Sunday, May 6, 2012

Expectations

This blog post is going to be a stream of consciousness type entry, so I apologize in advance if it is hard to follow.

As some of you  may know, I started running last January.  Prior to that I had never run more than a few steps at a time.  I don't even remember doing any running in school - in fact, I joined swimming in high school to avoid the general PE class that would have required running.  In January, I made a resolution that I wanted to run one 5k and walk a half marathon.  I started out with no clue what I was doing... I would run as fast as I could for as long as I could.  

Then, I ran my first race in February and I did okay... my time was much better than I expected and I didn't come in last.   So, I signed up for a few more races... some 5ks and a 10k.   Then in June, I ran a really small trail run and came in as the first overall female.  This was probably the "worst" thing that could have happened to me.  You see, I never took up running to be competitive.  I had zero faith in myself, I didn't think I would ever have even a chance of placing at a race.  That race stirred the competitive spirit and me.  I started pushing myself to run harder and faster. 

At this time I had decided to take a half marathon class to keep me on track with training to "walk/run" the Fort 4 Fitness Half Marathon.  When I started the class though, I decided... heck, why not run as much of it as I can.  My fitness progressed and I was doing better than I expected.  So, mentally I set a really tough goal for myself for that race - I wanted to run a sub 2 hour half marathon.  I knew this was probably a bit of a stretch for me.  I mean, even 8 months ago I would have been happy to just finish in the 4 hour.  Yet, when I crossed the finish line in 2:01 and some change I was heartbroken.   I HAD to prove I could break 2 hours.  

Luckily, I had another half planned for the next month.  My body had other plans for me though, the day after the F4F half my foot started bothering me.  I was diagnosed with peroneal tendonitis and told to rest.  So, when it came time for St Louis RnR half, I had no clue if I would even be able to run.  However, I decided to give it a go - obviously I didn't come away with a PR because I hadn't really run much in the last month.  I ran around a 2:10 - but I was still happy with that given the crowds and the course. 

I came home even more determined - so I decided to sign up for the Veterans Half in November.  I didn't really post much about it. I kept it low key.  I went that morning and did really well for the first 6 miles.  Then I started faltering, so I decided to do a walk/run interval and posted a huge PR.  Not only that - I finally broke 2 hours.  I was in tears as I crossed the finish line in 1:56 and some change.  I finally felt like I was making progress as a runner.

I don't know where the arbitrary sub-2 hour goal to make me feel good enough came from.  But, it felt great to accomplish it.  I spent much of the winter maintaining my fitness through running challenges and such.  Come spring, I had big expectations for myself.  I mean, I had been running 4-5 months longer than I had in November - I should be able to perform better right?

Not the case.  My first showing at a long distance event I missed my goal, then I ran Oak Barrel and I finished in about 2:20.  I chalk that one up to the hills and not being properly trained for that, so I tried not to let it get me down. Fast forward to this weekend, I was set to run the Indy Mini.  Now, I have been having some foot pain, so I didn't expect that I would PR, but I was still expecting to do well.  I was expecting I could finish in 2:10.  

I went out strong, then it started - my foot started hurting.  From there it all went downhill.   Now, I know that part of the issue with my time is actually my injury.  However, there is a part of me that wonders if I didn't let myself use the injury as a crutch.  I mean, yes.. it hurt, but people run in pain all the time.  What made me different?  Why did I fall apart mentally the minute I started hurting?  And, once I walked the first time .. where was the strength to keep going after I started running again?    It's almost like I am letting my expectations, my desires for success be overwhelmed by my sense of self doubt.  I crossed the finish line in Indy at 2:22:31.  

I almost wish I had never run a 1:56 because now I expect that I should be able to run that time for all my events.  Obviously, your expectations are going to be based on what you are capable of.  If I didn't know I was capable of faster, I would probably be happy with a 2:22.  I mean, really... its a respectable time for a half marathon.  I think anyone that finishes a half marathon is a rock star.  Yet, I expect more of myself.

I am extremely proud of the 5 half marathons I have completed.  I am proud that I have signed up to run a full marathon in December.  I am proud that I am not letting these stumbling blocks stop me, but I really want to get back to where I know I could be running.  I think the key to that is balancing my expectations, realistic expectations, and mental toughness. 

Anyone have any tips for developing mental toughness?  
Once it gets tough I have a hard time pushing myself.  That's not to say I quit,  because I don't.  But, I will allow myself to walk when I probably don't need to because I don't have the confidence to push through moments of weakness I guess.  

(coming up this week  - a better recap of Indy Mini)

ETA:  Don't get me wrong, I am so happy with how I have done thus far, I am just struggling with the back-sliding I am dealing with.  I am still grateful for the ability to complete these runs. 

3 comments:

  1. I don't think the issue is mental toughness, per se, but running through injury. I think that you can do a 1:56 half marathon. Actually, I think you have a faster one in you. However, I think you might be picking too many races for the sake of racing. I think you need to take a step back, address any physical problems and then take on a training plan. And train for a single "A" race. Sure, have a few fun runs in there but nothing to stress you.

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  2. It's normal...You have to be realistic and realize that every race isn't going to be a PR. You're a human, not a robot and things happen.

    You might want to see about joining a pace group for a race. Running with a group of other runners all shooting for the same finish time - maybe that will be enough to keep you competitive and pushing yourself.

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  3. Distance running takes years to get good at! You need to cut yourself some slack and give yourself a lot more credit for your amazing progress. But really, it's going to take you a while to improve with distance running, which is how it Should be.

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