Why Goals are Not about Finish Lines

What if there are no finish lines?

I love Crossfit.  I just completed a workout and feel exhausted and grateful that I didn’t throw up.  I used to be a runner.  I have run several races of all different kinds.  The most challenging being the Imogene pass run which challenges crazies to traverse a mountain peak from Ouray, Colorado to Telluride climbing to 13,114 feet in elevation and totaling 17.1 miles. My best time (out of 4 attempts) hovered around 4 excruciating, exhilarating hours.  The fourth time I participated in this feat, I remember laying on the grass at the finish, wondering where the nearest hospital was, and what they could do to save me from dying.  Needless to say, the fourth was my last.  I’ve also run the Ragnar series twice, several half marathons, a full marathon,  some triathlons, and most recently, a Spartan sprint.

Saying I used to be a runner makes me a little sad.  I guess I will always be a runner in my heart, but I think my days of competing in races are behind me, aside from the annual Silverton Fourth of July 10K.  Racing was the metric I used to measure my training, and it gave meaning to all that time and effort.  I loved feeling like a part of something bigger, a culture to ascribe to, although a bit isolating.  Even while participating in all those events, I didn’t feel enough. I never won. I never lost.  No one knew me, I ran alone. I was comfortable here, until I wasn’t.  Running was filling a need for me, but not the ones I really wanted to fill.  Crossfit fills those needs almost every time I step into the gym, and then some.

The workout today was deceiving in that it looked doable: 4 rounds for time: 27 Box Jumps, 20 burpees, and 11 squat cleans.  This is “Klepto” named for U.S. Air force Major David “Klepto” Brodeur, who was killed in Afghanistan on 4-27-2011, hence the number of rounds and reps in the workout.  After the first round, I knew I would once again need to find the power in my mental space to focus and finish.  “Just don’t stop,”  “Just do 5,”  or “If they can do that, I can do this,” are my mantras when I get into these tough workouts.  These dedicated workouts present a unique opportunity to participate in something bigger than self.  How else would I feel a small connection to a fallen soldier? I have a deep respect, as most do, for people who are called to serve in the military.  Once upon a time I thought I would serve but my heart couldn’t follow through.  It wasn’t right for me.

My Crossfit community is a model for what communities should be.  People remember my name, and I am truly trying to remember theirs.  I am there for myself, but also for them.  When someone is struggling through, we are cheering their name.  The coaches see me, they know my ability, they know when I am hiding from my goals.  They celebrate with me when I PR.  We all want to be better today than we were yesterday. Maybe best of all, it works.

As much as I loved it, running never helped me do pull-ups. Pull-ups are the impossible task I have held in high esteem forever.  Anyone who can do a pull up, let alone any number of consecutive pull ups are practically elite athletes in my book.  I started Crossfit almost three years ago, and a pull up, without assistance eludes me.  Still, I haven’t given up, and to my surprise and delight, this may just be the year for me.  The pull-up year.  I’m getting closer.  Turns out there is actually a progression for these things.  You set a goal, you make progress, don’t give up, and guess what?  You achieve it.  My goals used to involve finish lines, now they involve pull-up bars.  I don’t think I even believe in finish lines anymore.

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