Every other Sunday morning means one thing for Tribal Multi-Sport athletes – track – and today was no exception. As usual, I created the outline for today’s workout and decided that we were in need of a little something extra. A little something that our athletes would love and hate at the same time – a 1 mile ‘race’. It’s a distance rarely contested by triathletes and even the majority of our runners had never really done a 1 mile race on the track (or the road). I informed them all well in advance that this would be on tap so that we had several days for the fear and anxiety to build. We had a group of around 30 athletes today and a very wide range of ability and age amongst them. To add in another layer of pressure, I asked each athlete to predict – and post – their goal finish time before we ran. Overall, the race went very well and the athletes had a very good time, in an ‘I’m hurting so bad my legs don’t work and I want to throw up’ sort of way.
Racing on the track is something I love. Starting as a runner before evolving into a triathlete, it’s one of the places I cut my teeth and learned so much. I always look at the track as two things: 1) a classroom and 2) a proving ground. It’s a place to teach yourself and to test yourself. A place to learn about proper execution and work on run mechanics and a place to assess your fitness in relation to your goals. I’ve been able to run a sub 5:00 mile for as long as I can remember. It’s something I am very proud of and something that I feel in part, defines my abilities as a runner. It’s something that not many runners can accomplish and for me I have always viewed it as something that sets me apart and makes me special. I’m not saying any of that to brag or sound boastful, it’s just honesty from within me.
Before we started the 1 mile race today, I confided in a few people that I was scared. Not nervous, but scared about my ability to run sub 5. I’ve been in a very fluid and relaxed state of training lately but overall I feel fit and healthy. I’ve never lacked the confidence but in the days leading up the doubts started creeping in. What if I can’t go sub 5 anymore? What if at 43 years of age, that ability is gone and that chapter is closed? Will who I am and how I am defined as an athlete be changed or lessened if I can’t run a sub 5’ mile? Will the athletes I coach think I have lost my edge and my ability to lead them by example? Will my training partners look elsewhere or seek to replace me since I’m now slow? Overly dramatic? Of course it is. But I really was / am scared that something I have been able to do for so long very well may be slipping out of my grasp.
I always tell my athletes to never focus on getting faster or fitter, simply work to get better. The reality is that we all slow down. We all set marks or PR’s or achieve standards in life that we will inevitably never surpass or equal again. That’s a part of our journey, but accepting it when it stares you right in the face is hard. But the same obstacle also presents opportunity and I refuse to allow my advancing years to stunt my progress or to have some arbitrary standard define my worth in this arena. I will continue my relentless pursuit of better, every damn day. So how did my 1 mile sub 5 attempt go today? A DNF after about 300M due to a strained calf muscle. Man, getting old is hard…