Am I allowed to say it? Alternately, when will I stop saying it? These weeks have been busy: the events in question are now nearly a fortnight gone.
I rarely set goals for myself, whether qualifiable or quantifiable. I suppose I am not so wired? Or I don't find goals useful? I had a year or two when I set modest savings goals; I committed to running a marathon in 2006. What else? Not much.
Do you set goals? Do you write them down or at all publicize them? Are you far more logical and deliberate than I am?
When I think about the future, I do so emotionally. Does that even make sense? I construct a story—a dream?—about what the future will be, about who I will be. I do not say, by the end of 2012 I will have taken a trip to Alaska with a woman I hope to marry. Rather, an image of the future shifts and dances: I hope to be happy.
That Being Said
I set two goals for myself in 2011:
- Get a dog
- Run a mile in less than five minutes by my 30th birthday
Here were two hopes, one qualifiable and one quantifiable, that were nearly always a part of my story for the future. I decided 2011 was the year to set these concrete goals.
Chuquisaca Mona d'Avis
As you are well aware, I brought a darling and ridiculous little dog into my life in February: Chuqui. Goal, check!
Her initial hopes were uncomplicated: please don't let this heat grating turn off please don't let this heat grating turn off. Chuqui became more accustomed to this new world; she gained weight, confidence and character. She responded to training and grew to love our family (as far as I can anthropomorphize her reactions).
One hurdle persisted: Chuqui would not climb the stairs in our house from the first floor to the second. She would climb stairs in the park and everywhere else; she would go down the stairs in our house. But every time, no matter coaxing, commanding or treats, she would refuse that trip up wooden steps to our room, her bed and haven.
I carried Chuqui, every time. In July, I decided I was smarter (duh). When I would take Chuqui upstairs, I would carry her nearly all the way but place her down, paws ready to scamper, one stair shy of the top. The next day, I would place her another stair lower. And on and on. Eventually, I was placing her front paws on the first step and Chuqui would climb the rest.
Yes! So close!
As you are likely aware, I put together a group of friends to run monthly mile races with me. I clocked a 5:08 mile in June and a 5:07 mile in July. We ran a gut-busting stair workout in July; I hit the gym and I hit the track. I bought fast new shoes, so flexible and light and bright.
I felt like August could be the month. I felt like August 10th could be the day. I had run a blazing track workout the week previous, culminating with a set of four 400-meter laps at 76, 74, 71, and 67 seconds. I felt strong and fast.
I showed up to the track—Sarah accompanying to watch the clock—to find Andy Lin warming up laps with a bit of good fortune: high school runners. Andy had befriended a 17-year-old miler. I watched the kid run blistering 1200 meter intervals.
"So you're actually fast, right?" I asked him. "What do you run, 4:20?"
"4:25." His name was Brian, and he was willing to pace me. Let's do this!
The young man, all helpfulness and humility, let me lead the first lap: 76 seconds. He gave me the inner lane on the curve then slipped easily in front of me so I could draft on the straights. We ran another 76 second lap, then another. I pushed hard on that third lap, as it was always my slowest. 3:48, and the goal was in reach!
I don't remember exactly what Brian said to me at the start of the 4th lap but it was something like "Well, we need to run this one fast." I pushed hard through the first 200 meters and couldn't even focus to check my time with the last 200 to go. As we entered the final curve, Brian told me, "Just 10 hard steps!"
I was thinking I needed a bunch more than just 10 steps but figured this was indication to kick. I kicked. I felt more tired in this final 200 meters than I ever had before at this point in the mile. But I kicked. I powered out of the turn and into the straight and pushed with my arms and finished hard through the end.
Sarah was all smiles. 4:57! And then I lay down on the ground.
That same week, indeed the next night, I was out having tea when Chuqui wanted to go to bed. Sarah and Charlie led her to the stairs and she trotted right up without any aid. My little wigglebutt was growing up, and she hasn't looked back yet.
I have no idea.