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Ester Marsh column: Make a plan to set and reach your goal

This has been a hard one to put on paper. As a former top athlete, it’s hard to set a goal that is not driven by winning. Each time I have competed — whether in judo, body building, fitness, triathlons or running events — I typically do very well and I train to be the best I can be. That doesn’t particularly mean I have to win, it just means I push my body to the furthest I can push it — “The best I can be” mentality.

Over the years, I see my college professor Braaksma’s finger still waving in my face when, once again, I didn’t let an injury rest or heal long enough. He said (in Dutch of course), “You wait till you get older, you will pay for this!” Well, he was right. I have punished my body over and over to push it to, and many times past, its limits. That’s what a competitor does right? That mentality made me very good, and I could push through pain like no one else. The “no pain, no gain” was absolutely my way of thinking, training and competing.

Turning 50 this summer has not slowed me down much but has changed that training mentality (I am hoping). What I have realized over the years is that each time I put myself into that “no pain no gain” mindset, my body goes “oh no, you are not!” When I don’t listen, I typically end up with an injury, most of the time soft tissue related such as tendonitis or tears. So I stayed away from entering any kind of competitions since it was hard to hold back. My health and wellbeing is more important than entering competitions. But 50 is special! Half a century! It needs celebrating and it needs a special event!

I was going to wait to reveal something, but I have spoken to some people who have all told me to go ahead and write about it. When my husband did his last full marathon about 8 weeks ago, I saw people finish the half marathon when others were finishing the full marathon with huge smiles and well deserved pride. I was so proud of all of them, and thinking why can’t I “just do it like that?” Why is it so hard to turn off the competitor in me? So it got me thinking. Maybe I can set a goal and training plan that will complete a journey, not a win. If I can be so dedicated to a tough training regime, why can’t I hold myself to a training regime that will get me to a challenge I have dreamed of doing since I was very young?

I did have to make a slight adjustment since at this time I don’t think my body can hold up for a full one, but I have signed up for my first (and most likely last) half Iron Man! A half Iron Man is comprised of a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile run — 70.3 miles total. I agree, I think I know what you are thinking — she is crazy! What can I say, it’s a bucket list kind of thing. If it happens, awesome. If not, that’s OK, too.

I signed up for the one in October in Wilmington’s “Beach to Battleship.” They also have a full Iron Man, which is double my distances and some of my friends have entered in this one. I am excited and hoping to stay injury free with my strict plan I have put myself on. Fortunately, I was able to buy an “insurance,” which when my body doesn’t hold up with the training, I can get most of my money back (this stuff is expensive). So far so good — I have about 8 weeks of training behind me, and 32 weeks ahead of me. Yep, like a pregnancy!

The hardest part is slowing down. My plan has a very slow progression and so far my body is holding up very well. Mentally, I am prepared; cardiovascular-wise, I am ready; now I need to slowly prepare my body for the rigors of a half Iron Man. What better “turning 50 goal” for an “ole” competitor like myself?! My journey has started and I hope to finish it on Oct. 22 at the Beach to Battleship! My goal is to give you monthly updates on the progress.

My hope is to inspire people of all ages, fitness levels and experience to reach for the stars.

If I fail, at least I can say that I tried.

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” — Robert F Kennedy

Ester H. Marsh Associate Executive Director JF Hurley YMCA

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