Sunday, April 12, 2015

The ego

Today, I had a really tough run. I had my last long run, 12 miles, on my half marathon training plan. Most of my runs have been fast and comfortable lately, and I didn't expect this one to be any different. I've run this distance many times, and wasn't feeling particularly nervous about it. But the universe has a way of balancing everything out, and I was schooled today in pushing myself hard. This run started out tough and never got easier. Lack of sleep and a little tummy troubles didn't help, either. My last half marathon, a month ago, was run with an average pace of 8:34 min/mile, and while I didn't expect to run this long run at that pace, I hoped for sub-9. I got that, but it was tough.


Humbling, in fact.

When I grew up, my mom always said never to get "too comfortable" with how things were going. One day you're up, and the next day, the rug comes out from under you. That can apply to the road as well. I think you have to be willing to accept your shortcomings as well as your bad days to really appreciate when things are going well. Everything does tend to even out, right?


Seinfeld "Even Steven"
You do have to keep your ego in check. Because if you push too hard, you're going to get hurt. Actually, every yoga teacher I have taken a class with has said: "Check your ego at the door." There's so much wisdom imparted at yoga class, but this is my favorite. It is such a great reminder that we're all students, and that we're always learning. Whether its at a job or on the road, we should have our minds open and willing to accept ourselves where we are at, at that point in time. Not every day is going to be good. Not every run is going to be easy. Some days, we just won't be able to hold a balance pose. Last week I was talking with a woman who hurt herself at CrossFit. She took some time off to train for a marathon, and when she went back to the gym, she started lifting weights she was lifting at her peak. Hurt her back, and she can't do anything right now. Her comment to me? "I let my ego get in the way."


A while ago, I wrote a post about finding the right coach. One of my friends reminded me in a very insightful comment that you have to be willing to put your ego aside and allow yourself to be coached. This is great advice. After this post, some people commented that they know enough to coach themselves. While I don't doubt that, an objective outsider may see something you might be missing. Let's face it, it's hard to be objective about ourselves. In working with Becky, I've been humbled many times--and it can be a little uncomfortable. When she was teaching me how to "clean" a bar (not what you're thinking), I was mortified at my lack of coordination. Truth be told, I felt stupid. But I was willing to laugh at myself--why not, she was! Eventually, I did get the mechanics of that move. By learning how to do that and other new activities, I've become stronger in the gym and faster on the road. But I had to be willing to put my ego aside.



Putting your ego aside is not easy for anyone. Especially in the world of distance running. I see this on my Facebook feed a lot. One of my favorite sayings is that we are all on our own journey, but when you are constantly seeing posts about people running faster than you or farther than you, it starts to make you question yourself. Am I a real runner? Why am I not faster? Playing the comparison game is a trap that is easy to fall into through social media, and I'm not immune to that either. I've got a few friends running ultras this year, and the race they've chosen sounds like fun. Lucky for me, they've included me in plans for training runs, and I'll go run a portion of the ultra with them. I have to remind myself that my body can't stand up to the grueling distance, and besides, I'm working on a different goal--a sub 4 marathon. Plus, I really have no desire to run farther than 26.2. Still, I can't help but feel a little tug that I should be running an ultra too. After all isn't the ultra the new marathon? I just read that somewhere.

Sigh...

The ego can get in the way of relationships too. I've heard stories about running friendships becoming too competitive, and eventually ending. Guess it's a good thing I train alone! I'd sure hate to lose a good friend because of running. Years ago, I lost a friend because of competition between our boys. Trust me, it wasn't me who was having the issue. Boy, did that one hurt.

Interestingly, I've had this issue with my sister, the one I'm so close with. She gets really uncomfortable when I talk about running, in fact, last year she pretty much told me not to talk about running at all. Because running is so important to me, it really bothered me a lot. I had to step back and think about this for a long time before I came to the realization that this wasn't about me at all. It was about my sister's ego, and how much my success at running made her feel inadequate. I don't know how things are in your family, but my sister is supercompetitive, and has to be the best at everything. Growing up, I was always the one she could best in most things, and it still plays out, even in adulthood. Since I love my sister and every other aspect of our relationship is good, I just roll with it.

In spite of the problems it can cause, the ego isn't all bad.


