About two weeks before I was to run my very first half marathon, I signed up for my very first Ironman triathlon.
My longest run to date was 10 miles, I did not own a bike, and I had never done a triathlon of any length. I was also working full-time while in the midst of writing my doctoral dissertation, and had a cross-country move on the calendar.
In short, it was not the right time to sign up for any race, much less an Ironman. So why did I do it?
Because I’m an idiot.
What, you thought I was going to wax poetic about this? No, I was a dumbass afflicted with a bad case of “Do-It-All Syndrome.” How hard could it be, really?
(Spoiler alert: It was very hard.)
Training for a triathlon became all-consuming. Work demanded every last brain cell I had. So did school, the move, and the new boyfriend I had inconveniently fallen in love with at a local race.
But I did it. I don’t really know how, I just put my head down and did it all. As soon as I crossed the finish line of that Ironman, I swore I would not do another race until it was the right time.
I’ve been waiting for “the right time” since that day. I also keep signing up for all sorts of ridiculous races year after year. See? I told you I was an idiot.
Big goals usually come with a list of contingencies: I’ll do my first half marathon after I lose some weight; I’ll qualify for Boston once the kids are old enough for school; when things calm down at work, I’ll have time to train for that triathlon; I’ll sign up for an ultramarathon when I’m [insert age/weight/measure of sanity here].
It’s the smart thing to do, after all. People really want to set the stage for success by waiting for exactly the right time. We think and plan and ponder and dream. We do everything but actually doing it. Oh, but it will come! Just you wait.
Except there will always be work to do and tasks to complete. Inconvenient romances become inconvenient spouses, who yield even more inconvenient children clamoring for your attention. You could lose a hundred pounds, retire young, and have a whole crew of people insisting you chase after your dream right this second, and there could still be a reason why it’s bad timing. There’s always going to be something. Someone leaving, someone showing up, natural disasters, man-made disasters. IT Band syndrome. Tax forms. Vacations. Your mother-in-law. The Green Bay Packers. Death. Life. The list of right-time saboteurs never ends.
But when you just stop thinking for a damn second and just do, those big goals actually happen. You learn you don’t need to accomplish X before Y or create some ideal situation to make amazing things happen. Sometimes you just have to recognize the imperfect timing and go for it anyway. It’s amazing how quickly the contingencies of “someday” fall away when there’s an actual date circled on the calendar.
Quit your prattling about “somedays” and “if/whens” and just do it. Go now! Be an idiot! Face your fears, sign up for that race, and yell your big scary goal from the rooftops. Then put your head down and get to work.
It’s never going to be the right time.
So do it today.
About the author:
Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). She lives and trains in Salt Lake City, Utah with three animals: a labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete husband. Lacke claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke