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Evaluation time

For the better part of a year the list hung from the refrigerator door.

Some days, it blended into the background amid other flyers, announcements and photos that can create the collage of our life.

Other days, it jumped out at me, bold and colorful both inspiring and intimidating.

And now, the list comes down for evaluation.

My list of goals for the 2009 triathlon season.

All in all, it was a pretty darn good year.

The goals were divided into three sections -- the big list, the medium list and the small list with the idea that the goals were actually a ladder, the small and medium ones helping to achieve the big ones. I suspect that for next year, I'll frame the goals differently and give different definitions to "goals" and "outcomes." But more on that later.

Right now, it's time to look at what we've got.

Actually, the big list is pretty easy. There were just two items on there: the Buffalo Marathon and Muskoka 70.3. Check and check. The goal was to complete them to the best of my ability and to learn from them. Perhaps my biggest learning opportunity came in the marathon, where I abandoned my nutrition plan for no apparent reason. It also was a chance to realize how important mindset is. It's one thing to intellectually understand the mind-body connection. It's another to feel it work. Granted, the marathon gave the opportunity to see the mind-body connection from a positive and negative standpoint. 

It also taught me that outcome-based goals can cause more problems than they're worth. I entered the marathon with specific pace goals and a finish time in mind.

Well, when you throw away your nutrition plan you can throw away your pacing plan.

By the end, it didn't matter how fast or slow I went. The marathon is about something much bigger than yourself. And that finish time? It gives me a goal for the next time. It gives me a base of understanding about my body, my mentality and where I can go from here.

Muskoka 70.3 was also a in-it-to-finish event. Time goals? I was specifically told by my coach not to have time goals. As a first-timer on an exceptionally hilly and challenging course, it's difficult to predict times. After all, who knew how my body would react to running 13.1 miles after a hilly 58-miles on the bike and a 1.2-mile swim?

The theme for Muskoka was enjoyment and celebration. That was a big check mark.

A few days before the race, a couple at the beach offered a good reminder: "You're healthy enough to even consider doing this," a fellow triathlete said. "That's the important thing."

While getting my pre-race anxiety under control is a goal for next year, it's reminders like that -- about my health and my ability to tackle endurance challenges at all -- that keep me grounded.

The medium list of goals were more specific outcomes. First came improving in all disciplines, especially swimming. Failing to have the quantitative data to prove that came true, qualitative it feels deserving of a check mark. My swim is much less panicked. There was only one rest on a kayak this year --- in the first race of the year at Keuka where the cold water and lack of open water availability caused a bit of a panic. Overall, the swim felt better and the realization that I can indeed swim became strong. It became a given.

After learning how to swim 22 months ago where my time in the pool was spent bobbing up and down and floating on my back, this new mental state in the water indeed was an improvement.

My running and cycling? I felt like they were better for sure.

Also on the medium list was a sub-2:15 half marathon in Miami. Running the ING Miami Half Marathon with good friends was a great introduction to distance running. And I finished the race in 2:09 -- pleased even though I felt I could do something faster. Which is why this race is on my list again for 2010.

The only goal not achieved was a sub-25 minute 5K. I did run a PR in the Loughran's Alumni Race but still am off that 25-minute mark. This is not a worry. Training for the marathon and Muskoka involved distance, not speed work. The primary goal wasn't that 5K time and so we sacrificed that outcome in order to achieve something else.

Ah, but that sub-25 5K is coming. I just don't know when.

The small list goals were daily ways of being including reducing negative self talk, having good every day nutrition without getting compulsive about it and keeping things simple -- realizing that nothing hinges on one thing.

Some days these are the toughest goals. They are the ones completely in our control. They are the little things that make a huge a difference.

It's about controlling your attitude and your work ethic.

Will it earn me a podium spot at a triathlon or road race?

Perhaps.

But not necessarily right away. Nor is a podium spot necessarily the goal.

It's about becoming the best athlete I can be. It's about honoring where I came from, where I'm at and where I'm going.

it's about living the life I've imagined.

And letting that imagination take me places I've never dreamed.

Perhaps that's the true beauty of goal setting -- not in reaching the preset desired outcomes but in laying out a path that can take you to place you never knew existed.

--- Amy Moritz
Follow Journey to the Finish Line on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amymoritz

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