Today, my ego wouldn't let me quit. While I tried to keep my thoughts positive, I couldn't help but chastise myself at times for feeling so crummy. I analyzed what I had eaten the last couple of days. Sipped my Tailwind and waited for the magic to happen. Tailwind isn't a magic potion, but it gave me the energy I was lacking to push hard on today's run. Mentally, I needed this run, and I worked for every mile I ran today. I don't think that's a bad thing. I ran hard and I ran uncomfortable. My training with Becky has taught me to do that. And finished with a time I could be proud off. Miles are miles, after all. After today, I know that I'm ready to run that half no matter how I feel.

What would you have done? Would have have called it a day and stopped? Pushed through? Have you lost a friend over competition? 

I'm linking up with Tara at RunningNReading for her Weekend Update! Be sure to head over to her blog to check out all the other posts. And don't forget to link up with me for the Taking the Long Way Home book club!















44 comments :

  1. Some of the stuff you write sounds like you "stole" it from my brain LOL We are so in sync with so many things :-) I assume it's the ultra in July that you're referring to? ...and you'll be joining us for some of it (?????) #soexcited #gonnabesweet Thanks for another great read :-)

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    1. I hope too! And you know where I got some of the other inspiration from. I think I need to road trip to Iowa to run one of your races! I'm waiting to see about the Chicago lottery and then maybe August?

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  2. Gosh, we are #solesisters. I have the same issues with some...some that are supposed very close friends but can't be happy for my accomplishments due to their own unhappy lives.
    GREAT job getting it done my friend. I too struggled with my long run yesterday, there were tears, cussing, and then the reminder of why I run as I eased in and had a few very happy miles. Love you my friend.

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    1. Back at you! <3 I just love this community and the friends I've made here. You get me, and that's really awesome. I can't wait to see you in 3 weeks!

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  3. I love this post Wendy....so much food for thought.... What defines a runner? I initially had some trepidation about starting a running themed blog when I have never run a full-marathon.... and I'm also not fast.... 9:23 pace for a half-marathon just yesterday was my best.... but do you need to run fast or run an ultra-marathon to join the club? I don't think so... I think I still have something to say that could benefit someone... I think the running community is all-inclusive, especially as you get older.... I loves seeing the variety of age and weight and pace at the half I did everyday.... I've also had long runs that were tough and I completed, and long runs where I started and cut it short.... I have not lost any friends over running yet, but I do catch myself making sure that I am not talking about it all the time with my non-running friends, which is 95% of them!

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    1. When I started the blog, I worried about having anything relevant to say, or about running about of topics. So far that hasn't happened, in fact, the topics are really starting to flow. And that's a great pace for a half! Congrats!

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  4. I just took my first yoga class in several years, and the teacher said that exact thing about checking our egos at the door. I thought she was brilliant, but you just let the cat out of the bag! No mater how many instructors say it, I still think it's a great way to start a class.

    You ended up with a great run, despite how you felt. I would definitely have kept running. I can be pretty stubborn; sometimes to my own detriment. :-(

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    1. Stubborn or determined? You be the judge. I'm glad I finished it too.

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  5. Great post and topic, Wendy. I think I used to deal with ego quite a bit. It's still there, but when it comes to training runs, I am very much able to release it. I think part of that was doing MAF training--there was no way to have an ego and do it. I had to be a slow old slug at the beginning, but that slowness had so much payoff for me. So now I am the first to just step back and go easy if that is what I set out to do. Now today at the race, I will admit, my ego started playing with me. I got ahead of the 7:30 pacer and said to myself, "you can do this." At the same time, I realized that was my ego talking and that I might pay for that. It all worked out in the end, but it could have been a big mess, all due to my stupid ego. So yes, it's a hard thing to release as a runner--no one will fault you for wrestling with that today!

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    1. I think you've got my number..I don't have the patience for MAF training, but more likely my ego would go crazy if I tried it! As I get older, I may have to tho...to maintain my endurance and speed.

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  6. Very interesting topic. One of the reasons my coach doesn't like me to race too often. If I claim I'm just doing it for fun/training and I won't go too hard she knows me better - I love to compete. I've had tough workouts like you describe. In most cases I tough them out. Sometimes I modify (if I'm really hurting and don't think I'll be recovered enough for another key session) and on very rare occasions I bail entirely (my 20 miler for my first marathon I had to bail at mile 16 due to an IT Band flareup). It is also interesting to think about different goals (ultra versus marathon, etc.) - it is very difficult to be good at everything - even though it is so tempting to try many things. I love being a triathlete but I also wonder how I would do if I spent a season focused on cycling only.

