Tag Archives: nanowrimo

Why I’m Not Giving up Goals

Last month at my favorite writers retreat, I was talking with a friend about my running, and that I’d just run my first 50-miler (hey, she asked). She shook her head. “How did you ever do something like that?” she wondered.

I told her about my “year of being 50” activities and the stuff I’d accomplished, including a 50K, and this had been the next challenge. “You are so goal oriented!” she said. And it’s true: I got where I am by setting goals all along the way. And I intend to keep doing so.

Now wait a minute! In your last post, you argued against setting goals!

Now wait a minute! In your last post, you argued why you shouldn’t set goals!

True. Lemme ‘splain.

Have you learned yet, grasshopper?

Have you learned yet, grasshopper?

I’m fine with the idea that you can pursue something for its own sake, and you don’t need a goal to grow and improve. My Aikido instructors have been trying to beat this into my head for eight years – that I should focus on the training, and not on what rank I am. So I didn’t set an arbitrary date for achieving black belt, although I have set goal dates for tests. (But not this year: my injured shoulder has made testing impossible for the time being, so I am forced to focus on the training itself. Karma?)

But with running, setting goals has helped motivate me. It’s how this infrequent runner who did the occasional 5K race became a 1,000+ mile per year runner who can run 50 at a time. I didn’t really get serious as a runner until I signed up for a Running 101 class at a local running store. The instructor handed a questionnaire to all of us, asking what we wanted to get out of the class, and – significantly – to choose a running goal and a timeframe for achieving it. I’d never run more than 5-6 miles at one time, but I committed to a half marathon later that year.

Crossing the finish line at Run Woodstock.

Crossing the 50-mile finish line. Never woulda happened without that first commitment to a distance I’d never run before.

Now, I wasn’t going to “fail” Running 101 if I hadn’t set a goal, and no one would have been disappointed (except me), but putting it in writing, and handing it in, made it real – something I felt obligated to carry out. Every milestone since then has been the result of setting a goal, then putting in the training needed. If I were just running to stay fit, or for the social aspects, then I wouldn’t feel the need to keep setting them. But there are still some personal limits I’d like to test.

And then there’s this quote from Bill Copeland:

“The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.”

Is it possible to do well at something without goals? Sure. But will you? Without that first half marathon, would I have run a full one the next year, or my first ultra the year after that? Maybe, but likely not. The simple act of committing to the half was that rare event – a genuine life changer.

NaNoWriMo Web BadgeGoing back to the writers retreat – I’ve been writing stories since I was in grade school, attended many retreats, and even managed to “win” the 2012 National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge by writing a novel of 50,000 words in one month. With NaNoWriMo 2013 fast approaching, I’ve had to ask myself why I didn’t finish that novel, revise it, and look to publish it. Yes, I have a rather busy rest of my life. But is the real reason because I didn’t set a goal to finish what I’d started?

I think I’m going to make myself find out. Stay tuned.


P.S. My thanks to the Personal Excellence website for introducing me to the Bill Copeland quote with their article on why you should set goals. Read the article here.

2012 – The Fitness at 50 Year in Review

IT’S STILL A BIT HARD TO BELIEVE that 2012, my “year of being 50” is over and done with, even as full a year as it was.

As a forward-looking guy, I’m more interested in what I’m doing and learning now, and training for events to come. But readers who joined me during the year (thank you, thank you!) may not be fully aware of everything I’d planned for, and did, during 2012. So, in a nutshell, here’s what I’d set for myself to accomplish last year, and how it worked out.

2012 – The Setup

The idea to do something special at age 50 began in 2007 as a “500 at 50” bike trip, in which I would ride from home to our campground near the Sleeping Bear Dunes and back (500 miles) in the summer of 2012. As I continued to train and get in better shape, however, I thought of other things I could do to celebrate being 50, and gradually the plan developed for all the 50-related goals in 2012 – including creating a blog to tell the story.

In addition to the bike trip and a total running/cycling goal of 2,500 miles (50×50), I set monthly targets in the various activities and hobbies I pursue.

