Today’s goal: Get Uncomfortable. I saw those two words together for the first time after a friend commented on my Instagram photo from last night of all my running gear laid out for today’s Back the Track 5k. I didn’t understand it at first, but seconds later, it clicked. Anything worth striving for isn’t supposed to be easy.
Yesterday I read a gem of a blog post by Deniz (PLEASE read it), one of the November Project tribe leaders here in Boston. Quick recap of Deniz for anyone not familiar: he’s an Ironman and ran a 3:30 something marathon AFTER the swim and bike “warmup.” He’s BQ’d, and is insanely fast.
That alone would be good enough. Not only is Deniz a talented athlete, he’s also one of the most humble and caring people I’ve ever met. Deniz’ post yesterday was all about “setting the bar high” and being ok with failure. Failure means you had the nerve to challenge yourself by stepping outside your comfort zone and pushing the limit of your own ability.
We had a special guest yesterday at November Project. Shalane Flanagan, a US Olympian and one of the fastest women in the world joined us. I’ve been learning a lot from Shalane’s successes and even more from when she isn’t successful. The second I saw the quote to the right, I started sharing my goals with other runner friends. Instantly something clicked. I had this burning fire inside me to get faster, push harder and crush my goal, which at the time was a sub 18 5k. (Point of reference: 9/2013 my PR was 20:53. Going into summer 2014 it was mid 19’s.)
Coach knows best. I’ve been working with Steven for over a year now and he knows my ability better than I do apparently. But that’s why he’s the coach. It’s certainly a reality check when your coach shakes off a 16 second PR with a “congrats, now let’s get 10 seconds faster.” I know he’s excited for me, but he knows I can do better. I wouldn’t be anywhere close to the speed I’m at without him.
Many of my November Project friends helped me get there, whether that was joining in on a track workout or racing up Summit Ave, it was certainly not a solo effort.
This brings me to today. After reading Deniz’ post a dozen times in the last 24 hours, I decided to write “Get Uncomfortable” on my wrist. Shalane said recently, “if it’s not hard, you’re not dreaming big enough.” After PRing and hitting my sub 18 goal early two weeks ago (17:56) my coach’s goal for today’s race was not just sub 18, as I had been training for, but 10 seconds faster, a 17:46. This terrified me. I barely snuck in under 18 minutes, and now I had to cut another 10 seconds off of that? Scary.
“If you think you can run a sub-4 hour marathon, and on a really good day you think you may be able to run the marathon in 3h 40m, that should be your goal. Tell the whole world that you want the run the marathon in 3 hours and 40 minutes. Who cares if you fail? Who cares if you ran it in 3 hour 55 minutes? It may sound more successful to say: “I ran a sub-4 hour marathon with 5 minutes to spare.” But, believe me it is much more badass and inspiring to say: “I wanted to run a 3h 40m marathon, I was 15 minutes off, but I will get better, work harder and try again”. At the end of the day, your marathon time is just a number, but your attitude about setting the bar high and striving for it makes the difference. And apply this to everything you do. I want to run 50 sections at the stadium. I want to be more loving to my friends and family. I want to be a better husband/wife, mom/dad, sibling. I want to solve this problem today. I want to ask that girl/guy out.
– Deniz of November Project Boston
That post couldn’t have been more timely. I was proud of my sub 18 (and 46 seconds worth of PR in the last 3 weeks), and would’ve been happy hitting the same time again today, as it was my original goal race, and original goal.
Nope. Not with this crowd.
The second I shared the 17:46 goal and heard myself say it out loud, I knew I had to crush it. This gets back to sharing your goals. Be proud of your dreams and the work it takes to get there.
Race morning today was a little different. November Project friends were EVERYWHERE. Racing or not, we showed up in numbers. Mentally I was in a much different place prior to this race. I was ready to crush it.
At 9:15 I set out for my 15 minute warmup and then dynamic stretches. I had another serving of Bits, and then found my way over to the starting line. Out of the blue, Evan Dana, another NP Boston leader comes up to me and tells me that he’s going to make sure I PR today.
We set out at a 4:50 pace until the first turn, and I knew I needed to slow down. I ran alongside Evan and a few minutes later, Deniz catches up to us and said hello (or something like that, my music was too loud). Mile 1 passes, and I look at my watch and it said 5:32. I shouted “Fuck Yeah” (typical November Project) and Evan gave me a fist bump. We made a turn, and then saw the .4 mile long hill. Here’s where it really helped having Evan pacing me. I turned my watch over, and followed him for pacing instead. We probably slowed a couple seconds per mile, but glided up and over the hill. Thanks Summit Ave.
The route was a rectangle, and the last turn put us headed toward the finish. Conveniently, my warmup run brought me almost right to that turn, so I knew how much further we had. My 3rd mile pace was 5:52, but once I saw the finish line and could hear all my November Project friends, I dropped into a sprint with everything I had left at 2.9 miles in, with .2 to go. It felt faster, but the last .1 was at a 5:30 pace. As soon as I could see the clock, I could see it said 17:4 but couldn’t read the second number. My heart sank as I gave every last ounce of effort I had. In what seemed like slow motion, I crossed the finish line to see only two seconds had ticked off. I crossed at 17:42, 4 seconds UNDER my goal.
I went found Evan and gave him a giant hug (again, typical November Project) and tried to thank him, but I couldn’t get any words out I was so gassed.
As soon as I could speak again, I went and found Shalane. I shared with her that whether she knew it or not, she pushed me to not just hitting my goal, but a 14 second PR in the process, good for exactly a full minute 5k PR (30 seconds, 16 seconds, 14 seconds) in the last month. Coincidence that was about the time I joined the InsideTracker team? (hint: no). We took a giant group photo and I can’t wait to see it. Every single person in it helped me crush my goal today in one way or another.
Am I proud? Yes. Am I content? No. Tomorrow begins the journey to Boston 2016.
“There is nothing cool about coasting in your successes, because that clearly means you are not pushing yourself hard enough. Be proud of your failure, be proud of your nerve to challenge yourself so hard, be proud of how close you got to your goal, and keep pushing to reach that goal. Don’t be afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid of failing. Don’t be embarrassed about failing. Always set the bar high!” – Deniz