2017 year in review: success in spite of myself

I started mentally reviewing my 2017 racing season well before the holidays, but it took until now to get my thoughts on the page. In between, contributor Dr. Stephen Jonas provided helpful questions to ask when reviewing your racing season. Take a look!

For most of 2017, I criticized myself. My performance on the bike wasn’t up to par. I didn’t practice my transitions, which would have saved me precious seconds in important races. My running performance started off strong, but faded halfway through the year. I considered 2017 a wash.

But when I shifted my mindset and thought of my goals, I realized I had a pretty darn good year in spite of myself. Here are four things I’m proud of.

1. Top 10 in USA Track & Field/Pacific Region Road Grand Prix, short and long series.

USATF has annual team and individual competitions in road, cross country, mountain/ultra and track events. My club, Pamakid Runners, competes in all of these except track.

One of my 2017 goals was to earn “comped” status in both the short- and long-course road series. This requires placing in the top 10 in my division, 40+ women. Result: nailed it! I placed seventh in both. That means I receive free entry into 2018 short and long Grand Prix races. Yay, free! I got comped for the short series (10th) for 2015, but thanks to an injury, didn’t get to take advantage of the benefit.

2. USA Triathlon Duathlon National Champion

One of my all-time duathlon goals was to win my age group in a national championship race. Unexpectedly, I accomplished this at the USAT Duathlon Long-Course National Championships in Cary, North Carolina, in April.

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I had a lackluster race. (Can you tell I’m hard on myself?) My bike split was minutes slower than my expectation. I had acceptable run splits considering the heat and humidity. But I did my best on the day. Result: Age group win! Bonus: a “national champion” bike jersey that I’m a little embarrassed to wear.

3. Came out of half marathon hiatus

In February, I lined up to race the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon for the first time in 10 years. In between, I ran some trail halfs as training races, but didn’t specifically train for a half.

Why? After the 2007 KPSF 1/2 I ran a big PR, and then ended up with a stress fracture a week later. I became gun-shy about racing the half and focused on races from 5K to 10 miles. I soon got over my fear, but training for a half just didn’t fit…for a long time!

In 2017, I not only ran the KPSF 1/2, but also the Clarksburg Country Run in November (part of the road Grand Prix), where I placed third in my age group. Result: barrier broken. Bonus: I stayed healthy and still am!

4. Pamakid Runners Female Runner of the Year

Well this was unexpected! Each year my club hands out awards for male/female runner of the year (road and ultra), most improved and most inspirational. It also gives out an overall “Pamakid of the Year” and “Volunteer of the Year” award for members who go above and beyond to help the club and the running community at large.

I missed the club’s Christmas party, where they present the awards, only to discover a couple days later I won one! And here I thought I had a crappy 2017.

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At the Christmas Relays, belatedly receiving my award. Thanks Pamakids!

For most of 2017’s second half, my motivation to race took a nosedive due to caring for and losing my beautiful feline companion, Soleil. From the time I learned she had a tumor, in August, through the worst of the grief, I had no passion for racing or much else. I raced to keep my skills sharp and to spend time with my Pamakids family.

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My pal for 15 and-a-half years and a sock monkey she didn’t like. Isn’t she the most beautiful cat ever?

I criticized myself (can you see a trend here?) for slower race times, but in spite of myself, I ran a lot of races and placed fairly well in them. I also volunteered a fair amount for my club. Taken all together, Pamakids saw something I didn’t. I’m grateful.

As 2018 picks up momentum, I have my enthusiasm back and my health intact. I’m working toward my 2018 goals with a renewed sense of commitment.

What are you most proud of in 2017? What did you learn? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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Guest post: Revisiting Your Goals

Here is the latest article from Steven Jonas, MD, MPH. As you reflect on 2017, reflect on your racing season. Did you meet or exceed your goals? What can you do differently in 2018? — Du It For You

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The multisport racing season has come to a close in most parts of the country. Some of us are quite happy in the sport, know where we are going, look forward to next year and have possibly started to plan for it. But perhaps you have come to the point, after just one, two, or many years in the sport, where you’re not quite sure of your place in it.

To help you focus, to help you make sure that what you are doing is right for you, I would suggest that you think about the following questions: “Where am I now?” “What am I getting out of the sport?” “What, perhaps, am I not getting out of it that I thought I might?” “What should I be doing this winter?”

Whether you are gung ho for next year, or perhaps a doubting Thomas or Thomasina but still in an exploring mood, with these questions I am suggesting (surprise, surprise for those readers who know me) that first and foremost you take a look back at the goals you set for yourself, either last year or way back when. Did you come into multisport racing from a non-racing background out of curiosity, with the goal of simply satisfying it? Did you come into multisport from another racing sport in which you did well in terms of speed, looking to do well in this one also? Did you look at doing the sport as an opportunity to get into cross-training on a regular basis with the primary goal of improving your health and physical fitness, using racing as a motivator? Did you know something about multisport racing from a friend or two before starting out, and then say to yourself, “this looks like a good way to have fun?”

My bet is that whether your goals were one or more from the above list or not, if you are feeling good, feeling good about yourself, and feeling good about the sport, you most likely set an appropriate goal (or goals) for yourself and achieved it (them) in one way or another. I would also bet that if the opposite is true, you chose one or more inappropriate goals, in terms of your skill-level, available time, and life- balance. I suggest that you consider these ten words: “Do my goals work for me? Why and why not?”

For example, have you chosen the right multisport? If you really don’t like to swim and you have chosen triathlon for the “challenge” and you’re having fun, time to re-consider. There are duathletes who never touch the water and have a great, long, fun career in the two-sport variety.

If you are not inherently fast (like me) and you have chosen to engage simply to have fun (like me), and you are, you have achieved your goal. However, if you are not inherently fast but nevertheless have set as your goal going fast, and you spend hours on speed work getting nowhere, I suggest thinking again about why you are in the sport and perhaps change your focus to—that’s right—simply having fun.

To achieve the latter, you need train a lot less and a lot less intensely (just like I do). On the other hand, if you are doing speed work and you are picking up the pace (the good news) but feel like it’s something of a struggle (the bad news), you should take a look at your particular program and consider others, either in print or at a fall clinic. You might also consider hiring a personal coach.

And so, as the season comes to an end, I suggest that you take a deep breath, literally and figuratively. Life is long and so can your stay in multisport racing. From the beginning, setting out to have fun and while becoming a regular exerciser, going slowly all the time, I just finished my 35th season in tri/duathlon, having fun and exercising regularly the whole time. To repeat: The key to staying with it is to make sure that you set goals that work for you and work for you now. You should also know that as your life circumstances and your athletic abilities change, you can always change your goals and continue to stay—happily—in your sport of choice.

A version of this column originally appeared on the USAT blog in 2013 and is used with permission.

2017 marked Steve Jonas’ 35th season of multisport racing. He has done a total of 255 du’s and tri’s. He is a member of USA Triathlon’s Triathlon Century Club and is in the 90’s for duathlon. He has raced up to the ironman distance, but now at 81, he is sticking to the sprints in both duathlon and triathlon. Steve is a prolific author of books on multisport racing. His first (originally published in 1986), Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals®. The 2nd Ed. (New York: W.W. Norton, 2006) is still in print. In 2012, he published a book exclusively devoted to duathlon: Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals®: Getting Started and Staying with It (Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press/FalconGuides, 2012). All of his books on multisport are available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. He is also long-time writer for various multisport periodicals, most recently, and happily, joining Du It For You.

Photo courtesy of Flickr