We all have various expectations for all different avenues of our lives, right? I mean, isn’t that what makes the world go around? Some of us have higher expectations than others; therefore, some of us have a more persistent drive based on these personal standards. Yes? No?
I have always had exceptionally high expectations for myself. My parents placed this pattern of setting the bar sky-high when I was young and apparently, it has been permanently cemented into my inner-most being. I am hard-wired to reach for the stars always. Obviously, when faced with adversity or challenge, this drive to succeed is a tool that helps me propel through the muck. However, what happens if my arms are not quite long enough to reach the stars and I fall short?
Let me give you an example of my expectations and not rising to the occasion. A friend of mine had encouraged me to sign up for a 10k road race with her back in early February. I agreed to sign up because I knew it would be motivational for me to train, knowing I had an event to account for. This past Sunday, we went on our adventure to the South Shore and this 10k newbie was asking all types of questions, but namely, what time I hoped to come in around for a finish. I gave my friend my hopeful safe time, but I secretly told myself I was going to do the race faster.
My old racing brain was in full swing and my pre-race jitters were there as if I actually had a shot at coming in the top three of this challenging 10k course. You see, the 18 year old running star brain seems to think it can overrule the 39 year old body that is overweight, has battled cancer, birthed three kids and then some. Bi-polar, perhaps?
|Yes, that's me on the right. Probably circa 1989.|
The race began and I instantly went into the “ZONE”………music blaring, running slowly to make sure I could maintain the full 6.2 miles and BAM……the shin cramps I have been struggling with during my past two weeks of training hit me right after the mile one marker. Debilitating shin cramps – not shin splints – but full on Charlie-horse type cramps in my shins; Mother of god. I continued to try and speed walk through them with a funny little hobble. Push. Push. PUSH. You have that time to make at the end. I will keep you out of the more negative thoughts, but instead of enjoying the absolutely glorious scenery and blasting warmish spring wind, I was propelling myself through obnoxious pain to get myself closer to the finish line.
Finally, by mile 4, I felt good and the cramps started to subside – I hit my (slow) stride and tried to ignore the other pains in my body. I ran miles 4, 5 and 6 with a renewed confidence and checked my timer to see if I would indeed make the comfortable and safe time I had hoped for an early season race.
I did not hit my pre-determined race goal. I was about 50 seconds per mile slower than the already slow goal I had safely set for myself. You may be doing the math and questioning my sanity about why 3 minutes is such a big deal. It IS a big deal. My expectations were that I would hit that mark, if not beat it, and when I did not….well, my spirits plummeted to the dark side and I did not feel the endorphin high of completing 6.2 miles. I was frustrated.
My friend, my fellow Curvy Girl who ran her first 10k was basking in her high of completing such a great milestone – her first 10k and it was fantastic! I shared in her glory and I am so proud of her for pushing through a new boundary for her.
This friend, in her brutal honestly, could not fathom nor understand how I could be upset with myself. She actually yelled at me to give myself some *@#&$*#R&$@% credit. I will be honest and admit that at first, my knee-jerk reaction in my brain was screw you, you do not know what it’s like to have hundreds of races under your belt and not meet your expected goal.
I tried valiantly to tell myself that it was okay. I coddled myself and reminded my inner 18 year old brain that I ran when countless others may have been at home on their butts. That did nothing to make my feelings better. I let my friend know that in 24 hours I would feel better about the race and myself but let me have my moment. Let me be frustrated. Let me sulk. Let me pout. Let me chide myself because that is what I do.
I woke up on Monday and I felt strong. I felt a slightly renewed motivation to hit the ground running again this week with some recovery runs with no expectations other than to log the miles. Do not get me wrong, I am still disappointed in myself for having such a terrible race. However, my perspective is aligned and I know I will do better next time.
And then a different acquaintance of mine complimented me on being able to do the race with a healing broken toe and an angry IT band.
Oh yeahhhhhhh. Those “other” pains I was feeling during the race when my shin cramps were trying to sabotage my efforts……yes, my healing toe and my super tight IT band. Maybe I should listen to said Curvy Girl friend, maybe I should stop for a brief moment and actually give myself a little more credit for my efforts. Maybe perhaps I should give remind myself that despite the peripheral neuropathy in my feet (remnants of chemotherapy), and despite the rheumatoid arthritis that causes my joints to rear their ugliest of faces - you know, damn, I did it. All 6.2 miles and then some.
The long and short of this blabbing is that I know for fact that any of my runner friends will “get” me in this piece. They will relate, they will commiserate and they will support me in my feelings. Runners in general tend to be a different breed and we do push ourselves very hard. Maybe not all runners are as hard on themselves as I may be, but I will admit for me, the expectations are motivational. As self-punishing as my behavior may seem to some, setting top-notch expectations will be the driving factor of what makes me meet my future race goals. Honestly, if I do not set expectations for myself, who will? I only want to be the best version of me. Don't we all?
The other side of all of this is when I do meet my goals, there is honestly no better feeling in the world. I feel as if I am a world-class marathoner, an Olympic star, a true champion all the way down through each and every bone.