Ahhh. The mirror. As my time on this earth bears down on the half century mark (T-minus 24 months), I usually try to avoid it. I mean, there are plenty of other reminders about my age, other than seeing new gray hair and wrinkles. Sometimes, though, the reflection must be faced, and I’m not talking about after eating at Chipotle, when the teeth need to be double checked for a rogue black bean.
As many of you know, I’ve been on a quest over the past few years to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I won’t go into much explanation for those reading this who are non-runners, but qualifying for the Boston Marathon is a pretty big deal. Doing so puts you in a different class of runner.
A year ago, I ran my best ever marathon in the 2015 Columbia Marathon. I was nine minutes short of meeting the qualifying time for my age, but I thought a personal best on a very tough Columbia course showed I was on the right track. After all, it was almost twenty-five minutes faster than my first marathon at age forty-one, six years before. It seemed I was effectively beating Father Time at this game.
Alas, my race results for the remainder of 2015 and so far in 2016, despite working hard in my training, are forcing me to look in the mirror, and perhaps face some realities.
You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run
“The Gambler” – Kenny Rogers
What’s it worth?
Some pursuits have a high cost. For instance, there are the Tory Burch shoes my wife scopes out on our trips to South Park Mall. Those have a high monetary cost and have remained at the mall. Then, there is the cost of doing an Ironman triathlon. Not only is the monetary cost high, with entry fees plus hotel and travel costs, but there is also the cost of preparation, where training costs you lots of time and possibly even your marriage!
Author and marketing guru Seth Godin talks about chasing goals through the concept of the asymptote. My high school trigonometry teacher Doc Moser probably covered this concept, but I had trouble paying attention back then, so Seth’s example was an eye-opener for me. Seth uses the asymptote to discuss the high cost and effort to reach a goal, and how it may be OK to stop chasing that goal.
See, an asymptote is a line or curve that approaches another curve arbitrarily close, but never touches it. What if my asymptote line is my marathon results and the curve they approach (but never touch!) is the Boston Qualifying time for my age. A graph of this might look like this:
I really don’t know if my marathon results curve is a true asymptote, but it illustrates the reality that I need to consider – there’s a chance that I could keep putting a ton of time and effort into this crazy dream and never reach it. But how do I know? Obviously, I don’t, but it is something to ponder, forcing me to turn to the mirror and ask: Should I stay or should I go now?
Farewell Tour 2016
Well, I can’t just walk away from a goal with out one last attempt. So, my plan is for 2016 to be my last year really trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I had hoped to do a spring marathon to see if I’d improved. That didn’t work out, but I did a couple of half marathons and found out I have not really improved. So, like many sports organizations do when they are not achieving the results they want, I fired the one and only coach, besides books, I’ve had for the past seven+ years – myself.
So, this week, I start a new training plan with a new coach. He’s not Yoda but more like Luke Skywalker in training (pre-Dagobah!) However, the price is right.
His basic plan for me targets becoming faster and stronger in shorter races throughout the year, before giving one last huge training effort for a late year marathon. This young Jedi also wants me to change some of my less than stellar eating and drinking (no Diet Dr. Pepper!) habits,but I haven’t bought into that yet. We’ll see.
Finally, here’s one interesting twist to my quest, pointed out by my friend Trip: After about Sept 19th, 2016, I will be trying to quality for the 2018 Boston Marathon, at which time I will be fifty years old and in the next age group. This means after September 19th, I add five minutes to my qualifying time, despite still being younger than fifty. My new time goal will be 3:30:00 instead of 3:25:00.
So, there you go. One more attempt at Boston qualifying. If I come up short, then it will be time to…?
With that, I’ll leave you with these lyrics from one of my favorite albums of the ’80’s, Paradise Theater. These also sum up 2016 so far:
Boy, nothing ever goes as planned
It’s a hell of a notion
Even Pharaohs turn to sand
Like a drop in the ocean
I’m so together and I act so civilized
But every time that things go wrong
I’m still surprised.
-“Nothing Ever Goes As Planned” – Styx