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    1. I'm a runner and I have to remind myself of that. Even tho I like cycling. Marathoning is a stretch for me and I know it--which is why I've only done 2 so far. But I've got that goal of a sub-4 and I'm determined to do it. My ego makes me see my goals through, which isn't a bad thing.

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  7. As usual, a great post. I think so many of us have been in this position before. It's a great reminder that I need to rest and not think I'm better than I am. Love you so much, Wendy!!!

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    1. It's ok to think you're better but also to be realistic... <3

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  8. I'm actually going to send this to someone I coach!!! she is so sore and tired, but doing 2xs the workouts I prescribed!! Ahh ego good for pushing us bad for so much more

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    1. It's hard to tell the ego to back down! Thanks for the share! :)

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  9. Wendy, I would have done exactly what you did. The ego is a double edge sword and yet another part of life we have to find a balance. You've got this Wendy!

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    1. So many factors figure into our workouts--physical fitness is just one of them!

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  10. My hubby and I were talking about ego this weekend. He has been invited to ski in August in Wisconsin in a Legends event. My hubby was a professional water skier for years but I don't think I have seen him go over a jump in a few years ( he is now 60) - he does not want to write any checks his body can't cash but I see that glimmer in his eyes thinking well maybe............great post, I know I try to push myself but I am a realist so I think I balance myself out. Sorry about your friends, the friends I started with don't run anymore, what? I finally caught up, it is weird, they don't visit the blog either. Jealousy is a terrible thing- well, Happy Monday my friend!

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    1. Haha, tell your hubby this old lady still waterskis too! I was never great at it, but I can still get up on one ski and slalom a bit...so there's that!

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  11. Wendy, I struggle with this, too, sometimes; fortunately, my body is pretty good at telling me what I can and cannot do and there's no changing it's mind - ha! I have a tattoo on the inside of my left arm/wrist that says "Run your race." It's a great reminder for me that, in so many areas of my life, I need to do what's right for me and not worry about what everyone else is doing. Thanks for sharing and thanks for linking up with the blog today; hope your week is off to a good start.

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    1. That's a good tattoo and great place for a reminder! It's so hard not to get caught up in the crowd--on the road and off!

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  12. I have had plenty of bad runs. I just drag myself through them. I am competitive in race but in runs, not so much.
    Nope, I am lucky. I have friends who are slower than me and still like me, I think!

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    1. That's the sign of a true friend! We're all on our on journey!

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  13. A great piece - I really enjoyed it. I'm also a lone runner and maybe its time for me to think about getting some help (coaching) if I'm ever going to get any faster. For some reason I have a major block in doing this. I won't even join a running club!!
    It really can't be my ego as I'm so slow I've nothing to be cocky about.
    I'm new to your site but looking forward to reading more. Thanks again for an interesting read.

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    1. I was the same as you--I didn't want to ask for help. But I was slowing down and kept getting injured--and I'm not ready to hang up my running shoes. So I did get a coach. For some reason, it was really hard for me. And yes, I don't belong to a running club either. Why? I don't know...

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  14. I agree with you about social media and the comparison game. You are an amazing runner! I use social media mostly for accountability and support. It's hard not to compare yourself to fast runners, or marathon runners, or ultra runners.

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    1. I use social media to connect with other runners, but sometimes I find myself looking at what others are doing and think that I should be doing that...I have to take a step back and remind myself what it is I'm doing.

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  15. This is a phenomenal post! And exactly what I needed to read after such a tough week of running for me. My first 4 weeks of training for this half were pretty much smooth sailing, but this week took me down a peg. Which in the end is good, because it reminds me that I need to continue working hard, and also that I need to work on my mental barriers as well as the physical. Thank goodness for running, because I feel like it is the thing in my life that tests me in these particular ways the most.

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    1. And don't you feel like the skills gained from those tests extend to your life off the road too? I definitely feel a little tougher. But my ego causes problems for me in that realm too...

