An Achievable Goal or a Mid-life Crisis?

Opinion, Track and Field — By on October 20, 2011 8:13 am

Yesterday I had the honor of writing the first ever guest post at Fitbomb, one of the sites that I visit nearly every day for fitness inspiration.  Henry (aka Fitbomb) does a masterful job of weaving great information into imagery of his own experiences.

This personal touch is something I have neglected here at My Athletic Life.  While I don’t intend to draw a lot of attention to myself, I hope to find a better balance between sharing “just the facts” and providing an appropriate context.

Below is my story which I shared yesterday at Fitbomb, something I should have posted here when I launched the site – Tim

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 “If you can fill the unforgiving minute, with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, yours is the earth and everything that’s in it.”- Rudyard Kipling

For the first 43 years of my life, I was a fairly sedentary person, with the possible exception of my time in college.  And I’m sure that I never had a goal related to fitness or athleticism until this past year.  As a kid, I grew up playing baseball, but I can’t say that it contributed much to my confidence as an athlete. It’s probably a poor reflection on me, but I have focused on things that I have an aptitude for and ignored activities that are challenging.

At the start of 2011, I did some soul searching and self-reflection.  My wife and I have twin 8 year old boys, and I definitely wanted to keep up with them for a long time.  And combined with my Dad’s “mild heart attack” the previous year, I needed to modify how I was living my life.  My diet was pretty good (Weston A. Price and Paleo) but it quickly became apparent that in spite of my self-doubts, I would need to invest in my own physical fitness.

Right or wrong, my approach was to come up with a very specific fitness goal, one that would require a substantial investment of effort over an extended period of time.

Beginning in early 2011, I made a list of 6-8 ideas – things like 100 pushups, 20 pull-ups, bench press my bodyweight 10 times, etc.  After seeking advice, I began to whittle down my list to a single goal so that I could focus my training.  Surprisingly, the one goal that I couldn’t seem to let go of, the one that seemed to light a spark was:

Run a 400 meter dash in under sixty seconds before I turn 46 (January 2013)

I say “surprisingly” because at that moment, the following were all true:

  • I hated to run long distances, but I was willing to sprint.
  • My best time for the 400m was 1 minute 45 seconds – and after running it, I fell over in a heap.
  • I didn’t personally know a single person my age that could run 400m in less than 60 seconds.

Go ahead, pass judgment.  I certainly did.

The Plan

Since I was woefully out of shape, steps one, two, and three would be to spend about six months on general physical conditioning.  Thankfully CrossFit Local was running a Groupon deal for a one month “boot camp” beginning April 1st.   In spite of my struggles in boot camp and with the foundations classes that followed, I focused on a single objective:  Go to each class and do the work – I trusted that I would get better.

Get better I did, but not in any spectacular fashion.  I did start to feel a shift, both physically and mentally.  I hoped that by improving my strength and stamina, I would improve my sprinting speed as well.

In mid-June I decided it was time to see how well the plan was working.  I went to a local school track and ran the one lap (400m) in 1 minute and 15 seconds.  While that still left 15 HUGE seconds to eliminate, I had made a 30 second improvement in roughly 3 months with CrossFit alone.

And oddly enough, it was my lack of success at CrossFit that gave me an additional boost of confidence.  My twisted rationalization was that there was a tremendous opportunity for strength gains given how weak I was (I almost never do a WOD as RX’d).

The more recent confidence boost came in early August when I competed in a 200 meter race as part of a local track club’s weekly meet.  My time, an acceptable 30.5 seconds, meant that I could probably run the 400m in approximately 1 minute 8 seconds.  My belief is that if I can run a 200m in 27 seconds or better, I should have a great chance at my 59.99 second 400m.

Now that I am within striking distance of my goal, my plan is to shift from general training to much more specific sprint work.  This means that I will not be doing as much CrossFit work, but that is the reality of trying to make my goal.

Thanks for reading my story.  I realize that every time I tell someone my goal, I make myself more accountable.  Maybe it’s my therapy or maybe it’s how I keep myself motivated, but talking and writing about my plan seems helpful and perhaps necessary.

Photo credit:  TerranceDC

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Tim Huntley , the former CEO of Ganymede Software, spends his time advising high tech start-ups, serving on the board for the Track and Field Athletes Association, and writing on his blog, An Entrepreneurial Life. Circle me on Google+.

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  • http://www.thecleanyear.blogspot.com Tiffany@TheCleanYear

    Life is absolutely FULL of opportunities for growth in all areas, regardless of age (or maybe I’m more open and in tune with them AS I age?). I feel like I am in much better health and fitness in my 30s than I ever was in my 20s or teenage-hood. Thanks for sharing this story, very inspiring!!

  • http://www.myathleticlife.com Tim Huntley

    Thanks Tiffany! I feel the same way – re: Better health and fitness.

  • William

    I know this post is 6 months old but I was wondering how your 400m quest was going?

    Will you be running at SE Masters in Raleigh on May 12? It’s a wonderful meet. Hope to see you there.

    I will be 52 yrs old in July and I’ve been training pretty hard. Winning the Indoor Nationals gave me all the more enthusiasm. . Last week, I ran a 55.14 and 24.94 PRs in the 400m and 200m But last week, I ran slower (55.77, 25.13). That was my 10th track meet of the season (including indoor) and today I reluctantly decided to take my second consecutive day off from training – something I haven’t done since Feb. Maybe, I’m obsessive, but I’m at the stage where I feel if I don’t continue to run faster times, it is a sign that age is dragging me down. Breaking my string of consecutively faster meets is worrisome. I am faster than last season and I really want to break 55 sec in the 400. It is the type of race that even if you train well for, you won’t run a peak time if your mind isn’t right and you don’t ‘attack’ that last 200m and deal with the pain. It’s a fine line. I need to be around .75 above my 200m pr at the 200m mark, or my time will suffer.

    • http://myathleticlife.com Tim Huntley

      Hey William,

      Thanks for stopping in. First, I most definitely want to and plan to come watch you run in Raleigh next month. I will put it on my calendar.

      As for my 400m quest, I think I am still making steady progress. I have been working for a few months with the UNC sprints coach, trying to work on getting faster (speed work) in addition to plenty of 200m repeats with walking rests in between. I know I am not ready for a sub-60 second run yet (based on my 200m times), but I will get there.

      I hear you on wanting to run faster times, and I will bet that you will break 55 seconds this year. Personally it would seem like a 26.5 and a 28.0 would be easier to pull of than a 25.75 and holding on to a 28.75.

      …Tim

  • Davo

    Yes, it can be done I ran 59.2 at age 44yrs and now at 49yrs old I can run 61 seconds. Go for it!