Monday, August 12, 2013

Unexpected Life Lesson: Sabotaging Our Own Success

I never expected to write this post.

If you follow me on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram, you may have seen that I posted this week that I didn't reach a goal I was going for, a 30 minute 5K goal at a track race this Thursday night. I apologize for my demotivating caption. I still have a few weeks to go before my self-mandated deadline (my 30th birthday!), but I was REALLY hoping to get it that night. And I was REALLY disappointed that I didn't get it.

I thought I would write a post on how I did or didn't reach my goal, and the training tips or next steps that went along with the outcome. Instead, I learned a bigger life lesson.

Why didn't I reach my goal? Because I let my own self-doubt and anxiety sabotage my efforts.

I want the CSRS blog to be a positive, inspiring destination that hopefully lifts you up as you work towards your personal goals (whatever they may be).

I also strive to be real and honest. I don't wish to pretend that pursuing my running endeavors are all about me running effortlessly on a magic rainbow in my perfectly messy-on-purpose bun and Lululemon clothes laughing with my running friends about how wonderfully awesome we are (even though my friends are great!). The truth is it's often hard, mentally and physically. I don't always reach my goals and I deal with disappointment and frustration sometimes.

Being real and honest with you doesn't mean whining, and complaining, however. You come here to be entertained and get good firsthand information, not to be my punching bag to whom I can vent.

That's what husbands are for.

Thanks, B!

And let's be honest, it's really not that big of a deal. I'm not a college or professional athlete, so nothing is really at stake. Not to mention, this is really a #firstworldproblem, right?

That's why instead of rushing to get this article out for Fitness Friday, I took a little while to reflect on the situation and draw some learning. I love participating in the link-ups and connecting with my running blogger friends, but it's even more important that I provide honest, real stories with (hopefully) useful and valuable information.

Before the Race

Earlier this summer following my first half marathon, I set out to run a 30 minute 5K before my upcoming 30th birthday. My first race this summer was the Expo 5K, at about 33 min. I was unhappy with my time, which inspired me to work to this goal over the summer. My running program, RunKNOX, was focused on getting us faster. We did all kinds of track workouts -  anywhere from 200m to 800m repeats. These helped us get used to our goal pace in short bursts. It wasn't always fun. The track is an overwhelming environment for me. The workouts were hard.

As much as I disliked them, however, the workouts proved effective. I ran a 5K each month in June, July, and the first weekend of August, each progressively a little faster than the last. I ran the Hotter 'N Hell 5K last weekend at 32:01 - my best time of the summer. Considering that there was a long hill that slowed me down, I figured I was more or less prepared for a 30 minute 5K. Since I'm counting 30:anything as success  (I realized I hadn't clearly defined my goal early on), I was only 1:02 away from my goal. Without hills, I could do that, right?

Hence why I decided to try a 5K on the track. My coach, husband, and friends thought it would be a great opportunity to hit my goal since it was flat. I had already raced a mile two times at a local track race series. I'd even gotten down to a new mile PR of 9:04. I really enjoyed the events, but I wasn't a huge fan of doing a 5K on the track. The idea of it overwhelmed me, but I agreed with the logic that it would be a good opportunity to PR.

Given that last week I'd had a great workout on the track that even inspired some sassy smack-talk, and I'd had a great 5K Saturday, I was feeling confident throughout the week.

The Day of the Race

The day of the race, the anxiety hit me.

I have made such a big deal out of my 30 minute goal on my blog, and to everyone I know. What if I don't hit this goal? My friends are rooting for me - what if I let them down? Not to mention in front of everyone! 

Suddenly, I put pressure on myself and wasn't feeling so confident, and I started to worry about the race. Not to mention, the day of the race happened to be a stressful one. I showed up to the track feeling anxious. Anxious that I would fail, and anxious that the race would feel miserable.

