07 May 2008

Expectations vs. Reality

As most of you know, I haven't been too pleased with my running races lately. In fact, I've really been struggling with the fact that my times are slower than they've ever been. I've been trying to wrap my head around this phenomenon and while there are several different factors contributing to this, I think it all boils down to my expectations.

For the past 11 weeks, I've been training diligently for the Utah 1/2 IM. It is my A priority race this year and in order to accomplish that goal, I need to focus my training on that race. When you look at training for an "A" race, the training plan involves three phases: the base phase, the build phase, and the peak phase. The base phase revolves around increasing the volume of moderate intensity training to build aerobic fitness and endurance. The build phase uses doses of high intensity training to develop specific strength and power. The peak phase relies on highly race specific demands. Currently, I'm in week 7 of the base phase. Next week is a recovery week and then I start the build phase, which is going to be tough.

My training is tough and I've been working hard. I've been trying to rearrange my workouts a bit in order to race, but I'm going into my races fatigued, which means that I'm not going to perform to my usual expectations. This means that I've got to change my expectations to meet the reality of my situation.

In the June issue of Triathlete magazine, there was an article titled, "More than just numbers," by Amanda McCracken. The author talks about returning home from an event feeling disappointed in her results. Her roommate shouted "Hail to the conqueror!" when she got home and in tears, the author responded, "Thanks, but I sucked! I croaked on the run and was nine minutes off my best time on that course." The roommate said, "But you finished." The author goes on to discuss the issues that surraound expectations. She said, "my perspective had changed and I was at a loss to know how to measure my me, success was measured solely by the extent to which I was able (or in this case unable) to better my previous finishing time."

She offers some suggestions considering your potential in the moment. One example she mentioned was an athlete who was suffering from severe depression, who said that "not giving up" is his definition of success. Another definition of success is doing your best with the potential you have on any given day. She stated that measuring success in triathlon is difficult because of all of the uncontrollable factors.

Finally, she said that we need to step outside our athletic world and remember our athletic identity (the who) and appreciate the benefits of the sport (the why). I've been thinking alot about this and I think that sometimes, I forget about why I love to race and why I am training for the Utah 1/2 IM. I need to trust my training and know that while my earlier season races may not be meeting my expectations, that I will peak at the "right" time for my "A" race.

For now, I just need to remind myself that I'm training for the Utah 1/2 IM. I'm working on accomplishing something different than a 1/2 marathon. The races I'm doing now will definitely add to my fitness, but may not be meeting my expectations. I just need to shift my expectations to meet the reality of training and racing. My "A" race will go well, because I'm putting in the time and effort now to make sure that I'm completely prepared. I just have to remember how to define my terms of success and failure.


Andy's mom said...

I loved reading your blog.
Keep up the training. You have the drive and the spirit.

Call me 678-0921 if you want to ride or run in Peoria with a partner. I'm recovering from the cincinati marathon last Sunday. Nice job at Indy! Chris Sweet's mom, Elaine

Adrianne said...

I hope you don't get too discouraged AJ. I'm so impressed with all that you are accomplishing! It's inspirational. You seem to always reach all the goals you've set for yourself. Good luck!