Health & Fitness.

The Power Of A Goal Race

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Photo taken by Gregg Gelmis. I don’t know if you can tell but I’m crying. It was super-cold on race day last year and I was so proud when he crossed the finish line I couldn’t control the tears.

In the beginning I was not very supportive of Donnie’s Triathlon efforts…I’ll admit it. I went to the events I could go to, but the kids were younger and more difficult to wrangle, and I was carrying my own demons about fitness and health and watching him kick ass just made me feel shittier about myself. I also didn’t quite get it.

If you’ve ever wondered if you could train for a race, then go to a race people train for (like a half marathon, or a triathlon…something that few people just decide to do on whim) and get a nice chair and sit at the finish line and watch everyone who crosses. You will see people 40lbs heavier and 30 years older crossing that line faster than you could. You’ll see first-timers with gray hairs and veteran racers barely out of puberty. You’ll see Moms of 7 and single Dads. You’ll see grandparents and teenagers. Tiny waifs and linebackers. You’ll see women with magazine-cover bodies and women with bodies like yours. You’ll see men who shave ever inch of their body and men with big bushy beards. You’ll see ministers and tattoo artists. You’ll see teachers and soldiers. Whatever excuse it is that you think you have for not getting out there? You’ll see a dozen people with that same excuse making it happen. Hell, this year we had a local guy with ONE LEG out there this year and he cheered me on (he was quite a bit ahead of me) during my run and that’s when you say to yourself, “Yeah…I think I’ll stop whining about what’s keeping me from doing my best and just DO IT ALREADY.”

And then…you start to get it.

Somewhere along the way, going to his races and training for my own, I started to get it. I started to understand that finishing those races? Is about so much more than the miles you covered from the moment the starting gun went off. It’s about the miles you covered from the day you said, “I’m going to do it.” It’s about the days you did NOT want to train, but did anyway. It’s about the days that you skipped, felt shitty about, considered quitting, and then kept going anyway. It’s about the guilt over the missed soccer games. It’s about the stress over injuries and pain.

Crossing a finish line is about so much more than the race itself, it’s about battling the demons that try to tried to keep you from starting in the first place.

There’s something very powerful about the finish line at a goal race. People are out there after months of hard work to reach a goal they’ve been dreaming about every night for weeks. Everyone has issues they’ve had to overcome to get there. More than just logging the miles on their legs, in the water, or on their bike. They’ve had to plan training around work or family. They’ve maybe had to lose weight, or change their eating habits. They’ve had to test out gear and waste money when it fails. They’ve had to make friends people whose paths they would never cross otherwise. They’ve had to read about transitions or shin splints. There are hours of preparation going into those races that don’t have anything to do with the exercise itself.

But then it’s also the training. The early long runs or rides. The hours in the pool. The miles on the road in the dark. The days you’re just not feeling it. The days you’re feeling like you could conquer the world. The discussion of plans and deciding which one is right for you. The constant worry you chose the wrong one. The miles run at the pace you wanted, and the miles run at a slower pace that depressed you. Training for any race is about the miles logged, but those miles carry so much more weight than just distance. They carry pain and stress and guilt…all to reach that finish line on race day.

So now? I get it. I’ve sat at enough finish lines and trained for enough races to know that the finish line at a goal race is a magical place. It’s where dreams are achieved. And if someone you love has a goal race? Try to be at their finish line. It’s a beautiful moment to witness, even for complete strangers, but especially for people you love.

Sunday is Donnie’s goal race for this year. It’s a half Ironman distance race here in North Alabama. He did this one last year and the weather was AWFUL and I cried when he crossed the finish line. The swim is 1.2 miles in open water. The bike is 56.1 miles. The run is a half-marathon (13.1 miles). All total? 70.3 miles of travel.

Donnie has been ready for awhile now. He’s kept his level of training up this year so that he could focus on improving last year’s time. He’s lost almost 20lbs and dropped to between 6% and 7% body fat. He logs every calorie he eats and every calorie he burns so he can keep his body in perfect condition. He’s out of the house by 5am two mornings a week for 40-mile bike rides over some hella hills in some cases. He’s done 2 19+ mile runs in the last month or so. He swims 2-3 times a week for over an hour. He does yoga and P90x. He puts in a good 10-20 hours training every week, depending on what’s on his schedule. He’s a machine. He’s my hero.