With such a great coach, success was a near guarantee.

With such a great coach, success was a near guarantee.

Calisthenics (January):  I kicked off 2012 with a modest goal of 50 pushups per day in January, and despite getting a cold a couple of weeks in, made the goal. A good start!

Cooking (February & March) – This part didn’t work out so well. My initial goal was to cook 50 new recipes in February. I didn’t get near that number, even when I extended it to March. A key certification effort at work meant I didn’t have the time or energy to get there. On the plus side, I created or found some recipes that became family favorites. Later in the year I tried out a few new truffle flavors, too. My experience with durian in December was less pleasant, but a learning experience nonetheless.

Of course, these are all "calorie-free" - since I don't sell them, all the calories are free.

Of course, these are all “calorie-free” – since I don’t sell them, all the calories are free.

ReverseHandThrowAikido (April, July) – Goal: attend 50 classes in one month. I chose April because the big push at work was over, and it wouldn’t be too hot in the dojo (our school doesn’t believe in air conditioning). By attending my regular Rec & Ed classes and getting in lots of extra training at the main dojo, I wound up with 55 for the month. We celebrated by doing 55 pushups at the end of the final class.

Bokken - KamaeIn July my goal was buki (wooden weapons) practice in increasing sets of 50. So at the end of the month I was doing 200 sword strikes per day. I think I improved my technique as a result, although I’ve been told it takes 1,000 strikes per day to get really good.

Cycling (May, August) – The August “500 at 50” bike trip was the main event, but I wanted to get some serious BIS (butt-in-saddle) time before then. I decided on some all-weekend rides in May, with the goal of visiting 50 small towns during the month. Town #50 was Honor, which I reached during our Memorial Day weekend trip up north.

Doing my part to save lives!

Doing my part to save lives! (Breast cancer walk fundraiser in Clinton.)

Daughters - the best welcoming committee!

Daughters – the best welcoming committee! (Arrival at the campground.)

The August 500-mile trip wound up being 600 miles due to back roads (and getting lost a couple of times), and despite some unexpected detours and riding an entire day in the rain, made it there and back on schedule, meeting a number of wonderful people and eating a lot of cookies and scones along the way. You can read about it here.

NaNoWriMo 2012 Winner CertificateWriting (November) – November was National Novel Writing Month (fondly known among writers as NaNoWriMo), whose annual challenge is to write a novel of at least 50,000 words during the month (how convenient!). I selected a story idea that had been bouncing around in my head for a couple of years, and finally put electrons to it. I got over the 50,000 word mark with a day to spare. Now comes the fun part – completing it, then edit, revise, and repeat.

Mile 19 - State Street - croppedRunning (year round) – Wow. When did I turn into a runner? My count shows 20 races from December 2011 to December 2012, with age group awards in 12 of them, a PR (personal record) in every distance, and a finish under 20:00 in a 5K, something I’d been working toward for two years. I also set a distance PR by running a 50K (31.2 miles) ultramarathon at Run Woodstock in September (and did something else for the first time that you can read about here). And you couldn’t ask for better support than my coach, Marie, and the wonderful folks who run with PR Fitness.

The PR Fitness teams at the Crim 10-mile. (I'm the last row, far right.)

The PR Fitness teams at the Crim 10-mile. I’m in the back row, far right. Marie is center, bib #2875.

You may have noticed that not every month is covered. June was the Dexter-Ann Arbor half marathon and the Ann Arbor Marathon, so I figured that was enough to go on. October I just couldn’t think of anything, so I let it go. (That was the best part of this whole thing. My year, my rules!)

So, have I set goals for 2013? Yes – and no. Details to follow.

