The Ugly Truth About Accomplishments

Truth About Accomplishments

Yesterday I ran the Cooper River Bridge 10K in Charleston SC. 

10k (6.2 miles), while not anywhere near a marathon or ultra, is (in my opinion) a respectable distance to set as a goal. If you read last week’s Smack you’ll understand the significance of this accomplishment for me given my skydiving accident back in August.

I am not a prolific racer. As a matter of fact, I typically don’t enjoy them all that much. I exercise for my health. Determined to keep mobile my entire life, fitness is always on the top of my priority list. Right up there with water and sleep. 

Race Day Rigamarole:

Why did I still need to perform this feat in a public forum to really claim the fame?”

The rigamarole that comes with “Race Day” doesn’t interest me much. I prefer the efficiency of pulling on my workout gear and walking out my front door and running on my own terms, to my own destinations. Easy peasy. No fuss, no muss. In many ways, my 10k moment actually happened for me a week ago when I successfully completed the distance on my own, in my own neighborhood, without a starting gun or 10,000 other runners.

How come that didn’t count? Why did I still need to perform this feat in a public forum to really claim the fame? 

I often say that this midlife and beyond season is the best one yet. And while some activities are more difficult and/or require workarounds due to aging fill-in-the-blank, my ability to not take myself so seriously and willingness to be transparent about my follies is liberating beyond description.

Yesterday’s accomplishment was comprised of many components – glamor not being one of them. Last night as I lay quietly on the couch, I reflected on the machinations of the day and the reality that actually running the race course was in fact the easy part for me.

What was so hard?

First the goal has to be attainable. Plain and simple.”

Well for starters they wouldn’t let me begin the race right out my front door. Travel to Charleston, race package pick-ups, race morning preparations, navigation to start line, management of early morning cooler weather, hydration versus urination…. The list is long.

The reality is that accomplishments, that moment at the end of the finish line, are not sexy to achieve. The photo finish, the victorious thumbs-up as you pass the official race photographer, and the post-race Instagram post do not tell the tale. 

First the goal has to be attainable. Plain and simple. There is no way I would agree to audition for the New York Ballet company or to train for the Olympic ski team. I am fully aware those potential accomplishments are not on my path. At least not in this lifetime. 

Second, while attainable, it has to be out of current reach. Not regular reach… just current reach. If it isn’t then what’s the point? As a matter of fact, if there is no reach there is no growth. We already know this. For me, running any amount of mileage was far enough outside my comfort zone to give me pause in accepting the challenge. That pause is an indicator that we believe it is possible to achieve even if it’s going to be difficult. Difficult enough to instigate  many moments of self-doubt along the path to realize. 

The Unglamorous Life:

Winners look like they were born, not made, in those seconds of glory.”

Once we have that goal figured out then we can set a plan in place to get there. Here’s where things get super un-sexy and potentially tedious. Oh, who is kidding who? Tedium is an integral part of accomplishments. We cannot get good at anything without practice. Is there a less-provocative word than practice? Any of you reading this whose parents forced them to sit on a piano bench for hours a week will get what I am saying. When we are not proficient at an activity it can be a painful process towards that goal.

So, let’s say we’ve managed to knock out the top three ways to set ourselves up for success. We have our goal, it’s reasonable to attain, and we’ve set and executed the plan to make our way towards it. 

How lovely would it be if that was all there was. We know better. We do. But sometimes we forget when we get caught up in the pomp and ceremony of the actual moment of victory. It looks glamorous. Winners look like they were born, not made, in those seconds of glory. 

Reader Beware:

And I want you to know that if I can rise above the $h!t, so can you!.” 

Here’s where things get uncomfortable. If you have a prudish sensibility, you may want to abort now. I am here to tell you that even if you get all the things right – the goal, the plan, the practice.. $h!t happens. Both metaphorically and, in this case, literally.

Barely after sunrise, I found myself in a porta potty with a nervous tummy. Mind you I was NOT nervous – just my tummy. I make that distinction because I do find it fascinating when my body experiences something so different than what I perceive is going on in my head. Suffice it to say the bathroom experience did not go according to plan. 

The moment is crystalized in my mind’s eye. As the unfortunate event unfolded in front of me (or, rather, under me) (OR — or, rather, out of me), my immediate reaction was “I’ll call an Uber, I want to go home. NOW.” Who would blame me? Right? After entertaining the notion of running away, I came to my senses. Was I going to let a little poopy pants stop me? After all, it never seemed to slow down my toddler.

I triaged the situation as best I could given the supplies available. Sanitized the heck out of my hands and got myself to the start line. Which by the way, to my memory had no start gun either.

So why am I sharing such an embarrassing moment?

Why am I sharing the truth about accomplishments? Ultimately, the picture accompanying this tale of woe shows the glow of success, the smile of victory, and the power of the runner’s high. I could just leave you with that. But that’s a misrepresentation of what it really takes to make things happen. And I want you to know that if I can rise above the $h!t, so can you!

Sorry if now the next time you watch a runner cross a finish line you immediately wonder if the real reason they have their windbreaker tied around their waist has anything to do with them being warm.

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2 thoughts on “The Ugly Truth About Accomplishments

  1. Susan Crews says:

    Jack, This is a great article and the truth that many people do not think about….goals take action, a plan, preparation and everything does not always go as planned. Great job on completing your race!

    • Kuel Life Membership
      Kuel Life says:

      Thanks for the props, Susan…. Did I read correctly? Did you just recently to a Half??? And, YES things RARELY go according to plan, isn’t that the truth?

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