Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Need to remember both the starting line and the finish

The new academic year is off and running, as is my fall training cycle. There are not a lot of noteworthy things to write about, no major mile stones, and it got me to thinking about the past year.
I remember what last September felt like. I didn't know exactly what my dissertation proposal was going to be. I didn't even feel as if I had a future in academia - I was just plagued with a lot of doubts. The running was going okay - I was re-acclimating back to the heat after Santa Cruz, and it took time to get my groove back. I was looking at the starting line of a long race, with no finish line in sight. There was just a glimmer of hope.
The attitude for the year was: keep my head down and just do my work. It wasn't always pretty and it wasn't always glamorous. It meant a lot of quiet hours, often alone, with some books, my laptop, and a barrage of thoughts. When people asked how it (meaning the dissertation) was going, my response was always fine and I put on my best poker face to hopefully hide the mounds of fear beneath the surface.
By January, there was measurable progress and I started to feel a sense of momentum. Things were picking up and I started to feel more confident reporting my progress to inquisitive friends (certainly without a lump in my throat!).
May was the finish line - my proposal passed for my dissertation - the department and university said yes, this is a feasible project and we support it. It was glorious. And the fact that I engaged 2 days later made it all the sweeter.
4 months have passed since that sweet victory. And I feel some of those feelings surfacing again. I'm now in dissertation land and it is me, the laptop, and a blinking cursor as I'm trying to essentially write a book. Some of the crippling fears are back. I have an end goal in mind: defending in Spring 2016 (a month shy of my 30th birthday). Will it happen? The committee says that it is a reasonable goal and now that I've decided on it, I needed to have that single-minded focus again. And I need to remember both the start and the finish. There were some very tough and trying parts last year, but the end result was so sweet. We all go through the valleys...it is the promise of the peak that keeps us going.
I've been having some pretty good runs - about A- I would say. A couple runs have been cut short, but more for time constraints. It is definitely better to go into races slightly undertrained than overtrained. I did a 5 mile tempo run on Saturday and averaged 6:45 pace. The weather was unseasonably cool - just 60 degrees at 7:30AM, and it felt like a race morning. There were over 50 Team in Training runners out there on the W&OD trail - amazing! I also did a track workout on the treadmill today: 11 miles with 5x1k (4:01, 3:57, 3:54, 3:52, 3:49), 4x400 (91, 90, 89, 88) - phew! It was so hot outside that I could not stand the thought of doing the workout outside. So, I did the warm up and cool down outside (sweating all the way), and then hopped on the treadmill. I have actually done that a couple of times now, and while I'm not a fan of the treadmill, there are a bunch of positives for doing speedwork on it. It regulates the time, so I know I'm not going to go out too fast and risk blowing up. It keeps the past honest and and even, and while it's as dull as watching paint dry, it definitely is a good thing.
There is a finish line, there is a medal awaiting. I'll just need to remind myself of that every step of the way.

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