Thursday, November 25, 2010

Facing Challenges and setting goals for 2011

It’s interesting this time of year. So many of my friends are athletes. The great part is that while they are not ‘professional’ athletes, they are certainly more than ‘weekend warriors’. These friends of mine have set some pretty lofty goals for themselves. Because I know them, I have full confidence that they will meet those goals. Several of my friends are setting their sights on Ironman triathlons while others have goals associated with racing or charity events.

2010 was my first year of actually setting goals of this type for myself. I was pleased and a little surprised at how well I did. I definitely met my racing goals. It would be easy to argue about whether I met the goals for the Assault on Mt. Mitchell and Six Gaps. I feel good about my performance in both of those events despite the fact that my finish times were slightly longer than my specific goal for each event. Truthfully though, I hate that I have to put an asterisk next to those events.

So, what about 2011? There are a lot of things out there that I could challenge myself with. Removing the asterisks from the Assault on Mt. Mitchell and Six Gaps are certainly on my mind. I’ve been nominated to take over as Captain of the Greenville Spinners Racing Team so there will be some team goals along with my own racing goals. However, I have something else in mind that should actually help me in meeting those other goals.

I need to start with this: I HAVE NO DOUBT that I can complete any physical challenge I put to myself. Obviously, I’m not saying I could go out tomorrow and complete an Ironman - I would have to find a training program and apply myself to that program. In fact, I think the biggest challenge in completing an Ironman would be finding the time to do all of the training necessary.

Generally, when folks (me included) do something for the first time they have a 2 part goal. Part 1: Complete the event. Part 2: Meet some time goal they have selected based on their ability. This is pretty much how I set my first goals for the 2009 Assault on Mt. Mitchell. I had no doubt whatsoever that I could complete the ride. My only real question was whether it would take me 12 hours or 8 hours. I set my time goal at 8 hours and was pleased when I beat that goal.

I have a problem though. I’ll never really take training for an event like that totally seriously. I like spending time with my friends and enjoying a number of social activities. When it comes down to it, I’m pretty unlikely to do a 100 mile ride if all of my friends are only doing a 60 mile ride. Or, if I am scheduled to do a 20 mile run and none of my friends are running that day, I’d probably choose to join them on a bike ride. I want to hang with my friends during and after whatever activity we choose.

Part of the reason I would not take a training plan totally seriously is because I really have no doubt I can complete the event. Don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely NOT saying that {name the physical challenge here} would be easy - I know it wouldn’t be easy. Also, This is not pure arrogance on my part. What it is, is a statement about how well I know myself.

I’m sure it goes back to my Military days. There were days that really sucked. I can’t even put into words how bad some of those days sucked. Days where I was lucky to have 2 or three hours of sleep, one meal, carrying a 80 plus pound rucksack (along with assorted other gear weighing upwards of 20 plus pounds) up and down mountains, through swamps, at night, rain, snow, you name it. If there was a mission to accomplish, we were out there. In fact, we had a saying - if the weather was really bad (and worse was better), we would say ‘This is Ranger weather’.

Obviously when it came to the weather conditions, There wasn’t much we could do. When it came to the mission, the only things I could do was my job. Sometimes I had input on how, when and where we moved, but even then, I’d take bad weather over good weather any day. The enemy is a lot less likely to detect you when they are trying to stay warm or dry or awake. So, we put ourselves out in the worst conditions imaginable. Yeah, we could and did complain about it, but that was usually before or after the fact. During the time when it sucked so bad we usually had a strange smile on our faces. You learn to adjust your attitude about what you are physically experiencing when you know you are the baddest MFs in the jungle (or mountain or swamp or whatever).

Not surprisingly, that ability to cope (and sometimes thrive) when the conditions suck the most has stuck with me. That is why I have no doubt about completing an event (given an appropriate level of preparation). So, when I consider these types of events (half or full Ironman, marathon, others) the level of challenge I feel is a little diminished. So, what am I going to do?

I thought about it a lot. For all of the challenges I considered, only one gave me pause. In fact, in my mind, I question (still, even after several weeks) whether I’ll be able to attain the goal. I’ve fought this feeling of doubt about this goal for a long time. My whole life probably.

So, what’s the goal? The goal is to bring my body fat percentage down to a level of what is generally considered healthy. I haven’t picked a number yet, but according to what I can find, normal male body fat levels should range between 11 and 22 % (One site says 11-22%, another I've found says 14-18%). I’d rather find myself nearer the lower end of that scale than the higher end.

This is really not just about some level of vanity I have. Of course, I want to look more like the cyclist I really am, and certainly I want to be more of an animal when I climb. Most importantly, I want to make a positive change in my lifestyle that hopefully will provide me with a long and healthy life. This has to come through a healthy nutrition plan - something at which I am NOT good.

Where am I today? Well, I’m above the ranges listed above for body fat percentage. This Thanksgiving holiday hasn’t helped, nor has 2 weeks of business travel leading into this holiday. Worst perhaps is this crazy problem I've been having with my left calf when I run - keeping me from getting out and running as I would like to when traveling.

When I get home, I’ll post up ‘the tale of the tape’. Taking some general body measurements (weight, % body fat, some measurements - stomach, thighs, chest, etc.) and posting them up. As much as I am embarrassed by it, I’ll even post a photo. I'll also give details about how I'm making these measurements.

I need the help of my friends. This challenge intimidates me more than any physical challenge I’ve ever considered. I’m really nervous about whether I can do this. Help me stay motivated and on track with my eating - also, help keep me accountable for my food choices. A big thanks to Coach Jeni for putting up with me already.

There it is, it’s in writing so it now becomes even more real.


  1. You are in good hands with all of us, J.D. There are lots of ways to make yourself accountable for your food intake, but there is no better alarm than a friend who coaxes you to eat the better option on the menu, then makes the same choice in support of you AND because they want the same things out of life. :) You have my support for sure! -- Jess

  2. I hear you man. I'm doing the weight loss thing right now too, trying to get down to single digit body fat by march, when I start ironman training. it's all good dude.

  3. Thanks Jess and John. I'm going to need all the help I can get. I'm very weak when it comes to food. It's really going to be a lifestyle change for me.

  4. You know you have our total support! Training for an Ironman may be easier BUT you can do this.

  5. Robin,
    Thanks for your support! I hope I didn't give the impression that TRAINING for an ironman is going to be easy - I'm sure that is going to be the toughest part of what you are setting out to do.

    I hope in all of your training, your friends will still have the opportunity to see your smiling face!



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