Managing Expectations and “Head Right With Ball”

12 Oct

If you need an explanation of the title, here you go. Get Head Right With Ball

I’ve been a salesman for the last 24 years.  One of the primary beliefs I have tried to follow myself and manage in salespeople that have worked for me is “set your customers expectations lower than what you think you can achieve then exceed them”.  I’ve been pretty good at this for other people but pretty bad when setting expectations for myself.  My bride, Kim, says I’m too hard on myself. I guess I may set expectations too high for myself.

Going into IM Chattanooga our group of friends decided to put a pool together of who could guess closest to their finishing time.  I had done all the training, hit many of my goals fitness wise, felt good about my nutrition and hydration but I still was nervous.  I started researching expected Ironman run paces and found estimations all over the place.  I had absolutely no idea where my run would be especially with my experience at the last Ironman. I expected my swim to be about the same or slightly better than IMTX (1:24).  This was because we would have an unknown down stream current but I thought my swimming was worse this year than it was before IMTX.  I gave myself 1:30 to be conservative.  The bike was 4 miles longer than usual.  I had subscribed to to estimate my speed based on my FTP and it said I would average 20.2 MPH based on riding at 282 watts normalized power. This would give me a bike split of 5:45.  The run, my event, the part I was good at and loved to do, I had no clue on.  I ran a 5:36 at IMTX, my PR on standalone marathon was 3:20.  Somewhere in between was my guess for a run time. I was guessing somewhere between 3:45 and 4:00, but had a lot of doubt.

As we got closer to the race several of us were texting back and forth checking on how each other was doing.  I admitted to them I was losing it because the run terrified me.  I had absolutely no idea where my run would be.  Byron, Michelle and other friends said I would do great, trying to motivate me.  I had no reason to have confidence in my training based on my time at IMTX.  I had lost all focus on work, family, and this Ironman.  The run scared the crap out of me.  Me, a runner.

I have a saying inscribed on my Road ID that says “if all else fails laugh”.  I’ve used this before in a few races as a race thought when things got rough. I thought I might change it up a little for this race.  I have a pretty private relationship with God.  I thought it might be time for a race thought from scripture so I chose the standard amongst endurance athletes , Philippians 4:13, ” I can do all things in him who strengthens me”.  I started repeating this to myself in the days approaching the race and would later during the race as well.

While I was packing my gear for the trip I was going thru the visors on my visor hook in my closet.  There was Spider-Man visor, I hadn’t worn it in years, not in a race since my first half ironman that continues to be my 5:08 PR.  This was going to be my good luck charm.  I knew it would get comments from the spectators and since I’m such a show off decided to bring it.

Planning my trip to Chattanooga I was going to visit customers in Little Rock then drive over to Chattanooga from there.  My cousin lived in Nashville so I thought it would be nice to visit her and her kids on the way over.  She lived next to the Natchez Trace Parkway and Percy Warner Park, two beautiful places I had been before.  Michelle and I are common friends with a couple (MK and EK) that has spent a lot of time at Percy Warner park on family holidays and always rave about it, so I thought it would be cool for her and my other buddies to see it.  I invited my training buddies to stay at my cousins house but they were leaving later in the morning so were planning on staying in Memphis.  I let them know I was planning on riding and running there on Thursday morning so they planned to leave Memphis earlier than usual to join me at these two beautiful places where we could have our final training ride/run together.

Wade, Me, Jason B., and Jeff
Jeff, Wade, and Michelle at Percy Warner park
Me, Michelle, Jason B., Jeff, Wade, Erin at Percy Warner park
Jeff, Jason B., and Wade on Natchez Trace bridge

I’m having beers and dinner with my cousin Wednesday night and she asks me if I’m ready.  I told her physically definitely, mentally I was a mess.  And then her process began.  My cousin is a clinical counselor she is trained to talk people thru their fears.  She asked what I enjoyed most in this whole Ironman cycle the most, the process and good times of training with friends or the race and achieving a great time.  I told her both audibly but it caused me to ponder more about this.  She then asked if I had had good races and bad races, I answered to the affirmative.  Then she said focus on what this entire cycle is about, what is most important to me.  Understand you might have a good or bad race and don’t let it bother you.  I laid in bed that night with a grin on my face.  I’d be spending time with my training buddies the next day at two neat places they’d never been to.  I understood that although I was terribly competitive, time spent with these friends was more important to me. I didn’t have anymore confidence in my race times but I knew I was going to have fun. if I crashed on the run again so be it.  It just didn’t matter as much.  I had brought the Spider-Man visor! And, I can do all things in him who strengthens me.