Friday, October 14, 2011

An Underachiever Ponders Success

One of my favorite lines from my baby book, unearthed from one of the upstairs bookshelves on a recent expedition for something else entirely, is on the page headed "First Talents."
10/84 - You can read - I don't know how - but you can read.
I peaked early. In fact, depending on how high your standards are, one could argue it was all pretty much downhill from there. I combed the entire book from beginning to end looking for SOME sign of the underachieving and often underwhelming adult I would become, but, in the first few years anyways, there was no indication of such. She recorded that I was (tunefully) humming along to Bob Dylan songs at eight months old, and eleven days later, my first sadness was indicated at "the death of Anwar Sadat."

In fact, the only thing in the entire book that sounds like present-day me was my "talent for consuming amazing amounts of food," documented 11 days after my arrival and also under the heading "First Talents." (Thanks, Mom.)

Nor was her language reminiscent of the simpering "proud parent" who's so blinded by love she's convinced her overwhelmingly average baby is, in fact, a budding genius. Just the opposite, in fact. My fecal fingerpainting on the walls in Cancun did not have her rhapsodizing about her young Picasso - she was as irritated as any ordinary person would be and said as much. No mincing of words. I felt so dirty reading the recap, I almost felt compelled to wash my hands.

Fast forward thirty years. If I hadn't heard so many stories over the years about my gifted childhood, I wouldn't have believed the child she was writing about and the all-too-often unspectacular adult I've become are the same person. One of my deepest, darkest fears is that her last coherent impression of me was as a disappointment, and I know I haven't done a very good job in recent years of remedying that - for myself, if not for her. I'm trying...but I wish Mom would have had a chance to know me as a successful adult, not just the adrift one. I have a decent idea of where my gifts and talents lie, I just haven't exercised any of my potential yet.

One of the things I've had a surprising amount of success at, recently, has been my fundraising. Because I've never undertaken anything like this before, I had no idea of what I was capable of. The fundraising minimum for guaranteed entry to the New York City Marathon through the Alzheimer's Association is $3500. I didn't set that as my goal for two reasons - (1) I had the feeling I could do better than that, and (2) I figured I'd be more likely to receive larger donations if people saw I was going for a larger goal. So, having no experience with fundraising on such a grand scale, I picked a number out of the sky - $6000. It's not glamourous, but it's nice and round.

It didn't take long to get to $3500, and I breathed an initial sigh of relief. Before long, it became obvious I was going to hit the $6000 mark with ages to go until the race. I contemplated announcing I was setting myself a small secondary goal of $1000 in the month and a half left to go until race day...but, wondering if I was pushing my luck and not wanting to go into the race feeling like a failure in ANY way, I abstained. I kept it as a high water mark in my head, but did not go public with it...until now.

Of course, there are no stakes to declaring that as my "taper" goal now, because I already exceeded it. After my friend Patti's jacket purchase was processed yesterday and my fundraising account credited, my account is sitting at exactly $7010. And now I'm at a crossroads.

Tomorrow morning bright and early, I'm running in the Kansas City Half Marathon. Not only will it be good for me to get my feet wet in my first race since June, it will be a good test of the feasibility of my race goals for NYC. But after the race, I still have another 7 miles to go to get to the scheduled 20 mile run. I plan on finishing, grabbing my goodies and my medal, meeting up with Brian, and then away I'll go (he's going to pace me on his bike). And that will be my last 20 mile run for this training period. Fortunately I've had a lot of successful, confidence-building runs of 20 miles or more (3 20s including tomorrow, 2 22s, and a 23) so even if the last 7 aren't as easy as I'd like, I don't think I have too much to worry about. And then my three week taper begins.

The First Law of Thermodynamics states that energy can never be created or destroyed, it can only be transformed. Marathon taper periods are designed around this principle - by gradually dialing down the mileage and the intensity in the three weeks leading up to the race, the body can use its energy to repair minor damage incurred during training without losing too much in the way of general fitness. This permits the runner to line up at the starting line with the freshest possible legs. Unfortunately, this surplus of energy can also be expended in alternate ways - going crazy, for one. I'm good at that one, as indicated by my last post. Especially if running is pretty much the only way I keep from going crazy in the first place.

My friend Courtney, who recently ran her first marathon in Portland (and rocked a sub-4, I might add!) designed a taper strategy to keep herself from going nuts - she set herself a bunch of goals related to planning her upcoming wedding. In other words, it seemed to me she was setting out to kill two stressful birds with one stone, but in the meantime, be productive and get something positive out of the whole experience. Insofar as I could tell, her reviews on this strategy are mixed.

So as I approach my taper period over a thousand dollars over my initial fundraising goal, I'm considering setting myself another, smaller, fundraising goal to try my hardest to meet or exceed during my taper period. Fundraising has not been a stressful experience for me - in fact, it's been exactly the opposite - so maybe I'd be able to reap some mental benefits from all the good my loved ones and I are doing. Maybe with something positive to occupy my thoughts, I'll see fewer germs in the air, take less Vitamin C, and drive my friends and family a little bit less crazy with all the second-guessing of myself I'm prone to do when I'm nervous.

I don't want to set too optimistic a goal. Too much and I'll go into the race knowing I set myself a goal and failed at it. I don't want anything remotely RESEMBLING failure occupying any part of my brain on race day. I want it to be a 26.2 mile celebration of everything my friends and family have helped me to accomplish up to now. Basically, this is just a victory lap - the hard work is already done.

But too little, and I'll feel like I squandered the chance to squeeze as much good as possible out of this amazing opportunity I've been given.

Will post more on this later. Incredible amounts of food just showed up. I have a destiny to fulfill.

1 comment:

  1. I don't know how I'm just now reading this! But yea, I'm a bit mixed about the setting goals while tapering. At least too many goals? I found myself wanting to do NOTHING at all. I guess maybe I was preparing to be super bored and over anxious?

    However, uhm... WAY TO GO with the fund raising goal && blowing it out of the water! I know your mom would be SUPER SUPER proud of you!

    I think you are on the right track with wanting to raise more.. maybe upping the goal a TAD but not too much. You've already done SO much! Way to go! Excited for your 26.2!