There is an important difference between Goals are things you can control. Outcomes are results-based measures and very often not in your control. If you work toward your goals, often you will achieve the outcomes, the results you desire. But sometimes, you won’t.
The 2010 ING Miami Marathon gave me a real-life example of that lesson.
What were my goals for the race? To work hard during my training and take care of myself leading up to the race. That meant taking care of my nutrition and eating well. It meant drinking enough water and staying hydrated. It meant getting enough sleep. It meant pushing hard in workouts that called for hard efforts and relaxing and enjoying the easy workouts.
Through it all, I had fun. Because even though I don’t say it outloud often enough, training and racing is fun for me. Frankly, I wouldn’t continue to do it if I didn’t enjoy it. So the fun factor for me really is a given.
At the race, I took care of the things in front of me, things which I could control. I controlled my attitude, most importantly, and though had some race-morning nerves, knew that it was part of the race experience. I was ready. I was so ready. My outcome-based goal was to finish better than last year (2:09) but ideally to finish as close-to 2-hours, hopefully under 2-hours) by running 9-minute miles.
But once out the door of the hotel taking the less-than-a-mile walk to the starting line, the reality of what kind of outcomes were possible on that Sunday started to sink in.
Or rather than sink in, hang in the air.
The humidity was high. Very high. After the race, weather reports had the humidity at 87 percent, but according to The Miami Herald, the humidity at the start of the race at 6:15 a.m. was 93 percent. My clothes were damp with sweat by the time I got into the starting corral.
Sue stayed with my for the first four miles of the race and we had a pretty good pace to start. Breathing was difficult. My hands were swollen. My clothes were dripping in sweat. Heck I had even contemplated taking off my shirt and running in my sports bra, but my modesty and body consciousness kept me fully clothed.
I took Gatorade diluted with water at every water stop and walked a bit to take in enough fluid. I took my gels as scheduled. I was struggling with the heat and humidity but felt like I was running strong. I was running hard. I may not make 2 hours but I thought maybe I was doing well enough to at least beat my time from last year.
In the ninth mile I started to experience the chills — a sign that my body was being deeply affected by the humidity.
In the 10th mile, my quads started to burn. In the last two miles when I wanted to pick it up, wanted to run a bit faster and a bit stronger, my legs decided that we would not be going any faster. My legs told me I was privileged they were moving at all and allowed me to continue running, even though they would rather walk in this moment.
Crossing the finish line, I was a bundle of emotion — unusual for me after a half marathon. But that’s what the humidity did — it took everything, every little thing, out of me. And I was frustrated. Deeply frustrated. I had run so hard. I ran strong. I felt like I ran better than last year. I felt more fit, I felt stronger. I reached all my goals.
Yet my outcome, my result, didn’t match my effort.
It took me a stormy day in Miami Beach to process and absorb that fact. And I’m still learning the lesson, the value, the beauty in working hard and reaching my goals but not getting the exact result I want.