Race Expectations and Making the Best of Things

A pen with the word goals on it.

“Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out.”

~ John Wooden

As many of you have done, I set a few endurance goals when 2015 began.

  • Finish the Florida Double Iron in the top 3 overall
  • Run 200 miles at Infinitus 72 hour race in Vermont
  • Run sub-19 hours at Vermont 100

The first goal of 2015 is in the books and you all know that story.  My attempt to achieve the second goal will begin in less than 48 hours, at 8:08 a.m. on Thursday, May 28th. GULP!  I have not been able to think about much else over last few weeks.

Having a results-focused obsession has been the norm for me over the years with other races and life goals. More than once, however, this focus has led me to miss out on the living the experience in the beautiful places we have raced. I have found myself so focused on results that I would not even look around at the trees, oceans and mountains, as I raced right by them.

Only after a race was all over would Maria and I be able to absorb where we were and the beauty around. There have only been one or two races when I was able to relax and enjoy the finish. But, usually, I can’t relax until I see the final results.

Did I get the slot? How many slots are there? 

Did I make the podium?

Is that good enough? No?! Ugh. Now we have to go to roll down.

In reality, the experience alone of racing and pushing our limits really should make us happy but at the moment, when key results are on the line, it feels stressful–rather than invigorating.

A goal-oriented athletes, we tend to put a large amount of personal stress on ourselves to hit the “right” results. This type of focus is both good and bad – and sometimes both at the same time. At times, we just need to flow in the moment, enjoying the views and sucking up the experience. At times, we should not worry so much about the end result – but lose ourselves in the process.

During the race, of course it is good to push the effort to meet the strategy we’ve set for ourselves. That being said, there is no reason there can’t be moments when we look around enjoy the experience. We are doing what we have dreamed of. Embrace each moment and know we are lucky to be able to do these things.

Now, don’t get me wrong, here. I’m not saying that your race day should be a sightseeing tour.  But, if we find ourselves overly results focused then we risk forgetting or missing out on many of the very reasons why we all started racing and doing the scary and unknown.  It’s important to remember why we started on our journeys – and what keeps us continuing on.

Last week, I wasn’t feeling like myself for a few days. I came home last Friday, at the start of the Memorial Day Weekend, and I asked Maria: “Do you think I should go for a run?:

She said, “Do what you feel is right.”

So, I went out and about 5 miles into my jaunt, I began to feel massive pressure that threatened to blow out…well, you know where. I corrected my course towards home, ditching my planned 10 mile run. Arriving home, I very quickly sat on the toilet and blast off!  My fear came true: I had severe diarrhea.

My reaction in my head was very negative at first. I could only worry about what this would do to my ability to reach my goal. My race goals for Infinitus 72 hour were already very aggressive, even on my best day–or days in this case.

I hoped, when I went to bed that Friday night, that maybe it was just a one time deal, and I would wake up okay. No such luck. I spent my Memorial Day weekend on the toilet and in bed sick. I lost 8 pounds in just two days.

I was tortured by my thoughts: Should I race or should I bag it? I do not know what to do.

As I rested and crapped on a schedule of 3 times per hour throughout the weekend, I was struck by how lucky I am to feel heathy most of the time. In those moments when we are ill, we are reminded mostly strongly how fortunate we are when we are healthy.  I realized how lucky I’ve been to be able to compete in the endurance lifestyle over last 8 years–most of the time without any major issue.

Monday morning, I started to feel better and decided I would travel up to Infinitus, start the race, and just enjoy each moment. If I can only do one loop a day, then I will do one loop a day. I know it is better to try then to wonder: What If?

Regardless of how it plays out, I will have fun and be grateful for the opportunity to move my body.  In the end, it’s all about the experience and journey to get to the starting line. Often getting to the starting line is the hardest part.

I will remember why I started, and why I keep going. I will make the best of the way things turn out.

Race Expectations and Making the Best of Things
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