Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Runner identity crisis

What do you do as a runner, or as a person in the universe, when you have achieved a huge goal?  Set a new goal, right?  But then what do you do as a person in the universe when you exceed something that you'd never even set as a goal for yourself because you didn't think it was within reach?  How do you determine what to do next when you apparently don't have clear visibility into what you are capable of?

I've been feeling really conflicted lately.

My time for the Chicago Marathon really impressed myself.  It was not something that I was training for and did not have in my head until a week or so before the race when I was looking at my training data.  It still blows me away to think about.  And what I think about as well is, "If I could hit that accomplishment of breaking 4 hours without specifically training for it, or for speed, what could I achieve if I did train for speed or to hit a certain time?  How far could I go?"

I have been having a hard time lately with the "What next?"

I don't necessarily even mean that literally, because I've got what's next covered for the most part and have spent all my money signing up for races so I don't fall into the post marathon slump I did last year.  I am signed up for three half marathons and a 10 mile run right now.  I have a goal of a new type of race in my future that I am working towards with my first Half Ironman in May.  And I'm excited about working towards these things.  However, only one of those half marathons is a "goal" race, where I will try and beat my previous PR from this year of 1:57 and since the Half Ironman is a new distance, the goal is really just to finish.  However, I question myself with both of these, should I push for more?  And when I think about marathons, I just don't even know what to think.

I keep just wondering, how much further could I go if I REALLY committed? What next?

I can't say it enough, but my time really amazed myself.  I am proving out to be a better runner than I ever thought I could be or that I had in me.  I remember the day when I was saying, "Ha! I will never run a marathon!" to then when I ran my first and thought, "I don't know if I could ever run a race this perfect ever again," which, was literally what I thought after the Paris Marathon.  And now, a year and a half later when I ran a pace a minute and a half faster than I ran Paris, I am telling myself the same things. "I don't know if I can ever run that fast again!"

I'm not stupid.  I do see these patterns.  I do see myself underestimating what I am capable of, over and over.

But still, what do I do next? I heard that when you start running, you have maybe 7 years of improvements just from getting better as a runner and settling into your own.  Which means as I have been running for 5 years, I have maybe 2 years left in that span where it will be "easy" to see improvements before I go stagnant (I have no idea if this is a valid statistic or not, by the way... but I have it stuck in my head.)

So what do I do?

Do I give up my "fun" runs for more intense workouts to see how I can improve?  Do I join more serious runners and find new pace buddies? Do I make qualifying for Boston a goal?  Am I ever even capable of doing that? Am I insane for even typing those words?  What would it take to get there?  What type of investments?  Would it be worth it?  Am I delusional into thinking that I am capable of that at all?

And meanwhile, after I drafted most of this post last night and finish it up today, in between I had a pretty shitty run.  I did a run this morning that ended up being 3.7 miles and felt completely out of whack.  I was out of breathe, I was barely maintaining a 10-minute mile, and my heart rate was way off for what should have been a very comfortable pace for me.  Leave it to running to humble you when you are starting to feel like you've got your shit together.  So, maybe Chicago was the fluke?  And me setting bigger goals is crazy?

In essence though, I feel like what I've been doing has gotten me to a great place.  The casual approach to training plans for my fitness and using Weight Watchers to keep my weight in check and lose pounds when I need to has served me well over the years.  However, I'm at a point where I think I need something else to get me to the next level.  In addition to being a better athlete, vanity wise, I want a flatter stomach and more toned body.  This these next few sentences may seem vain or crazy to some, and trust me, I am very happy with how I look, especially compared to where I've been.  Most days I feel like I look pretty decent but then, I turn to the side in the mirror and feel like it looks as if I am 6 months pregnant.  And I know you are all thinking I am crazy, but I hide it well in pictures and clothing that I post here.  I really dislike my midsection and don't feel that it is out of reach to be able to do something about it.  I am still young and fit and willing to work at it.  I want to do something about it but am unsure if Weight Watchers and running is what will help me make those changes.

So I've been doing a lot of research and a lot of debating.  About a lot of things.  Do I join a triathlon club?  Do I hire a coach to help me get ready for the races I have coming up?  Should I get a trainer at the gym to help get toned?  Do I get a nutritionist or a dietician to become more educated on what the foods I eat are doing to my body?  Do I try an online meal/training plan such as Tone It Up?  Should I try Whole 30 or eating Macros (whatever that means?)  Would going paleo or vegan help?  I've been looking into pretty much all of these options with the idea in my mind to kick things up a notch to get me beyond the point that I've ever been.  To see changes, you have to change things.