And Sunday is the culmination of all of that hard work since about March. His goal race. And of COURSE I will be there. As a matter of fact, we are going to be there all day. I plan on parking my ass in the prime spectating spot to cheer on all of my friends competing alongside my husband because they’ve ALL worked hard for this race. I’ve got running buddies and tri buddies out there that day too. I plan on screaming bloody murder every time I see them pass. I plan on hugging them all and telling them I’m proud of them. Because completing a 70.3 race is something so unfathomable to me, that they are all my idols for just crossing the finish line. The ones that do it with a smile on their face? Or with crazy-fast speeds? Or with injuries and stress and illness? They are all my idols and I feed off their accomplishments. Maybe, someday, I’ll do something that crazy. But not for awhile.

I need to soak in a few more 70.3 finish lines first.

8 thoughts on “The Power Of A Goal Race”

  1. Wow! Good for Donnie and good for you! In my 30’s I trained for a cycling event and I can relate to the hours of training and the need for a supportive spouse. I rode the MS 150, riding 150 miles over two days in VERY hilly country in Missouri. My goal was to finish the ride and never once get off my bike and walk or (God forbid!) ride the SAG wagon, while raising money for MS. I met my goal and pedaled every single mile of that grueling ride and felt such a sense of accomplishment. My best friend, who had started the ride with me but hurt her knee and had to take the SAG wagon, was there cheering for me at the finish line and as soon as we got home we celebrated with some very LARGE margaritas. My poor, quivering, jello legs surely needed the replenishing carbs in those drinks – WAY better than all of those bananas, Power Bars and water that I consumed for two solid days.

  2. What a great post! Your husband and friends are lucky to have you! I think we will see YOU at the starting line of a 70.3, or some other fabulously epic race, SOON!!! 🙂

  3. This is a really awesome post! I totally agree! I may be hormonal and overly emotional at the moment at 6 months pregnant, but even before, I always tear up due to the excitement and anticipation of races – not to mention race recaps! This post definitely made me teary too! Good luck to Donnie and have so much fun out there cheering on race day!!

  4. “Crossing a finish line is about so much more than the race itself, it’s about battling the demons that try to tried to keep you from starting in the first place.”

    Made me tear up. EXACTLY. I wish I could print this out and hand it out to all of my family and friends.

    Good luck to Donnie!!

  5. Your post made me tear up lady! Even though you fought it at first, you are so lucky to have Donnie in your court. He can be an inspiration, role model or someone to just Bitch about b/c he is So good.
    I agree with the race being so much more than a goal, it fills your life and gives you a purpose just for you, it makes you feel strong and your body feel like it has a purpose, others either get it or they don’t.(usually they don’t in my world). Glad you get it and are spreading the word! THANKS!
    Good luck to Donnie on Sunday!

  6. I volunteered to take off timing chips at the end of a sprint distance Tri that our school sponsored. Sitting at the end of that finish line and seeing everyone cross was truly amazing. And you’re right in describing the variety of people that push themselves to do such races. Awe-inspiring.

  7. Kim, I am a looooong-time reader (um, 5 years now, maybe? at least…) and first-time commenter. I just wanted to let you know that your blogs about your growth in working out has inspired me, so much that I did my first sprint tri last weekend. I signed up two weeks prior to the race, and I haven’t biked/swam in decades, and I have never run. So I did a little bit of practice swimming (prescription goggles have changed my life!) and I borrowed my friend’s bike and rode around a parking lot for 2 evenings. At the tri, I couldn’t get the hang of the bike’s gears, so I rode in a low gear all the way (SLOOOOOW) and I didn’t run – I walked. But I finished! Which was even more than my simple goal of not injuring myself.

    Anyhow, I just wanted to say thank you for these posts. They make a huge difference to me and I am so inspired by you. Much love! I wish you were near me so I could go cheer you on for your races. I would be SO LOUD.

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