I had my first race of the year on Sunday. Like most runners (I suspect) I have a goal for my pace and then I have a secret goal for my pace.

My goal pace was 6:00/km and my secret goal pace was 5:30/km.

And then this happened, and I was right on target.

8km-race

Which was kind of good. And kind of not good. And when I finished it, I struggled with it a little bit. On the one hand I was glad I hit my target pace, on the other hand I was disappointed. And then I kind of felt guilty for feeling disappointed. But there it was, I was disappointed and there wasn’t a whole lot I could do about that.

I’ve been doing tempo runs at just over 6 minutes on hills for awhile now. And I’ve been training to improve my short race speed for three months. So while I was so happy to be getting those personal bests, I kind of felt like it wasn’t a great result for all the work I’ve been doing. Especially when just before I moved to hill central I did a 5k run on the flat in 30 minutes and it was pretty easy.

Which got me thinking about disappointment. And how it is actually okay, if you use it for good.

1. Assess your expectations

Is your goal (or your secret goal) reasonable? Is it backed up by your training plan? Have you put in the work? Or is your goal just too much of a leap? I don’t think 5:30 was overly ambitious on my part, but maybe it was! And it’s good to keep in mind that my overall goal was for my training plan, not for my race. So the goal for the training plan was to be able to do 5k on hills under 30 and I haven’t done a time trial yet. I’m thinking two. One on the hills and one on the flat and see what happens.

2. What went wrong?

Some things are outside your control. Things like weather conditions. But some things are well within your control. Was there anything that didn’t work that you would have done differently?

In my case there were a few things that didn’t quite come together. It was windy and hot and I’m used to doing my runs at 5 in the morning, not at 8. Unbeknownst to me at the time I was actually on my way to being quite sick with a cold and a temperature. Nothing that serious but suddenly that feeling like I was going to pass out for most of the run makes a whole lot more sense, as does why I had trouble getting my breathing under control. But if I could do it over I probably wouldn’t have quite so much dairy the day before . . .

3. Progress towards your goal is still progress

Finding the things that did work and that you are proud of are just as important. Although the run didn’t pan out exactly as I would have liked, I did manage my secret goal pace (on average) for the first 4kms which is as fast as I’ve ever gone. That is something I can definitely build on.

4. Rework your goal

Sometimes your goal might need tweaking. It might be a matter of working on your training for a bit longer, or making your attempt under different weather conditions or it might not need that much adjustment at all. Maybe you just had a bad day.

5. And remember it’s okay to be disappointed

It’s okay to be disappointed that you worked for something and fell short. Because it means that you are actually invested in it and you care about it. And that feeling might make you train a little harder, or work a little harder to get there. And when you do, it will be all the more amazing because it was a little more difficult than you thought it would be.

Zoey Dowling

Written by: operationmove

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