All these things cost money though and I hate, hate, hate the idea of spending more money.  The thought that keeps crossing my mind is that if you want different results, you need to do things differently.  I'm looking into finding something that I think might work for me or that I think could benefit me.  But right now I'm having a bit of an identity crisis.  Am I a casual/fun runner and fitness person, or am I ready to take it to the next level of serious-ness?  Sounds silly, but it's been on my mind a lot.

And one of these days I want to make a change to my blog and make it more "official" that the focus over here is less about food and weight, but all around overall health and fitness and running and triathlons and training.  Stay tuned, my bloggy friends.  My mind is buzzing!


  1. First off, You are my role model! Secondly...You're posing a tough question here -- what are you capable of next? -- and I think I'm one of many fans/readers who would agree that you would succeed wildly at ANY of these potential plans. I would thus add another question into the mix to slightly narrow down the endless choices. "What makes you happiest?" I'm sure all the achievements are a high, but what parts of your life matter more than others? (And "finances" is a reasonable variable to respect !) Also I want to point out that our 20s will be coming to a close in 2016 so that might call for a blog overhaul and revisioning into the hungry 30s! :) New decade new focus? :) It's sugh a motivation and inspiration to follow your journey, Bee. Love you so much. Xoxox ko

    1. Blog overhaul will be happening!! Still need to come up with a plan, but definitely will be officially shifting focuses. I've been through a lot when I launched this blog in 2009!!

  2. let's schedule a facetime to discuss the belly flattening thing - i have some thoughts on some of your proposed suggestions! (I mean, I'm not really an expert here, but my struggles are obv the same so let's share wisdom!). LOVE YOU - you are amazing.

    1. Hi Kimmy, I would love that. Miss you and thanks for always being there for me in real life and blog life :)

  3. I have a million thoughts about what you've shared here. I'll offer a few.
    (1) For your half Ironman, I'd strongly suggest just going out to finish the first time. Maybe set a time goal the second time. These are so different than oly tris and marathons, so the first time should be just about figuring out how your body adjusts.
    (2) Don't become a slave to the clock. Goals are great! (I've set many of my own.) But don't get so bogged down in getting a PR every time that you only sign up for fast courses, or feel disappointed if a race doesn't go your way. You'd miss out on a lot with that mentality. KEEP THE FUN!
    (3) I'd suggest trying a nutritionist for just a few sessions (like, one or two even). I met with one a couple of times several years ago, and she quickly helped me identify an issue I was having.
    (4) I'd also recommend getting just a couple of sessions with a trainer. Ideally one with experience running or with endurance sports. Having an outside perspective can be really helpful, and a trainer should be able to identify weak spots and give you some tips in just a few sessions. It doesn't necessarily need to be a costly long-term relationship

  4. Comment sections need like buttons so I can 'like' Kate's comment. I only started reading your blog this year (so not during the weight loss period) but your ability to challenge yourself and excel is inspiring. I agree with Kate - you can do whatever you put your mind to.

    That aside, I've actually been meaning to text you about something, and since you seem to be questioning WW and possibly getting a nutritionist, it seems like now's a good time to mention it. Do you read Meredith Atwood's blog (Swim Bike Mom)? I ask because in September she paired with a running/tri coach and nutritionist to launch a nutrition program aimed at runners and triathletes, called Swim Bike Fuel. I didn't sign up for the September class because I was hesitant about the price tag ($300, so not exactly cheap) and I really just was not sure about the whole thing. It turned into one of those things I'd wished I'd taken a chance on, and I finally decided it was a missing puzzle piece I needed for training.

    So I signed up for the group that started November 1st, and oh my gosh, it has been an eye opener. It's like I *knew* all of the pieces of this big ol' puzzle, but I didn't understand how they fit together. If you're interested you can hit me up and I'll give you the details that I can - like topics that are covered and how the format works. Just something to consider since it seems like you're interested in those puzzle pieces too ;). Thus far, I only have good things to say, and I highly recommend it! Here's a link to peruse:

    1. Cool!!! I do not know this blogger but she is based in Atlanta! I will check it out and text you- thanks!!