Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Chasing numbers (miles)

It started in college, although it wasn't always miles I was counting.

I like numbers, I have always enjoyed them. When I was just learning math I could add and subtract in my head from the beginning, I imagined the numbers as shapes, it worked every time. I was very good at math.

In college it started with schedules. I would start out at 6:30AM (run), 7:15AM (shower), 7:25AM (dress for class), 7:30AM (breakfast), 7:45AM (bike to class) 7:55AM (class). For the most part it was healthy, but then I needed something else, scheduling my day out in 15 minute increments just wasn't enough.

Next it was counting calories. First in estimated amounts, then in exact amounts. I am honest about this if people ask, this is nothing new. I did this for about two years until I started running an event where I was encouraged to be STRONG versus invisible.
In an effort to be "strong" I started counting numbers, miles per day..week...month. I wanted to run 65, then 70, then more than 70. Unfortunately I paid more attention to the numbers than the way I felt and spent most of my time on the elliptical machine with an injury.

Post college I was able to run as much as I wanted- there were no limits. I had some small successes but was usually hurt by April every year, spending 5-7 months in a water-jogging belt strapped to the wall of a pool, sweating through intervals until I felt like passing out. Injured. Chasing numbers has always left me sitting in the same place: on the bench.

Since coming back from pregnancy last fall I have really stayed away from counting, mostly just estimating, and have stayed virtually injury free except for some small flare-ups here and there.

So what the heck am I chasing numbers for now?

Confidence...I think.

Not getting confident, lack of. See standards are much higher than last year, and as much as I could care less about being considered anything more than the athlete/jogger I am today, in order to remain where I am, I need to get better...and not slowly, either.

Honestly, most of those around me are putting in 85-100 mile weeks, I'm lucky to hit 75. There are odd times when I think I hit 80 miles...but I don't know, I stopped counting.

Last week I was determined to hit 80 miles, working my way up to 90...but my daughter was sick and I simply said to heck with it...not important.

This week I am back on it. I can get 3X13-14 mile days in a row and be OK, I can get 90+ minutes on my recovery days, I can maximize singles... I can run at lunch...I can be a psycho.

And is it really all worth it?

I don't know. To be honest, every time I run faster, I spend a few hours totally excited about the fast time, then spend the next few days/weeks/months..coming up with reasons of why I am not good enough. And really, who is? Truthfully, 2:52 was fine for me. I am a mother first and foremost so....awesome. BUT when I realized that 2:52 was not the goals/standards that others had for me, everything changed.
I wasn't good enough for me anymore.

I hope that the number craze doesn't make me crazy. I can find time to fit an extra 10-15miles in here and there without sacrificing family time. However, is it worth it? Is it really worth it? 

I guess its time to find out.

Happy running, all.


steady pursuit said...

I like numbers but obsess over hours instead of miles. Like any metric Miles and hours can be deceptive out of intensity context.

Britt said...

I've been reading your blog for some time, but have yet to comment.

I think that the numbers play with all of us because it gives us a sense of false control and allows us to measure progress. While I'm not as fast as you, and my girl you are an amazing runner, I often fall into this trap too.

You are good enough, and who cares about everyone else?! Don't let the pressures of others influence your self worth, because girl you are amazing and I have so much adoration for your strength.

Anonymous said...

I really love your honesty. I think what you express gets at a fundamental contradiction within the realm of competitive running: as much as we all aspire to the fastest of fast times, aren't the majority of us putting so much energy and heart into other things that those ' fastest times' should be viewed as accomplishments and motivation- but not reasons to tear ourselves down?

I am sure you know this, but so so many people ate in awe of your ability, heart and determination. You run fast and you will continue to improve. But in the meantime, you are actually on the right track: a full life, marked by life, work,fun, and our personal goals-- in this case running-- PRs in the full circle of all that is the ultimate achievement. In that estimation so far, you are an Olympian!

Good luck!! Keep at it! It is all worth it!!

Laura said...

Great post! I think a lot of runners are type-A, control freaks, and numbers is the one thing we can obsess over. :) I'm with you, too! And you're right, the family-running tension is a tricky one... sounds like you're finding a good balance so far!

Ana-Maria RunTriLive said...

I love this post.
I think most endurance athletes are either type A, or a bit neurotic/obsessional, or both. I fit right there. For me, the numbers do not have anything to do with weather I am good enough. I am just curious of how much I can push my body and how far I can go. Whether I run a 3:40 or sub 3 marathon does not really matter much in the big scheme of things, as running is here not my day job or my family, and it will never pay my bills or love me back. Running is something I do for myself only, and it really helps me stay balanced.

From reading this blog, I get the impression that you know who you are and what your priorities are. I can see how an encouragement like "you can run even faster" can translate into "I guess I am not fast enough".
I think running needs to be fun. WHen it stops being fun, I will stop running!

ayedubbscclark said...

LOVE this post!
I've never been a numbers person, but the year I ran all my PRs, it wasn't miles I was obsessed with, it was pace per mile. My coach gives me all my workouts by time, and I very rarely had to go over 60 minutes... so if I wanted more miles, I needed to crank out the 60 minutes much harder. I'm back at it again! I'm hoping I don't pay the price later, but I'm not running THAT much (barely 40 a week, if that) so I get plenty of time to recover. I think that works better for me.

I'm not a calorie counter either, never have been... But I certainly have been watching what I eat. Not so much for weight, but for general purposes. I can't two jobs and run to my potential (or at least close) if I'm feeling groggy, heavy, and tired all the time.

Are you planning to do Boston?

lindsay said...

i'm pretty numbers driven/obsessed too. calories, then miles... and i've spent too much time comparing myself to others!! this is not good, i know. at least you are aware of it and therefore can try to make small changes here and there to improve on the mindset.

Haley said...

I love this post Meggan..
I totally feel ya with the stress on exact numbers, miles, etc..
But you are so right that life is more important than those extra 10 miles. You are kicking ass and taking names, anyway :)
I'm proud of you & I look up to you.
<3 Haley