To say that I have lacked focus recently would be a perfectly fair assessment. Being post-triathlon and, more significantly, at the start of my full-time foray into a biochemistry master’s degree while continuing to work full-time have certainly made me reevaluate my priorities in terms of what I spend my time on. I no longer have significant amounts of downtime while analysis sets are running. Instead, I find any available computer node to submit more work to or pour through the endless deluge of developmental-genomics research papers for class the following day. By the time I get home, I’m pretty whipped . . . and just haven’t been into working out.  Translation: I’m doin’ homewerk son, and it’s rough.

But then I remembered something. I NEED to exercise now more than ever. It helps me stay focused, grounded, and on top of all the stresses in life. There is no way I’ll make it through a full semester of acid-base quaternary interactions without a solid workout regimen keeping me sane. I really can afford to take an hour out of the evening and get back into the swing of things. That’s only two fewer episodes of whatever garbage is on television (not that I have time for that, right?!).

tumblr_m0ngz4Unv51qhuj80o1_400That need for working out requires a focus though. If I’ve learned one thing over the past couple of years, it’s that I struggle when I don’t have a clear goal in mind. But what should my new goal be? Do I work on distance? Speed? Triathlon-ing? What can I realistically accomplish over the next few months while still maintaining my work and school schedules? What is my actual potential . . . my maximum ability?

I often get lost in numbers. I over-analyze my available data and try to figure out all possible scenarios. I then make spreadsheet after spreadsheet and try to plan out exactly what will happen at every step of the way. Seriously, for example, I literally play a game each month trying to predict our monthly budget down to the dollar, and I update my projection every single day until it is clear I got it modeled just right. I then show it to Ellie, who smiles and gently turns away clearly thinking I’m a nut case.

But taking a step back from my own craziness for a second, I have been feeling devoid of motivation recently. So naturally I typed in “running motivation” into a Google search, and found some articles on Runner’s World, Then I stumbled into an article by Lauren Fleshman, and I wanted to share a couple of quotes that hit home tonight:

We [runners] calculate our weekly mileage, time our runs in minutes, do repetitions of six, or eight, or 12 of things, and will just about kill ourselves to finish one place higher on the podium. Because of this natural love affair between running and numbers, we can be led to make one of the biggest mistakes of our running life: quantifying (and thereby limiting) our potential.

. . . we get overly attached to hard evidence. We use pace charts from our training guides, comparisons to our peers, and numbers from our Garmins to set goals. It’s as if we are making an Excel spreadsheet with all these columns full of quantifiable data and then crunching out a performance value. You can’t dream properly in a spreadsheet.

-Lauren Fleshman –  ’06 ’10 5000 meter USA Champion.

You can’t dream properly in a spreadsheet. Wait, wut?

There is an X factor that she talks about. It’s the drive and passion that transcends numbers and logical derivations of what is possible. I mean, hell, look at my Dad. If you told him a year ago that he would have done a nearly-Olympic-sized Triathlon—not to mention the Boilermaker—he would have laughed in your face. But he did it all. He’s got that X factor on lock, and he hasn’t looked back since.

Maybe Lauren Fleshman is right, though. I can’t model my dreams, but I realized that I don’t have to. I know what my dreams are. I have known since crossing the finish line of that very first Reindeer Run 5K. I want to do a marathon. Up until tonight, I always had a doubt that it wasn’t possible. But sitting here this evening, I realized hey, why not? The worst that’ll happen is that I don’t achieve it right away . . . but no matter what, I can guarantee it’ll be something entertaining to work toward. Maybe it’s time to work toward that lofty goal of 26.2 miles.