Monday, September 25, 2017

Let Yourself Be Awesome: On Overcoming Disappointment

On Saturday, I completed my first 12-mile run since 2005, and I aced it. My overall pace was 8:02 per mile, but the final two miles were in 7:44 and 7:49--and I was holding myself back to avoid injury. This is after running 7 hilly miles the day before at 7:30 pace to "tire myself out" for Saturday's long run. Needless to say, I was ecstatic!

But for weeks leading into this 2-day training session, I'd been filled with dread. In fact, I kept coming up with excuses to modify the workout or alter it completely. The major excuse was that I would end up injuring myself. I was too old; I was too out of shape; I was too heavy; I was too used to not running hard; I was (fill in the blank). Why was I so worried about hurting myself?

The Injury
Me in April before the Longhorn Run in Austin, Texas
Back in April, my training was humming along. I'd stack the miles up and knock them all down. I was even starting to get a bit cocky, to tell you the truth. Of course, I was nowhere near my trackstar days of high school and college, but I was creating a big divide from only a few months earlier when I weighed more than 265 pounds. Then, I strained my hamstring during my first attempt at an 8-mile run.

10 days later, I tried running a very slow 3 miles, but strained the same hamstring again around the half-way mark. My amazing momentum had officially been halted.

And the injury has been with me on every mile of every run since. Not physically, but mentally, it's there--ready to strike when I least expect it. Ready to meet me at the highest peak of euphoria and drag me back down to earth.

And it's made me hesitant. I expect to be disappointed, so it's been a struggle to push for something better.

Let Yourself Be Awesome
This is not the first time I've had to overcome injury, but disappointment has tried to handicap me in several phases of life throughout my entire life. The first time I suffered a serious heartbreak, I swore off falling in love ever again. Thankfully, I was able to get over it, and I have a beautiful family as a result.

But there have been times in my writing when an overwhelming wave of rejections combined with a lack of acceptances makes me doubt whether to continue submitting my writing (though the writing itself will always happen--for the sake of writing). Over the years, I've learned how to get through the ebbs and flows of the quiet times to enjoy the published times. After all, that's how I got my first poetry collection published.

Me finishing a 10k earlier this month in Georgia
Which brings me back to this past weekend: I could've gone into that 7-miler on Friday and said to myself, "You're going to hurt yourself again, old man. Just enjoy the morning and take it easy."

Instead, I took my run one mile at a time, increasing my pace gradually throughout until I was charging up the steep uphills in my neighborhood and clicking the stop button on watch. And then, of course, pumping my fist in success.

Of course, I woke up achy on Saturday morning, and I could already feel that internal critic jumping on my back before hitting the trail, saying things like, "You really did an amazing job yesterday with that fast run...for getting yourself injured today." "What were you thinking? You've never done 12 miles, and you run yourself into the ground the day before? Don't know when it's happening, but you're going to limp home at some point today." "Just give up." And so on.

To tell you the complete truth, I was a little scared headed into my Saturday morning run. The internal critic that wants to limit my awesome was winning the war in my head, but then I did something: I took those first few steps. And I then, I took a few more. And kept slowly building momentum.

Even though it was the slowest mile of the day, it wasn't long before I got through the first mile, and then, the second, third, and fourth. And I started to realize something: I was feeling pretty good.

Miles five, six, seven, eight, nine, and ten came and went without issue. In fact, my mile splits seemed to show that I was turning in a machine-like effort of consistency in my pace. So then, I did something crazy in the final two miles: I picked up the pace, while still holding myself back from going all out.

I was finally doing it: Letting myself be awesome.

You Can Do It
You can do it: whatever your little piece of awesome is. But only if you let yourself take those first few steps that add up into others.

Disappointments will come in this life, whether it's an injury, a rejection, a breakup, a job loss, an addiction, or (fill in the blank). There's no getting around the fact that this life is not just sunshine and rainbows.

But to reach awesome, we have to let ourselves get past the disappointment; and it doesn't happen all at once. No, it figuratively and sometimes literally means taking one step at a time.

Welcome Back
That's part of what I plan to share on this blog moving forward. Starting with my own stories since December 14, 2016, when I decided to take my health back into my own hands, and perhaps sharing the stories of others, I plan to use the Not Bob blog to share how I and others have attempted to let themselves be awesome.

Honestly, I'm not 100% sure where I'm going to take this blog over the coming months, but we'll figure it out together: One step at a time.