Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Managing My Expectations

I had a really nice four mile run this morning and I'm going to tell you more about it in a minute, but first let me start with the dog:

There I was, running along, listening to my music way too loud, when I saw a woman with a medium-sized poodle-looking dog on a leash walking toward me.  Super cute, fluffy dog.  I watched as she pulled the leash a little closer to her, which, as a runner, I totally appreciate more than the dog-walkers who let their dogs roam about on long leashes designed to clothesline me at the ankles.  As I got closer, I smiled and said good morning to her, and I was just looking down at the cute puppy dog and about to use my high squeaky voice to say hello when that fucker lunged at me.

I mean luuuuuuuuuuunnnnnnnnnged.  Teeth bared.  Little body on high alert, ready to eat me.  She had to use both hands on the leash to keep him under "control."  And it was funny because I was already thinking about today's post when it happened, but there it was, the perfect illustration of what I wanted to talk about:

Sometimes shit doesn't go down the way you expect it to.

Me.  Every time.
Lately I'm having a serious disconnect between the reality of where my fitness is and my expectation of where I think it should be.  I mean, I totally get that I took a lot of time off last year.  Except that I didn't really take time off, so much as just cut way, way back.  And, yes, I understand that my mileage was very low for a very long time, but prior to that cutback I had been averaging 50 mile weeks for months.  I used to train long and hard, but nowadays training long just feels hard.  As in difficult.

When I plotted out this year's races, knowing that I had put anemia behind me, I felt like I wanted to be cautious, of course, but I was also ready to start putting the hammer down a little, ya know?  But now that I am actually trying to even find the hammer, let alone put it down, I'm discovering that my hiatus cost me a lot more than I realized.

I sort of feel like I'm starting from scratch.

My expectation is that running double digits will be an effort, but not outside of my reach, because the last several years have included such high mileage while training for ultras that I was pretty much always in marathon shape (please note, not speedy marathon shape, but rather, "capable of running a marathon" shape).  My expectation is that running 9-minute miles should still feel like a comfortable pace, because I used to run 8s regularly.  My expectation is that because I feel mentally rarin' to go and ready to race, my body ought to get with the program.

The reality, as you've no doubt guessed by now, is a sad distance from these expectations.

There were so many of these, and they were all funny.  Google "expectations vs. reality."
Running long is hard.  Running fast is hard.  And having a race on my calendar this weekend didn't magically make me ready for running both long and fast.  Weird, right??

So, this week I'm giving myself a little reality check and managing my expectations.  While it's true that I'm not where I expected or wanted to be with my fitness, that doesn't have to be bad news.  I am feeling better.  I am training much harder than I was even a few months ago, and I will continue to improve from here.  I just need to be patient.  You know, my favorite thing in the world.

I reminded myself of these things and more as I was stepping outside for today's run.  I decided not to be critical of myself for the pace I was running and not to compare myself to a girl I used to be.  And to not think so hard about the girl I want to be in the future.  But to just be.  And once I let go of the expectations, it turned out to be a really, really wonderful run.

Minus the dog.

Do you get caught up in your own expectations??


HoHo Runs said...

Oh, yes. Last year, I fully expected to be faster by the time I rolled into 2015. Nope. I'm slower by a few minutes. Now, how did that happen? It's been frustrating. I'll just have to make adjustments and keep trying. The reality is, I love it and will continue no matter what my time is. The adjustment may have to be with my mind. Oh, and I recently had an unleashed dog puts it's mouth on my ass with the owner standing in the front yard. Thankfully, it didn't bite down. I think you will get back to exactly where you want to be! Keep at it! Just run this race Sunday for "fun" and see what happens. You may be surprised.

Marcia said...

I struggled with this for years! I think the brain badly wants a rational answer for everything and when there isn't one, well, it sucks. It's hard to let go of the runner you were or you thought you could be again....and who knows? You may very well be that runner again or better. Mostly I'm at peace with where I am now, but not always. I think the whole 'continuous improvement' thing is so ingrained in us. But running for the sheer joy of it is winning too. That's what I tell myself anyway. Damn that dog. Glad you didn't get bit!

dion.middelkoop said...

50 miles a week... That is more than enough to race well off... In fact that's sort of the mileage I run! (Yes I would like to be over 60, but that just doesn't seem to happen any more!)

Running 'N' Reading said...

Pahla, I have definitely (and still am!) been guilty of this and it's tough to "retrain" your brain. I had no idea, until now, that you struggled with anemia; upon the recommendation of a friend, I have an appointment Monday morning to get my iron levels checked. Sounds like you are starting to come to terms with the "current" Pahla, not some other Pahla that is unrealistic to the progress you've made. It's a tough corner to turn and you have a great attitude about this! You are the best you that you can be - woo hoo!!

Laura said...

Um, yes, this is totally me. Especially since I'm always starting and stopping running. Either because I get injured (maybe because I don't manage my expectations... vicious cycle) or to make a baby.

Also, I know this wasn't the main point of your post but I am ALWAYS running past dogs completely off leash. Sometimes before I can even SEE the owner. And it always makes me ANGRY. Use a leash people!!!

Tiina L said...

I have been caught in this trap so many times. I played college basketball, so anything athletic was easy and I was fast without any effort. I need to keep reminding myself that I'm not that person and in that place anymore and that's okay. You get a lot further when you base yourself in reality and stop making comparisons :)