Have You Seen This Man? And other Miscellany

Thomas Jefferson - 2 Dollar BillJUST WONDERING IF YOU’VE SEEN THIS GUY RECENTLY. I realize that old T.J. doesn’t ‘circulate’ much these days, but I’m doing my best to keep him visible. The $2 bill is my tip of choice at coffee shops and other such places. I’ve been doing it for years as a sort of schtick, and this year I added the following touch:

Back of 2 Dollar Bill

Why not a little self-promotion with my latte? Anyway, I was at the bank recently reloading my stash, and I got one that was already stamped – the first time that has happened. But no one has yet emailed me or left a comment saying they got one, so I have no idea where it’s been between when I spent it and when I got it back. So if you do happen across one of these, please drop me a line. I know this site isn’t exactly WheresGeorge.com, but it would still be fun to find out that someone got a stamped bill and checked out my blog as a result. So speak up, people!

I should also update everyone on how my effort for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) turned out. So here you go:

NaNoWriMo 2012 Winner Certificate

Yep, I got to the 50,000 word mark with a day to spare. I’ve since taken a brief hiatus from writing it, with training for 5K races and upcoming Aikido test taking priority, but I’ll be back to it shortly. Last weekend I went to a followup session called, “You’ve Written a Novel – Now What?” which featured a local writer and a small press publisher explaining the best way to market your work and what kinds of things will annoy an editor or otherwise make him stop reading. Very useful information, given that I’m writing the Great Interstellar Novel!

DurianFinally, an adventure in food to relate. The day before my 51st birthday, I decided to sneak in one final thing I’d never done before, and settled on attempting to eat durian. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this exotic and odiferous Asian fruit, let’s just say that the first person to eat one must have been either very, very brave, or five minutes away from starving to death. Today it is considered a delicacy in some parts of the world, dead-skunk like aroma notwithstanding.

But where to find one? Surprisingly, it isn’t always available at Meijer. However, living in East San Francisco (a.k.a. Ann Arbor) has its advantages, and I procured one at a local Asian grocery store – the kind where nobody in the place speaks English. (Talk about a “fish out of water” feeling.) As I stood in line with the spiky football I was pretty sure that a couple of people were snickering, but it was in Chinese, so I have no idea who or what they may have been laughing at. Probably me, though.

Me contemplating eating a durian

Should I, or shouldn’t I? I have to, I’m wearing the magic sweatshirt.

Anyway, I got it home, and after getting on the Internet to find out how to open it, I managed to get a couple of spoonfuls down. So how was it?

Me eating a durian

Okay, mission accomplished. But now the problem is I have most of the fruit left. What can I do with it? Sure can’t compost it, and the garbage man has his standards. There are a number of durian recipes on the Internet, however, including durian cheesecake and durian ice cream. Dare I try them? If I do, and manage to keep the HazMat team away, I’ll let you know.

Warming up for Cold Weather

TEMPERATURES MAY FINALLY BE FALLING, BUT IT’S PLENTY HOT in the Fitness at 50 world. There are several events yet before the year’s over, and they’re coming up fast. For instance:

Running – The weekly miles continue; this is something I do year round, and almost never inside. I’d rather be out in the cold and dark and the snow, than on a treadmill. Most times.

Believe it or not, I really enjoyed this winter race. (Super 5K 2011)

My final race of the year, the Holiday Hustle 5K, is this Saturday. I will be there early to help set up, then at 4:30 comes the race. It’s my last chance to finish a 5K under 20:00 before I turn 51 on Monday, so you can bet I will be giving it everything I’ve got.

Aikido – My 1st Kyu test is Tuesday, Dec. 11. If I pass this test, I will become eligible to test for black belt in 2013. So I’m getting in some extra classes this week and next, and my four classes today gave me one heck of a workout. So I’ll be taking it easy tomorrow – or not. At this point, every chance to practice is gold. So we’ll see.

Writing – My 50,000 word goal is in reach!  The novel is coming right along, and I have less than 3,000 words to go, with the deadline of tomorrow (Friday). Looks like the final novel will be much longer than 50,000 words, but that’s okay, As the NaNoWriMo people put it, November is the beginning. Just get the words down. December (and the rest of your life, if need be) is for finishing and editing. Once I bang the thing into more reasonable shape, I will share some excerpts with you all.

That’s all for the moment. Gotta get back to the novel!