Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Running lessons: Manage your expectations

I wish I could report that, with less than two weeks to go until race day, I feel excited, energized and ready to tackle another marathon. Unfortunately, that's not the case. The runs I did last week mostly went okay but my last long run on Saturday (19.5k) felt crappy. I hit the wall around 10k and it was all I could do to drag my sorry ass back to the house.

My immediate reaction to having such a lousy run so close to race day was predictable: "How can I possibly run 42.2k in two weeks if I can't run half that distance today? What was I thinking registering for the Calgary marathon this spring?! I'm never going to finish and it's going to be brutal!"

Luckily, I expected Saturday's run to feel tough after so much running the weekend before so I was ready with an appropriate comeback: "Relax. It feels tough today because you've just finished three months of hard training. You'll be in much better shape to run after two more weeks of tapering. And, whatever the outcome, you'll enjoy the event - not to mention having a vacation and seeing friends and family in Calgary.  So just breathe. It's gonna be fine."

And, mostly, it worked. My legs still felt crummy Saturday afternoon and evening but I popped some "vitamin I", had a good supper and slept like the dead that night. Since I was still tired Sunday and yesterday, I focused on taking it easy and slept soundly again both nights, despite some wild dreams in which I was - you guessed it - running a marathon.

All of which reminds me that expectations can be a huge problem - in marathoning and in life. When I expect too much from myself or others, disappointment  - sometimes even anger and grief - follows. Which isn't to say I shouldn't have goals and expectations - just that they need to be as realistic as possible.

Take, for instance, our cat Nemmie. Though it may not be evident from the photo at the top of this post, Nemmie is not what you'd call affectionate. Sure, she deigns to hang out in the same room with Husband and me a fair bit and is happy to get a good belly rub around 3:00 most mornings, but she'd really prefer that we just left her alone the rest of the time. It doesn't matter how we think she should respond to being showered with care and affection, she is who she is and we might as well accept it. Expecting her to behave differently only leads to stress and unhappiness for all of us. It goes without saying that the same goes for people - only more so.

Heading to Calgary, it's completely realistic to expect I'll finish the marathon in some fashion. On the other hand, given uncertainty about the weather and the effects of elevation on my body, it would be downright foolhardy to expect I'll run it in a personal best time. If everything goes perfectly, that could happen, but chances are slim. And the danger is, if I set unrealistic expectations, I'll start the race too fast, feel miserable throughout, and take longer to finish than I would have otherwise.

The big challenge over the next week and a half will be to manage my expectations. In all likelihood, the tapering gremlins will be doing their best to wreak havoc with my head and body, but I've been here before and I know their game. So long as I stay calm, get plenty of rest, and set reasonable expectations for race day, there's every reason to believe my 8th marathon will go well. I just need to relax, trust the training, and enjoy the ride to the finish line.

Happy running and writing, friends!

1 comment:

  1. Goals and expectations are tough. You want to use them as a tool to improve, and to push to achieve, but you don't want them to become a tool for beating you up. Realistic can be very difficult. Plus during the longer races lots of things outside our control can happen, weather, mechanical issues, or an attack of life. My advice? Duct tape those tapering gremlins!