Journey vs. Destination

Goals and resolutions keep circling through my mind with this transition phase of my life and the new year. I consider myself a goal-oriented person but what does that truly mean? Am I happy only when I achieve my goals? Can I find peace when I fall short? Or is there a joy when I’m in the process of working towards a goal?

When I coached swimming, I tried to teach fundamental concepts about goal setting based off what I was taught as a competitive swimmer and what I learned through experience. It’s been a few years since I reexamined what goals meant to me. At one point, goals were my obsession. I broke down every split 25 yard of a 400 yard race and could recite the different paces I held every workout throughout a season. As mentioned before, triathlons gave a new chance to have a healthy outlook on goals but over the past few years I developed an aversion to setting goals I truly cared about. It can crush your spirit to give “blood, sweat, and tears” towards something and fall short.

I can vividly remember one season  training my heart out for a Junior National Qualifying time in the 400 IM (100 yards butterfly, 100 yards backstroke, 100 yards breaststroke, 100 yards freestyle). I needed to drop 4 seconds in order to make the qualifying time, which was a stretch but a reasonable goal given the right training. As luck would have it, I became really sick as the last qualifying swim meet approached. Obviously, there was no way I would drop out of the competition. Regardless of a sore throat and general malaise, I dropped 2 seconds. Under normal circumstances, 2 seconds is a big drop in the pool but it was still 2 seconds short of my goal. To add insult to injury, one of my teammates swam the same event and qualified for Junior Nationals only minutes later. I should have been happy for her but I was only jealous and my heart was crushed…I hadn’t swam fast enough. All that work and I didn’t qualify. That night my fever ran to 104 F but that was no excuse in my 16 year old mind for not achieving something I’d worked months for in the pool and visualized millions of times. What was all that work and dedication for anyways?!

When I considered signing up for the ING Miami marathon a few months ago, a Boston Qualifying time, a 3:35 for my age group, was on the forefront of my mind. Unlike age group swimming, running and triathlons don’t have as many time based goals so Boston has its appeal because not just anybody can qualify. This is a significant drop from the 4:05 marathon I ran in 2009 but I knew following an actual training plan there was a chance.

Well, life happens sometimes and following a training plan has never been my strong point. I’ve hit more long runs than I did back in 2009 but the race is only 3 weeks away and 26.2 miles isn’t something you just wing (unless you are crazy and I know quite a few crazy people). So am I disappointed that my goal of qualifying probably won’t happen at the end of this month? Yes. Am I crushed in the same way I was at 16? Not at all. The race hasn’t happened yet but I have adjusted my goal towards a more realistic 3:50 (still a 15 minute drop) and will set my sights on another marathon in the near future.

This time around I learned a lot about myself as a runner and really have to take into consideration what has been happening in my life over the past few months. At 16 years old, running a 104 F fever was not a good enough excuse for falling short of a goal. At 25 years old, moving, graduating, job searching, studying for boards, and a few other life changes are good enough reasons for me to adjust goals. Sometimes life happens and you have to stay on course without excuses when working towards certain destinations. Sometimes, you have to realize that some goals aren’t the end-all and be-all of life.

I train and race because it enhances my quality of life and to learn about myself and pushing my limits each season. My self worth, however, doesn’t depend on achieving goals I’ve imposed on myself anymore the way it did when I was 16. My joy is truly in the process of trying to achieve those goals.

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8 Responses to Journey vs. Destination

  1. Mike Wallingford says:

    Hey Court. Let me say again congratulations on your graduation and I know boards are just a formality and you will do just fine. You continue to be an inspiration to me through my own struggles having had something in the palm of my hand only to have it slip away in one instance. I watched Kim complete her first 5K today knowing I would miss out on my first competitive half tomorrow due to an injury. That was and is still tough to go through. But my longings have been renewed and it’s only a matter of time and yes, training. I know the road will be long but I have always been prepared to go the distance so why should this be any different. Keep the faith and the desires of your heart will be granted. Uncle Mike

    • TriCourt says:

      That must have been really tough to be so close but I have faith you’ll be back in no time. So proud of Aunt Kim! Slowly everybody in the family will be running 😉

  2. I think it’s really smart to revise this goal for now – and there will always be more marathons and more chances to qualify for Boston. I’m sure it’s still disappointing, but good for you for going ahead and planning on having a great, well-executed race regardless.

  3. TriCourt says:

    Thanks Victoria. I just finished a really great 19 miler with some pretty challenging hills and stayed strong til the end so who knows what’s in store for me in 3 weeks. I may not be Boston ready but I’m really proud of the progress I’ve made this time around. Legs are much stronger. There will definitely be a PR without a sufferfest.

  4. I can completely relate. I was in the same situation trying to qualify for senior nationals during freshman year and one of my teammates who never swam the 200 fly qualified easily and I barely missed the time. I was completely devastated. But I worked even harder over the summer and nailed my time!

  5. Beth says:

    I have found that setting an all-or-nothing goal is too stressful. Making time and process goals (like negative splitting, or finishing strong) makes the training and event so much more enjoyable. Good luck!

    • TriCourt says:

      Definitely agree about the all-or-nothing goals. I like setting a “dream goal” and a “realistic goal” and I’m honestly happy with both. The dream goal is the far-fetched if everything goes right goal and the realistic goal is where I’ve pushed myself but stars didn’t have to align. I love triathlons because you always have ways to improve that have NOTHING to do with your final time and it’s so difficult to actually compare times because conditions are always different even from year to year on the same course.

  6. What a great post and true words of realistic inspiration. It’s so easy to get caught up in what we suddenly want that we lose sight of the journey and what is really important. I’m definitely learning to let some things go and balance pushing myself with accepting my limits given the way life plays out. I still forget to enjoy journey of training and reaching goals along the way!

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