That's another issue. I want running to feel great and be fun. The problem is that kind of running doesn't make you faster. The kind of running that makes you faster feels miserable and hard. I'm internally conflicted by my desire to be fast and my desire to enjoy running.

Seeing and cheering for my friends in their events took my mind off of it. B ran his 5K first with the men. He had a funny moment where he lost count of his laps. He thought he was finished when he really had one left to go! He stopped, realized his error after 10 seconds, finished his lap, and still PR'ed with a time less than 23 minutes. Go B!

The Race

Finally, it was time for us womenfolk to run our 5K. As I lined up, the anxiety intensified. It didn't help that I was standing next to very accomplished local runners and I knew I'd be last. It felt like this was going to be 12 laps of torture - I'd be worrying about my goal, exhausted from running, and mortified in front of everyone.

And that's exactly the reality I created for myself.

I let my anxiety magnify throughout the race. Early on, I felt like I didn't have a lot of energy. I was well hydrated and fueled via my magic running jelly beans. It could have been because I did a bootcamp class the day before, or because I'm watching my calories to hit a weight goal on my birthday (a different story for a different day), but it was likely due to my mental state. I saw in the first mile that I was tracking slower than my goal pace, and resigned to the fact there was no way to make that time up. 

Around me, fast runners were lapping me left and right, and I let that bother me. My heart sank when I heard 15 minutes called out, and I wasn't even close to halfway done. I felt so defeated. Honestly, I didn't even want to finish. But I couldn't quit (at least I had some resolve). It must have been obvious, because B and another RunKNOX friend were kind enough to run a couple laps with me and encourage me. I was thankful the crowd was supportive as well. Round and round the track, I thought it was never going to end. Everyone else finished when I still had a few laps left. I finished, but my time was the worst of the summer. I can't even bring myself to type it.

At first, I was upset and disappointed, and I even thought about not running again. Hence why I didn't write this post that night! Now that I've had time to think about it, I now see that it didn't have to be that way. 

I envisioned this outcome, and therefore it happened. By doubting myself and letting my emotions take over, I sabotaged my own success. I am responsible for this. 

B always says I have a cartoon cloud following me around. Thanks to my mad Photoshop skills, this image has been brought to life.

But how do I know I would have reached my goal had I stayed positive?

I don't know, of course, if I would have reached my 30 min. goal if I'd stayed positive. At least I would have given it my best effort, felt good about it, and enjoyed the race.

Where to Go from Here?

Good question. I'm not going to quit running, and I'm not going to give up on my goal. I only have a few weeks before my 30th birthday, and I'm going to do a 5K race every weekend up until the day. Now that I've seen the impact that self-doubt and negative thoughts can bring, I'm going to work to safeguard myself from negative, destructive feelings. I admittedly have no background in psychology, but here's how I plan to do it in my running:

  • Keep training. No brainer.
  • Not treat each race like a do-or-die situation. I plan to strive to reach my goal at each race, but it's not the end of the world if I don't hit my goal on that particular day.
  • Accept the fact that running in a race isn't an easy, comfortable, fun activity. There are many training and social runs in which I can run at an easy pace, chat with others, and have fun. A race is not one of them. To get the job done and achieve my goals, I need to push myself and not cling to my desire to be comfortable.
  • Envision a race scenario in which I'm positive, energetic, running strong, and successful. Plain and simple. I envisioned I wouldn't succeed, and I didn't. It stands to reason the opposite would work, right?
  • Accept that trying my best (in whatever conditions I'm given) is what I should expect from myself. While I am working towards a quantitative goal, my first and foremost goal should be to do my best each day, taking whatever conditions (weather, hills, uncomfortable environment, etc) I'm handed into consideration.
  • Don't worry about pleasing others. Haha - if I could do this, I would be a totally different person. At the very least, I would have tried out for American Idol.

This doesn't just happen in running, but in many areas of our lives where we hope to achieve big things. I hope that if I can adopt these practices, I'll become this:

Ninja skills, nunchuk skills, Photoshop skills...

