We all have limits. For instance, I know that I can only eat two of my co-worker's delicious cupcakes before I start to feel sick...you know how I know this? Because one day I ate three...not a good idea! We test our limits with easy stuff every day, like "how long can I stay in the shower before my kids realize I am missing?" or "how many post-it notes can I steal from the supply closet before anyone gets wise?" But how often do you really push yourself when it comes to a true unknown?
Last year I posted five goals on my athletic goal board. All five were things I was really going to have to push past my limits to accomplish. I had no clue if I could finish a marathon, but I did. I freaked out at my first Olympic distance triathlon, I had never done more than easy sprints up until this summer, I was doubling my mileage, could I do it? Yep. I also wanted to PR each of my sprint tri's this summer, that was a huge, scary goal, you never know what might happen on race day, but I pushed myself, and I managed to blow past what I thought my limits were. Then last Sunday came, and so did my last goal of the season...run a sub-2 hour half marathon. I was not certain I had trained well enough, or that I really had that kind of speed in me. But I knew I had to try.
I'll make this long story short. For 10 hard fought, exhilarating miles, I ran at a pace that would put me at a 1:57 finish time. I felt amazing, I kept saying to myself, "You are going to do this! You are really going to do this!" Then mile 11 came along and....BONK! I had reached my limit. I don't know if it was my physical limit or my mental limit, but I was done, that much I knew. I slowed way down, walking through the water stop, an inkling of hope that I might be able to start up again and catch the 2-hour pace group that had just passed me. But when I tried to get back up to speed, it wasn't meant to be. I was running though, at about a minute per mile slower than I started, but I kept my head up. I had found my limit, I could run 10 miles at an 9:05 pace, and even though I wanted that number to be 13 miles, it was still a great feeling to know I had that much in me. If I hadn't gone for it, I would have been sitting here today wondering if I would ever be able to run a sub-2 hour half marathon. That goal will go back on my board for next year, but thanks to pushing my limits this year, I know it's attainable.
So don't be afraid to push yourself. Set goals that seem hard, they should be attainable, but not easy. I mean, what's the worst that can happen? You bonk three miles before the finish line? I still finished, and my medal is just as shiny as it would have been had I finished in 1:57 rather than 2:06!