I don’t mean to do it.  I really don’t, but I have a habit of letting my expectations get out of hand.  I typically set out with reasonable targets and goals for myself, however along the way they start to grow.  First a little here.  Then a little more there.  The next thing I know, what I think is possible for me in a race is completely different than where I started out at the beginning.  I have an active imagination and as I’m out on training runs I picture myself flying down the trails at the end of a race clocking 10-12 minute miles.  Never do I fantasize about literally limping across the finish line at 2mph even though my history tells me this is the much more likely outcome the longer the race.

The ironic thing about this is that running seems to be the only area in my life where this shows up.  In all other aspects, I’m able to keep my expectations under control.  Under promise and over deliver may as well be my life motto I live it so well.  Or maybe it’s that I can manage expectations outward better than I can inward.  I’m always striving to do better than yesterday so maybe I’m just not wired to expect less of myself.

My latest example of this is Project 14Forty, where I hope to run my first 100-miler in under 24 hours.  Now based on my history and updated training plan, I think this is a doable goal.  This would be about a 10% improvement off my 100-mile PR and that was far from a well executed race.  So getting to the starting line healthy with a solid block of training should get me a finish time with a 23 handle on it.  But I’ve already started looking past this to Old Domion in June, where I would also like to run under 24 hours (no buckle for anything slower).  OD100 typically has finish times about 10% slower than Umstead based on RealEndurance.com so in order to be at that level, I’d need to run Umstead in under 22 hours.  And so that has crept up and is now my target even though it is unlikely I can go crank out a 5 hour PR.

I need to let it go.  For my sanity and mental health, I need to stop thinking about those times.  For my ability to fully enjoy my upcoming races, I need to lower my expectations and be satisfied with whatever time shows on the clock.  This doesn’t mean I’m planning on dialing back on my training.  And it doesn’t mean I’m not going to give these races everything I’ve got.  It just means I’m going to expect less than awesome from myself.  Expectations high, but not quite so stratospheric.  I have no doubt that managing my expectations for Umstead and Old Dominion will be harder than any 25 mile training run I do leading up to the races.

Now to go rip up those mental pace charts and start fresh. . .

How do you manage your expectations heading into races?

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