Have you ever sabotaged your own success in running or other endeavors? How do you stay confident and positive?


See what others around the web are doing with these great fitness communities:Coffee & macarons

I was not compensated by RunKNOX for this post, nor is it affiliated with this blog. I am simply sharing my honest opinions and experiences. The views expressed in this article are solely my own. Also, I'm not a health or fitness professional of any kind. See my Terms and Conditions page.

Want more? Follow the CSRS Blog on  FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+, or Instagram for the latest updates, articles, and more!


  1. You write the best posts! No pressure to continue doing so :)
    I am the queen of self sabotage. I've not hit many a goal on race day.
    I'm working on being positive and not stressing too much, but it's hard.
    If you figure out the secret to not letting nerves get the best of you on race day, please let me know before November.
    You are so close to your goal. You'll do it!

  2. I frequently get inside my own head and mess up my results! Way to look back at it and make changes, that is the only thing we can do is grow and learn.

  3. I think trying to do any race distance on a track is a lot harder than a road race - so don't be so hard on yourself there. Tracks are 100% more mental game than physical... so the fact that you were already feeling blue amplifies the mental suck of the track! Self-doubt is a killer is just about anything. You're right about positive visualization being a strong factor in success. It can put your mind in the right place and thats what you need to achieve :) Great job girl - you're still getting out there and running and racing. And doing a 5k on a track is brave... I wouldn't do it!

  4. I get that feeling sometimes as a blogger. That awful feeling when you announce a goal and you don't achieve it. (I think we have all done it. I can name three times in the past 4 months, and that is just off the top of my head. I am sure you can find more on my blog). I have realized is that when I read that a blogger hasn't met their goal YET (they will get it), it just makes me root for them more! Good luck with your upcoming races and know that all of your readers are like your own personal cheer squad. We are rooting for you.

  5. I love this post, and I'm so glad you shared! I have definitely felt this way before, and I've read other running bloggers post about this, so I know you're not alone! I admire your determination to strive for your goal, and I am rooting for you so hard! But you know that if you don't do it, that DOES NOT mean you've failed. You will only fail if you give up, which you didn't do and that's awesome! It totally sucks not to beat your goal. It took me 4 tries to run my half marathon goal time. The 2nd try I want to do it so bad, and I barely beat my old time! It was tough, but it made my eventual victory that much sweeter. I think staying positive is the best thing, and you can definitely make up the time in the second half even if you start slower than you wanted. Plus, 12 laps around a track is TOUGH! That's really mentally tough on anyone. I think you're doing awesome, and I can't wait to hear about the rest of your upcoming races! You got this, girl!

  6. Sometimes I think I'm the queen of self sabotage! I love how you ended with where do I go from here! Such a great attitude :)

    I host a weekly Fitness Friday and I would love to have you join. This is the link for the latest link up if you want to check it out. Maybe I'll see your link included next week :)

    Love your blog!

  7. Great tips! I try not to think bad thoughts or worry about other people, but it's challenging at times.

  8. I went through the same thing. I never thing of a "race" anything more than a run anymore. It takes the pressure of if you have a "bad run" make up for it at the next one. Writing it down sounds silly but it helped me out and ran my first marathon with that mentality. I also focus on one thing. I went through a stage where I didn't know if I wanted to be fast or be speedy! I would get soooo pissed if I didn't run fast on a long run. I had to reevaluate things and focus on one or the other and all was well. BTW, I turn the "big" 3-0 on the 9th. Just remember how many people you are lapping every time you step onto the track!


  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. I feel your pain! I have bombed at several big races, simply because I psyched myself out. But seriously, it's impressive that you stuck with it when you were becoming so very discouraged. It's hard to keep going when you already feel defeated.

    Thanks for such an honest, open post. It's a situation I think we've all been in, but something we don't all talk about. And, you WILL hit your goal. And when it happens, it will be all the more sweet. :)