My foot slipped as I eased out of my car at 5:30 in the morning. It was a crisp, but pleasant, morning, not bad at all for a run. Only problem was, this wasn’t just a run; it was a speed workout. The warmup jog revealed patches of black ice and the outdoor track had wide swaths of frozen water. The rain from the previous night had created havoc for our footing.
This was not good.
So instead of doing 1,000-meter repeats on the track, my running buddies and I took to the road and altered our workout. Sue, the voice of reason and experience, explained the change: We would run as hard as we could for the appointed interval time, take our rest interval with a walk/jog, then repeat until all five intervals were finished. Forget distance, she said. Don’t even worry about it. So what did I do? I began to obsess about the distance screen on my Garmin watch, noting that when I had finished running my interval time, I had not quite made it to 1,0000 meters.
This was not good.
Sue yelled at me (I mean lovingly reminded me with special emphasis) as I sulked during my rest intervals. We had changed the nature of the workout and that the change was OK, she told me. We were avoiding black ice, on-coming traffic, potholes and inclines — none of which we would have encountered had we been on the track. I was working hard, expanding my lungs, all the good things a speed work does, and yet I was frustrated with my performance. Knowing this needed to change, I zeroed in on my thoughts. OK brain. It’s you and me. Game face on. Run hard. Focus. Run hard. Oncoming car. Move over. ICE! Run hard. I looked at my watch. I was not pleased at my pace or at the fact that I was caring so much about my pace.
Had I failed? No. Failure would have been not showing up or giving up because the workout wasn’t going just as I had planned. I knew this, yet it took me the better part of the day to let go of the numbers, which at this point were meaningless anyway. I was judging myself by one set of standards when the game had changed. You won’t be successful at Connect Four if your evaluation criteria comes from the Candy Land box. It also doesn’t work so well if you try to play Connect Four with the game pieces from Candy Land.
I was trying to get out Molasses Swamp by connecting four red checkers in a row. No wonder I felt unsuccessful. Eventually, I made peace with my workout for the day. When the game shifted from Connect Four to Candy Land, when my run shifted from track to road, my perspective and expectations needed to shift accordingly. Once it did, even hours after the workout, I started to reap the benefits of a great run.