Dealing with Disappointment

I’ve been quiet here lately, and while I can’t pinpoint one reason in particular, life has been… going. Swimmingly. And going quiet well.

Unfortunately it’s been a rough 2017 for our nation and the world; from the state of our political climate, our climate in general, mass shootings, scandal after scandal, etc. But my little world has been pretty amazing, filled with lots of running, adventures, and a whole lot of love. And while I am incredibly grateful for my happiness and blessings, it’s difficult to feel completely happy when there is so much suffering, unrest, and discomfort in the world. This year I have learned more than anything to appreciate every moment, and savor this happy time in my life.

As previously mentioned, there’s been a lot of running in 2017. After today I’m at a total of 937.05 miles for the year. This is by far the most I’ve ever run in a year, as I’ve trained for three half marathons, one marathon down and another coming up next month. I’ve been able to feel myself getting stronger, physically and mentally, and have accomplished PR’s in the 5K, 10K and Half Marathon.

Despite my success this year it hasn’t been all rainbows and butterflies. Based on how well all of my other races had gone and the work I put in to my training, I had really high hopes for the Chicago Marathon. I trained 150 more miles this training season, overcame an injury, had amazing long runs, incorporated more speed workouts, etc. But the fact of the matter is the race didn’t pan out the way I’d hoped. Overall, the Chicago Marathon was a complete disappointment. I was really, really sore during my taper and felt some weird pain points I hadn’t felt during training. Which, are normal during the taper, but I’m beginning to realize the extent of my soreness wasn’t normal.

Then came race day. The first half of the marathon was fine. Good, even. I tried to pace myself so that I didn’t start out too fast. But setback number one was when I got a stomach cramp at mile 6. Which, I was able to semi manage until I bonked at mile 18. At mile 20 I thought my hip was going to, literally, fall off.

While I was suffering on the inside and was feeling my dreams of a PR slip away with every slow step, on the outside everything around me was amazing; the race itself was incredible. The course. The crowd. The people. I was getting pretty emotional the first three miles, watching runners pull off to the side when they saw their loved ones. The crowd was the most intense I’d ever seen in any race. Five people deep, with tons of signs, clapping, and cheering. The saving grace was that I saw Mike and my friend Evan at mile 6 and mile 16. I didn’t expect to see them at mile 16, so when I saw the “Go Yuloo” sign when I was truly hurting, I’d hoped it would give me more strength. But I think instead it gave me comfort, and made me realize how bad I was hurting.

From then on I just wanted to be done. For a couple of split seconds, in my complete moments of utter weakness I’d thought about dropping out. But instead I called my best running friend, Peggy, at mile 20, and she coached me in between walking and running when I could.

The race itself was a complete oxymoron. It was the perfect combination of love and hate.

After the race I was pretty defeated. I was so happy to have finished, but angry and disappointed with myself. When we got back to the hotel I tried to take a nap but I couldn’t sleep, so I called my mom and talked to her for about 45 minutes. I can’t tell you how much that phone call meant to me. My mom and I have had plenty of important conversations in my life, but I think that one meant the most to me this far. She was genuinely and wholly proud of me, when I was at an incredibly low point. The love I felt and knew to be true when I was questioning so much about myself was, and still is, one of the most important feelings I’ve ever felt.

A lot of others have had the same reaction. “you’re too hard on yourself!” “at least you finished!” “it’s still an incredible accomplishment!” While all of those things are completely true, it isn’t enough for me. I know I can do better. Be better. It hurts so bad because I didn’t execute my potential.

What I’ve struggled with in the days since is how we can feel such contradicting feelings. How can we be proud of our accomplishments, knowing that we could have done better? How do we settle when we know we haven’t met our fullest potential?

When we’ve settled on the fact that it’s over, how do we pick up the pieces to try again?

Because what if we keep failing? It takes a hell of a lot of vulnerability to keep trying when you haven’t succeeded.

What I remind myself of over and over is that the easy solution would be to not try again. To let the marathon defeat me. To say “yea, I’ve run a couple marathons, but they didn’t go well. So I’m going to stick with what I’m comfortable with.” It would be a hell of a lot easier to keep PR’ing in distances that I know I can crush. But that isn’t going to challenge me. Or change me. Or help me grow. As someone who fears uncertainty, I’m learning to become comfortable with the uncomfortable. That not everything in life is going to pan out the way you imagine. We can’t control everything, and running is, by far and away, my greatest teacher in this lesson.

I’m learning to build up my resilience so that when I do fail, I can pick myself back up.

And then came Shalane Flanagan and her incredible win at the New York Marathon last weekend. Watching her pull away those last few miles, watching her bump her fist and say “fuck yes” in a moment of pure emotion and bliss was an amazing moment for me. As a woman. As a runner. As a marathoner. As someone always trying to be better.

So I’m going to try to PR in the marathon again next month. I’ve put in the work, and now maybe the hardest phase is finding that faith in myself that I can succeed. Why not? When we’ve put in the work, why is the option of success one that we fear? Or one that we are too humbled to vision? To dream big is to take risks. As athletes. As competitors. As humans participating in life. So why not me?

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