|What I feel like after a bad race (Note: Outside of this moment, NC is a very happy kid. Swear.)|
Confession: I am a sore loser.
Nearly every single day, I tell E—who is the most sports-obsessed almost-4-year-old in the world—that winning isn't important. When he sticks out his bottom lip in a pouty reaction to the news that the D.C. Nationals lost or bursts into tears after one of his buddies beats him in a sprint down the sidewalk, I am quick to step in with my “Everyone has to lose sometimes” life lesson. But deep down inside, I get it. I know it sucks to get outnipped at the line or to watch someone else celebrate a victory that you wish was yours. And while I would (obviously!) never throw a tantrum as a result of a loss like my dear son, I do experience a similar raw, emotional response, only internally. I may smile and shrug it off as a bad day, but later on, when it's just me and my thoughts, I all too easily stumble into a puddle of pity, which I wallow in for way too long.
It's not like I'm even used to winning. As a runner, I've had moderate success but never on a level that would ever give me any sort of sense of entitlement. I don't approach the starting line with the “I'm the fastest one here, I can win this” mentality. Rather, I assume that even the gray-haired 80-year-old can beat me (hey, it's happened). For me, “winning” a race is running smart, setting a PR, maybe even placing in my age group. Mostly, I just want to feel strong from start to finish without letting a negative thought cross my mind.
And when that doesn't happen? When I go out too fast or let self-doubt step between me and a solid finish? When I tell myself I'm too tired to pick up the pace or to pass that person steps ahead of me? To me, that's a loss. And I can't help but beat myself up for it. Was all of that training a waste of time? Am I just so weak that I can't push through the pain? Do I even deserve to call myself a runner?
Dramatic? Yep. But my long-term relationship with running is an extremely intimate, though volatile one. I love it. I hate it. I want it to be better. Maybe I'd be happier if we just parted ways.
I read once that Dathan Ritzenhein gives himself one day to get over a bad race. (I think it's a rule his wife enforces...which I totally get...who wants a grumpy husband moping around the house for longer than that?). I try to live by that standard. I tell myself, take 24 hours to analyze splits, rehash the race, figure out what went wrong. After that, you've just gotta move on. Or at least try to.
That works. Sometimes. But nearly 48 hours after my last (not-so-great) race, I'm still hanging out at that pity party like a bad guest who refuses to leave. And because I clearly need work in this area, I'm curious: How do you move beyond a sub-par performance?