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  16. Great post, Wendy--very insightful, and it's something to which all of us runners and bloggers can relate. I struggle with ego, too. Ego is why I won't try swimming even though I know it's a fantastic complement to running. It's why (up until last year) I ran every half marathon like I was trying to PR. It's why I won't post my current pace on my blog.

    One good thing about my injury is that I've gotten better at setting my ego aside. I don't need to race every half marathon--if I did, I would get hurt. I'm getting better about not comparing myself to others, too. You know--the fast young women who can train like crap and bust out a 1:40 half marathon PR.

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    1. Haha! I have a 10 miler on Saturday and I'm struggling with--I want to race it but it's really a training run. Sigh. Ego.

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  17. What great information. I think my ego would get in the way if my ol body could actually do what my mind wants it to do, lol.

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  18. For years, I didn't talk to my sister about running because I knew it made her sad. She had 3 knee surgeries and couldn't run. But she has recently started running again and will run with me this weekend.

    It's hard not to play the comparison game. Unfortunately, I can play lots of head games. I was quite humbled last summer after some horrible races. You still had a great run, as they all teach us something. Good luck on your 10 miler. I've never raced that distance.

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    1. The 10 miler is my favorite distance! Too bad there aren't more of them.

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  19. That's funny what your wrote about running an ultra is how I feel about running a full. While I'd rather keep bettering my half, the longest distance I really want to run, it seems I am not up to par if I don't got for a full. I guess there is always something more right? Some of the people I run with are now training for triathlons...do I need to learn to swim now too? Yes, our egos can definitely get in the way but they also help keep us going! Great post! Have a wonderful week!

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    1. And I didn't even mention the tris. Yep, several of my friends are taking up triathlons this year. Nope. Won't get sucked in. Sigh.

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  20. You are so insightful! As I was that gif was on my screen so long, that all I can see now is that poor girl's ankle folding! Ouch! But we always have to have bad days to appreciate the good ones right!!

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  21. Great post. Great thoughts. I have no running ego. I think this may be from starting this passion so much later in life, because I am super competitive innately. I think of personal running successes and "trials" the way I think about my grandkids' endeavors... Did you do your best today? Did you give up? Was your sportsmanship level in HIGH gear? If you're disappointed, can you identify some things to work on? Let's talk about it. Etc. Etc. Etc.

    Of course, I LOVE running what I consider fast for me. My fastest MILE ever, a 7.59, I stopped and asked a stranger to take a photo of me at that place! But running 13-minute miles on my treadmill during this past snowy, crazy winter is OK, too. I have personal goals that I've achieved and more to try for. But it's just ME in MY brain. I'm wise enough to know that a million things go into one mile of body, heart & soul. Sometimes everything aligns, sometimes nothing does. I run for Joy, for Thinking, for Challenge, for LIFE... and I leave my ego at my back door. As far as quitting during a run or training run, I wouldn't stop unless I felt it injurous to continue. I remember one half-marathon training run at mile 9 or so when I felt I was going to faint from hunger. I called my husband and asked him to drive to where I was running and deliver thin apple slices and peanut butter. THAT's all I could think about. He did. I finished 12 miles! Then there was my most recent half when I had such cramps that I wanted to scream. I was headed to a PR, but what kept me going was that I had grandkids on the course, cheering me on. No PR. But I finished. I am just incredibly thankful that I can swim, bike and RUN. Incredibly ego-lessly thankful

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    1. Maybe this wisdom comes with time? Someone told me I'm insightful, and I find your response truly amazing--and insightful. I'd like to think I leave my ego at the back door, and I'm getting better about it, but I still push myself at times when it might be better to stop. I think I still have some unfinished business.

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  22. I bet you give some really good advice to your patients! This really sheds light on both sides of the issue of ego. I have been in both places where i have been humbled and been almost at odds with a friend talking about running. I am trying to hear her more and be sensitive to her own frustrations, we are at very different places in life and she is till trying to find time it exercise.
    I have felt inadequate at times, because I've yet to run a marathon, I always tell folks I can JUST do a half, which I should be proud of, but usually down play it.

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    1. I know that feeling of inadequacy, which is what pushed me to do my first marathon. And it was a disaster. Don't push yourself if you don't want to. And it's never "just a half". Judging by all the 13.1 stickers I see on the backs of cars, a half is a pretty big deal!

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