Saturday, April 16, 2011

Expectations - motivators for success and destroyers of satisfaction

I think it is fair to say that we are our own worst critic. I facilitate programs with people struggling with addictions and help them to learn the skills of acceptance. Of learning to 'thank' our mind for both helpful and unhelpful thoughts without buying into them to much in order to stop struggling with trying to be happy all the time (it takes a lot of energy trying to live up to the 'feel good' society we live in! How boring to be happy all the time anyway! I digress - that's another blog altogether). What I am trying to say is I don't always practice what I know works.

So, I am my own worst critic. I believe that this is one trait that pushes me and others to do great things. But on the flip side, when the critic becomes louder than your other thoughts (and unreasonable) it's important to remember when to back it off and see the bigger picture. Which brings me to the QLD State Olympic Distance Championships. I was geared up, primed and ready to go. Sure, it was a little last minute. The original plan was to do Mooloolaba (which was a fortnight prior) then take a week or so off before beginning the build for Cairns. But after a great race at Mooloolaba, I thought "why not one more while I'm on fire?". It appeared the planets had lined up - it coincided with both Sydney (which meant some top dogs were away) and the Sprint Distance Championships, which meant less 'cream' to whip my way through to the top. Admittedly, there were signs that I would benefit from not racing. My body was pretty beat up after Moo'ba. It took two full days off before I felt like doing any semblance of training. But I persevered with the thought of having 2 different distance state championships to my name in one season (I am the current long course champ after my efforts at Yeppoon last year). How cool, right?

Which brings me to my expectations - I really believed that I was in with a serious shot at taking the title. So I slogged away for a few weeks of training, trying to balance resting my body and getting sessions in (logically I know it is rarely possible to heal from an injury and train at the same time, but sometimes logic is so debilitating ;) The signs were there for the inevitable - I woke up with quite a sore throat on the Friday morning before the race. Bugger! Off to the pharmacy for lots of Vitamin C and Echinacea throat lozenges. Admittedly, this seemed to keep the symptoms at bay although lethargy was creeping into my muscles and body in general. Never fear, I will still win!!! Which brings me to the big day - Sunday morning @ Redcliffe for the big event. With support crew present and accounted for, I dived into the glorious (chuckle - yeah right!) bay and came out of the triangle swim course feeling like I had done an ok effort (90 seconds quicker than Moo'ba, but different course so hard to compare). The legs were heavy heading into transition and once onto the bike course I could tell that the zing I had on the bike a few weeks ago was missing. It was a hard 6 lap slog. About halfway through there was a slight incline for about 500m - nothing really on a normal day but on this day it took a lot of concentration to keep the pedal down. Also, I could see someone I was racing at each turn, and they were maintaining a 40 - 50 second lead. This was frustrating and took me out of 'my square metre' - I was paying more attention to keeping up with him than what my body was telling me. I'll admit, for the first time in ages I was happy to get off the bike and onto the run. Out onto the flat run course and I could see Matty (Breakspear) about 400m down the track. Having spent some time training with him on our quick track intervals, I knew that on his day he has a blinder of a run. So I was constantly checking my thoughts - "you'll never catch him, 2nd for you (I thought he must have been in the lead)" to "forget about him, keep your pace, your race" to "he's faster than you, just give up" to "you're in good form mate, you've trained hard, you can do this"... you get the picture! How tiring, right! You know what? The more time in my space I got, not thinking about much more than 'high hips' and 'quick leg turnover', each time I tuned back in Matty was closer and closer. So close in fact that at about the 3k mark I was within 20m and closed the gap quick. I passed him with a quick hello and endeavored to keep the pace up and not look back. I knew I would see how the gap was going at each turnaround. At about 6k's I could see that I had put a substantial gap in - luckily as my body was fatigued and I could feel the difference my cold was making. I think I drifted off into la-la land for a few k's. I did give in to the 'negotiating' part of my brain - I made the deal that I could sit on this 'easier' pace (still solid though) until the last turn around, after which I had to put the foot down. Which I did. I finished strong and when I crossed the finish line was confident that I had put everything into it that I could. Back to managing you expectations: I expected a lot out of myself today and while I knew I was sick I still had that burning desire to take the win. I put everything on the line. Turns out, when they presented the medals I had finished in 2nd place - the guy who won had been almost 2 minutes in front of me! For a while, I felt really disappointed. I had high expectations of myself and had expected to win. I pushed myself to the edge to pass Matty thinking he was in the lead. My family had come to watch, my Aunty from WA was there - I wanted them to see me win! Expectations are great, but they can be an evil force without perspective. I've had a great season over the past 8 months. I've won a few races, I've finished my first Ironman, I've continued to set new personal bests. It can be motivating and a lot of fun to keep improving. It feels good and can be quite addictive. But should I 'expect' myself to win a race? Hardly. For starters, 'we're not racing for cattle stations', right? I think it is more helpful to 'expect' that when I toe the line in the sand at the start, I will give it everything I've got, at that point in time, on that particular day. I will put my heart into it and race with passion and a smile. With those kinds of expectations everything else will fall into place. It is when expectations turn into pressure that issues arise. My race was great, a new personal best for this distance. Typing this in hindsight I can see how ridiculous that way of thinking was when I first realised I didn't win - I finished 2nd at the QLD Championships! That's awesome! Yet my expectations had taken away (or at least postponed) some of the enjoyment of what is a great achievement. Thanks to my 'Whippet' support crew - you guys turn any event into an extravaganza! It is so inspiring to see you on the course. Now that I have had a *ahem* forced break (with my cold) the focus shifts onto some big blocks of training leading up to Cairns in June. Lesson learnt though - everything in moderation and a balance of expectations and perspective to keep my sanity.

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