare to other people I know, most notably, my brother, who recently completed a full ironman triathlon on July 31st.

I started thinking about my own journey, from morbid obesity 10 years ago, to completing the Kona marathon in 2001, to gaining back 1/2 of that weight, to today - when I look in the mirror and see myself at the highest fitness level of my life. I thought back to last year, when I began running again in earnest, weighing 50+ lbs more than I do today. I was running 3-4 miles with average paces of 11 and 12 minute miles. I thought about my first marathon in Kona - where I posted a 6:03. A 13:51 pace. To put this in perspective, my brother ran a marathon, after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112, in 5:20 (12:12 pace). This is simply amazing to me.

Last weekend, we had a combination birthday-party/ironman-celebration for him. It was fantastic to get to shake the hand of an ironman. I tweeted about it -

Today I shook the hand of an ironman triathlete. Then, I gave him a hug. Then I said - I'm proud of you, little brother.

Then I told him that maybe someday I'd do one. But I'd do it faster. :)



Here is a picture of the shadowbox that the family put together, commemorating his achievement. I am insanely proud of what he has done. I am also inspired. While I'm not much of a swimmer, I vow to get in the water and try. Just, not yet. I've got some other things I want to do first, like go back to Kona in 2011 on the 10 year anniversary of my 1st marathon, and crush my previous time. The key part of this goal is beating my time.

It is so easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others. Am I losing this weight fast enough? Do I really belong out here with these other runners? Am I crazy for attempting this distance? Look at those guys on Daily Mile - they're posting 7:30 paces over 24 miles. I am terrible.

SNAP OUT OF IT!

Everybody's journey is unique. When I was 350 pounds, I was happy to complete a 1.5 mile walk at lunch. I didn't dream of running a marathon. If you told me that 10 years later, I'd be aiming to break 4 hours in a marathon, and thinking about triathlons, I would have called you insane. Slowly, you make progress. One step at a time. And that progress is realized by going out and trying to do a little bit better than you did the time before. You might not always do it, but if you want to improve, you can and you will.

I've seen tremendous improvements in my fitness level over the last year. I dropped the weight and have been maintaining in the same 5-7 lb range all year. My running pace has improved dramatically. I believe that there is some room for further improvement. I can probably drop another 10-15 pounds, and tone up some more. I can train harder. I will run faster. Someday, I will qualify for Boston. Someday, I will do a triathlon.

For now, I am happy to achieve MY goals. I may be a mid-to-back-packer. I may not post the most miles in my DM leaderboard, but I'm constantly reminded that it's all relative. Even when I forget, I've got friends to remind me.

@adamm9 you are getting faster my friend!
@luau Yes indeed. Feels pretty awesome! I'm no match for some of you #smutty racers though. :)
@adamm9 it's all relative...


Next time you get caught comparing your progress to those around you, whether it be in real life, online, or just in your head - please do yourself a favor - take a deep breath and repeat after me -

It's All Relative.

Do the best YOU can. You'll thank yourself for it down the road.

Until next time - run, run, run.