Managing Expectations

Life lately has been sort of a jumble. Orientation the last week of August. A long weekend in Northern Michigan to celebrate Labor Day. Classes and a never ending pile of coursework starting immediately after. And running. Or at least trying to find the time and energy to run.

Mileage was a little light during orientation. After extra long days on campus (both work and orientation) I was just too tired to head out for more than 4-5 miles. But the weather finally started cooling down and I had a really excellent HILLY 14 mile long run that weekend.

And then things really got off track. On Tuesdays I work from 7-3:30, have a two hour break for dinner and homework, then am in class from 5:30-8:30. Add in some time commuting and it is about a 15 hour day. Right now, Tuesdays are my rest days. After the half marathon I might change that by making better use of my gap. Last week I was exhausted on Wednesday and took that day off as well. I filled up Saturday with errands and homework, and somehow the day passed without finding time for a run. Sunday was a miserable 14 miler.

Part of this is my fault, because Saturday’s “dinner” consisted of wine, cheese, and crackers. When I tried to step the pace up to sub-8:00s, it was nearly impossible and felt awful. And the other part was that I could not stop thinking about just how much work graduate school is going to be. And how I haven’t really put together a solid training week since before my vacation. Which means I’m probably not going to have an awesome race in two weeks. And if school means less running, I’m probably not going to be making any massive strides in the next 4 years. Running is a major part of my identity. If I’m not running anymore, than who am I?

And at that point I had stopped running and was crying. Just awesome. I decided I would walk for a quarter mile and try to calm down. I know I will still be a runner even if have to cut back on my training. I know that if I am really proactive with my scheduling and time management I can still train at a high level. But first I need to adjust to being a student again.

I’m trying to take any expectations off of my upcoming race. I’ll train the best I can over the next two weeks and whatever happens on race is what happens. I’ve put in a lot of solid mileage since my PR last fall, so it is possible that I will see another PR. It is also possible that it just won’t be my day.

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10 thoughts on “Managing Expectations

  1. I’m sure you’ll do better at your race than you think you will. You’ve been training really hard all summer!

    I can understand the fear you feel about potentially losing something that’s been such a huge part of your life, and how the uncertainty about your running future causes you anxiety. But think of it this way: your relationship with running isn’t ending, it’s just changing. The great and wonderful thing about running, that brings all of us runners together, is that it’s not just some sport or hobby or training plan – it’s a great metaphor for life, endurance, love, and vitality. You could never pin on a race bib in your life, or never see an iota of improvement in your pace, but still run every damn day if you want to and have just as much claim to the title of “runner” as someone who has run 30 marathons. Believe me, I understand how hard it is to “just run” when you’re someone who is motivated by improving and having goals. But, sometimes life steps in and makes these decisions for us, and we have to figure out a way to navigate new terrain. It might just be something you have to figure out as you go. Maybe one semester you’ll get a break and you’ll have time to train and make gains. Maybe that will be several semesters, or none at all, or who knows, maybe you’ll discover a new sense of motivation and purpose in your running. Whether you train or not, running is always there for you. Let it be that constant that gets you through the busy years and the rough semesters.

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    • I’m trying really hard to stay positive about my upcoming race and remind myself of all the really great runs I have had, but in the past few weeks I just have not been able to break 8:00 pace.

      After this race I’ll be doing my best to just figure it out as I go, but for someone who is a planner for all aspects of life, it is really hard to let go. As always, thanks for your encouragement and support.

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  2. Everyone has different seasons of life. As long as you are running, you are a runner. Even if you’re not setting PRs or even running in a race. Getting out there and hitting the pavement, trails, track, or treadmill is what makes you a runner (side note: I hate when people act like treadmilling isn’t real running, too).

    I don’t think your race will be affected too much by a few off weeks, but I *do* think worrying about it and stressing over it will affect you. You’re a runner, just let your body do what it knows how to do best and don’t worry too much about the time. It will come, just enjoy the process- even if it’s not a linear process.

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    • I’m pretty sure treadmill running is actually torture, not running. But the benefit to being a student again is free access to the university gym, so at least now I’ll get to choose between freezing in the winter and dying of boredom on the treadmill.

      And I tend to agree. Effort-wise my training has been fine, but I can tell that the stress is having a big effect on my pacing. I’ve been trying to run later at night so I can get a lot of homework out of the way before my run, and that seems to be helping. It is definitely better than feeling like I need to rush through a run to make time for homework afterward.

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  3. New to your blog, but is my assumption that you just started a grad program accurate?

    If it is, then don’t worry too much about how crappy you feel the first few months. I remember when I first started grad school (classes plus teaching plus a side job), I thought I was going to die. I was ridiculously overwhelmed. And it was HARD to be on campus all day (I had a few days that started early and ended late with breaks in them too).

    But I adjusted, and by the time I graduated, I was handling it like a champ. I was still busy, but I was nowhere near as exhausted and flustered as I was to begin with. You’ll probably adjust too, and I bet that it will get easier to add running in as the semester progresses.

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    • Hi Katie, welcome! Yes I just started a graduate program in library science. I’m only doing 6 credits a semester, but I am also working full time. I’m really glad to hear that you were able to find balance after a few months and hopefully I’ll be able to do the same.

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  4. I feel like I can relate to this a lot because something similar happened earlier this year. I was training for my marathon and life got in the way (buying a house, getting married, changing jobs) and running had to take a back seat. The good thing is that running will ALWAYS be there, so just take this time to get used to your routine. I know it’s hard when running is such a big part of your identity, but that’s not all that you are and you should take some pressure off yourself. We always try to do it all, but we can’t always do that! Just do the best you can 🙂

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    • Thanks so much, Gretchen! I was feeling really stressed out about this and kind of alone with my anxieties, and I forgot that you pretty much went through the exact same thing this spring. I’m feeling a lot better knowing that I’m not alone and knowing that you were able to jump right back into training this summer.

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  5. Props to you for juggling grad school, working full-time, and training. I’ve thought about going back to school, but I just can’t imagine trying to do it on top of working full time. Your upcoming race may not end up being what you hoped, but I’m confident that once you get into the new schedule you’ll figure out how to make it work and continue running and racing to your expectations.

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  6. Oh no, take a few more deep breaths and know that everything WILL be okay. You’ve just started your program and it will take a few weeks to nail down a new schedule that really works for you in all aspects of your life. It’s frustrating that school started during the height of training, but it’s a worthwhile “distraction.” You will figure out a way to make it all work, I promise! During grad school I was a full time student, full time marketing manager, part time teacher and part time freelancer. It was the most insane and busy period of my life but it was worth it! Just give yourself a couple more weeks to get into a routine that works for you! Good luck! You’ve got this!

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