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The following is a staff writer post from MikeS.  He is a married father of 2.  So, with the cat, he ranks number 5 in the house.  He loves numbers and helping people. Please leave any questions or comments below for either Mike or Crystal.

“Follow your plan.” I have told myself that a few times over the last couple of months. The situations that I said that to myself were different, but the saying applied to both. The first situation was during the stock market volatility after the summer and the other was the marathon I ran recently. I listened to myself for one and not the other.

Running My Own Race

I had already completed one marathon before I ran it for the second time this year, so I had an idea of what time I could finish it in. I had run a few other shorter races over the summer and generally felt pretty good. My training plan was similar to last year and I had connected with a group of guys that run together on the weekends.

They are generally faster than I am, but I figure running with them helps me to improve my overall conditioning. So being a numbers guy, my target pace per mile would be about an 8:55 pace. That would have beaten my time from last year by about 10 seconds per mile. As I mentioned before, pacing has been the hardest part for me. This marathon has people that are called ‘Pacers’. Their job is simply to run the race at a set pace and finish at a target time. Unfortunately for me, the pacers weren’t going to be running the exact time I wanted.

The two choices were 8:47 or 9:09. The 9:09 pace wouldn’t work for me, as I felt that was too slow. The 8:47 seemed aggressive and I wasn’t sure if I should try it. Even as the race was about to start, I hadn’t decided if I was going to follow the pacer or not. Once the race began though, I did decide to follow the 8:47 pacer. As I was running, I would check my watch to see how fast I was running. I had set my watch to show me my instant pace. I was seeing times of 8:30, 8:35 and so on. I kept telling myself that I was going too fast, that I needed to slow down, follow my plan. I did not though.

I felt pretty good and was able to stay with the pacer without too much trouble. Then, mile 23 hit. My body hit the proverbial wall and I could no longer maintain the same pace anymore. There was a lot of walking during the last 3 miles. I ended up finishing about two minutes slower than last year with a time just under 4:01. Had I stuck to my plan, I probably wouldn’t have run out of gas. Hopefully, that lesson sticks when I run my next marathon next year. I am already planning for a spring marathon. I don’t want too much time to pace before I can put my learnings into practice.

Less Stress

With my HSA account, the plan has been to only invest the money leftover at the end of the year. The stock market volatility recently had me thinking about deviating from that plan. Since I believe that in the long run, the stock market is going to go up. I was thinking about buying when the market dropped significantly. I have cash sitting in the HSA account that I could have plowed into the market. I was hesitant however. Since I don’t know if the rest of the year will bring any additional medical expenses, I wasn’t sure I wanted to invest the cash. Just in case the market dropped even further and I had additional unexpected expenses, I decided to keep the money in cash and wait until the end of the year. I decided to stick with my original plan. The market has since rebounded and there haven’t been any unforeseen medical expenses, but I still content with my decision. Even though I missed out on some potential gains, the added stress was not worth it.

The Knowledge

These two events have reinforced with me that I don’t always need to follow the herd, literally with running and figuratively with my finances. Sure, conventional wisdom says to invest when the market is down, but the price for me in terms of stress was too high. I stuck with my original plan and was able to sleep better as a result. Hopefully, I can follow that voice during my next marathon.