“Well, at least my uterus didn’t fall out!” – Finding Silverlinings When a Race Goes Bad

Red, orange, and yellow dance across the horizon. I cup my hands and huff into them. My arms look scaly, covered with with a littering of goosebumps. I turn to the sunrise and dream of the warmth I will soon feel.

“Five more minutes runners. Start making your way to the corral.” Noah announces. The Coldwater Rumble 20 mile race is about to begin.

No one moves. No one wants to leave the warmth of the space heaters scattered around the start/finish area.

“Don’t be shy. Step on up.” He jests, sounding vaguely like a carnie calling us to win the elusive giant stuffed animal at the county fair.

Slowly we shuffle over and jockey for position. Some, like me, hover at the back. Others jostle to the front. The latter will fly like gazelles while I look closer to a plodding turtle.

Three, two, one and go! We are off, the first steps taken on the next great adventure. Adventures take on many shapes and sizes. Today’s adventure wanders through the beautiful Estella Mountain Regional Park. In the shadows of the Gila Range, the trails traverse the cholla and saguaro desert. Creosote scents the air and the ocotillo bloom in the distance adding a touch of crimson to the greens and browns that paint this landscape. A truly beautiful representation of the environment that sits on the doorstep of the Phoenix Metropolis.

My relationship with this race is longer than most I enter. This will be my third year running and I hope for a personal record (PR). My goal of sub-4 hours is in my mind as I depress the button on my watch and take my first steps.

The first mile of this race presents the only significant climb. I know this and am prepared to hike, aware that my body needs to warm up before I start to push.

“Easy does it” I remind myself. I am wary of the ego that sits like a devil on my shoulder, taunting me to charge ahead. Humility rests on the other shoulder, quieter but wiser, and guides me to exercise restraint. Even with a helping hand however, my legs feel leaden. I slog up the hill hopeful this is not an omen.

Unfortunately, omen it is indeed. I am plagued with all manner of maladies. Food sits heavy in my queasy stomach, so I choose not to eat or drink much as all. Who said I need energy to run far? My shoulders and neck ache and my head feels like it will roll right off. Who said I need a head to keep my legs moving? Even my lungs burn. But no one told me I need to breath when I run.

When I finally crossed the finish line, 15 minutes and 38 seconds slower than my goal, I find my friends. I look into their inquiring eyes and say, “Well at least my uterus didn’t fall out!” hearkening back to a time when this myth was used to keep women from running long distances. The saving grace of a race gone sideways.

I blogged a while back about “When Good Runs Go South“. Unfortunately, those strategies did not rescue this race. So I have to find strategies that help me celebrate what I did accomplish lest I fall into a spiral of disappointment and self-deprecation.

How to Embrace the Good When all Seems Bad:

  • Find Your Gratitude – If you look, you will always find at least something positive. Gratitude, no matter how big or small, helps refocus on the positive.
    • “I am grateful that I have strong legs and lungs that carried me 20 miles today.”
  • What Goes Down Must Come Up – Every runner will have bad runs. Every runner will have good runs. Remember this….not every run (or race) can be your best performance.
    • “In order to have a good run another day, I must accept that today’s run was not-so-good.”
  • Laugh it Off – Self-deprecation can be destructive or it can be used as humor. Choose to use it wisely and add some levity to the situation.
    • “It could have gone worse, I could have lost my uterus out in the desert!”
  • Get Back on the Horse – Getting back out for a run the next day (unless you are injured of course) will help rebuild confidence and keep you in the groove.
    • “If only my race could have been as good as today’s run. Glad I got back out here to prove to myself that one bad run doesn’t spell doom for them all.”
  • Learn Your Lessons – Every bad run can teach us something about how to run better next time. Don’t waste an opportunity to use today’s bad run to learn a lesson or two.
    • “I now know that drinking coffee, even 4 hours before my race, will upset my stomach.”

All bad experiences can be morphed to provide benefit and value in our lives if we make the conscious effort. Staying mindful of these benefits requires effort, but the effort will have a far greater return on investment. Next time you have a bad run, or any bad life experience, seek these benefits rather than getting sucked into the vortex of shame and despair.

The journey continues……


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