You can’t always get what you want.

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Running really is the perfect metaphor for life.  There are highs, lows, and everything in between.  The past two months I have been absolutely in love with my running.  I have switched gears, run less mileage, and hit the track more often.  I have started to rip off 200s and 400s in times I haven’t run in years.  I have felt fresh, rejuvenated, fast, and I must say, excited for the chance to prove my newfound speed to my competitors.

Lining up for the start of the Women's 10k
Lining up for the start of the Women’s 10k

 

I headed into the USATF Championships confident I would be in the top 3.  I have made many World Championship and Olympic teams, and my workouts of late showed a fitness on par with anything I have had before.  I knew the race would be uncomfortable but I felt feisty and ready to take on the challenge.

 

The racing strategy from my coach was to go out and run my own race, not anyone else’s, and this excited me.  It’s been a long time since I have run a race where I didn’t have a specific strategy in mind.  The freedom to run hard and see how much I could get out of myself was a little scary, but mostly exciting.  After all, my workouts have been great, certainly the best my coach has seen.  I was ready to try something new and I was ready to run hard.

 

So what happened?  It was a nightmare of a race for me and I blame no one but myself.  I obviously went out too hard, suffered in the heat, and struggled to finish the race, let alone contest for the top 3 and a spot on the World Championship Team.  Four women ran smarter, harder, and more successful races than me and I finished a distant fifth.  I didn’t qualify for the World Championships, and I certainly don’t deserve to go Moscow over the women who finished in front of me.  In what seemed like an instant, my dream of getting back to the World Championships in the 10,000 meters was over.

 

Shalane and I leading early in the race.
Shalane and I leading early in the race.

After the initial shock wore off (during which I did an interview – was I really talking about my grandparents and how I was going to live forever?!) (see video below)  I began to re-play the race over and over in my mind trying to figure out what went wrong.  I stayed up late, and I mean late, obsessing over it with my coach and searching for the places where we went wrong.  I realize that at 34 (cough – almost 35) it seems like my coach and I would know what works for me and what doesn’t.  But we have only been working together for a year and a half.  There is always a learning curve with each other in the first couple of years together as athlete and coach, and we are still discovering what works and what doesn’t.

 

What happened Thursday was my fault but it taught me, and my coach, a lot.  Certainly I would have preferred to learn these things in practice, but sometimes you need to fail on the biggest stage to learn the most.

 

Am I disappointed? Absolutely.  Am I broken hearted?  I’m healing.  Am I going to wallow in self pity or hide my head in the sand?  No way.  The story takes a turn that I didn’t see coming, but I’m still forging ahead.

 

I’m wrapping my head around a new schedule now.  I didn’t work this hard to give up after one bad race.  Although my goal for the summer was a PR in the 10,000 meters in Moscow, I’m in the process of setting new goals.  Things don’t always go the way you want, but that’s no reason to give up.  I’m in the process of making my new plan now.  It’s going to be a great summer.

 

Post Race Interview

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44 Responses to “You can’t always get what you want.”

  1. Mark Vital

    Forget Moscow, I’ll be cheering the loudest when you win Falmouth and your family enjoys Cape Cod in August!!

  2. Steve McQuilkin

    Kara, you did a great job on this blog post. You are open, taking responsibility, taking us behind the scenes, showing a little humor and ending on an encouraging note. Good. :)

  3. Jennifer C. Johnson

    Fast kick finishes are the best!

  4. Lisa Blake

    Kara,
    In a way I know exactly how you feel! I was
    Running my 3rd Boston Marathon and thought
    as usually I would PR like I did every year on
    that course, but the extreme heat got me…I
    trained harder than ever and didn’t requalify! It
    taught me to keep going and I eventually did
    Requalify for next year’s Boston! I’m so proud
    of u and I know u will return stronger!!

  5. Andy Carr

    Come to Atlanta for July 4th & USATF 10km road champs!!

    • Marius Maximus

      The Peachtree Road Race is one of the last few big races which do not pay either appearance fees or significant prize money. While – as a resident of Atlanta – I’d love to see Kara compete at the Peachtree, the truth is that for a professional like her there is no good reason to do so.

    • Tara

      I believe your good race is coming Kara! Andy Carr! I know you! :) Miss you!

  6. Pattie

    Thanks for the blog! I’m fairly new to running but you very much inspire me :) Keep plugging away and just keep trying – you have a great attitude!!

  7. daniel

    I was there watching you struggle…it was hard to witness, but glad you’re not drawning a self-pitty…GodSpeed.

    Same thing happened to me in Boston. Great training cycle and shuffled to 3:20 (15 minutes off my PR from October)…I ran another marathon in June and set a 2 minute PR.

  8. Shannon

    I love your honestly and how down to earth you seem….I can’t really relate as I am not even NEAR the level you are in running but I have had races where I thought I was ready and came short of my goals…Chicago 2010 for example…I trained so hard but the heat was so oppressive and my body didn’t respond the way it had in training…There is a picture of me 1 mile from the finish line, stopped in the middle of the road crying….So it could have been worse :o ) Can’t wait to see what you have planned next……Keep up the AMAZING work….You inspire me

  9. Cassie

    Thanks for this post. My heart breaks for you — I know you’re frustrated — but your struggle resonates with so many of us “regular” runners, and we can take heart in knowing that the pros have bad races, too. Thanks for being willing to put yourself out there! Best of luck in your next races!

  10. Dr. Mike

    Tough to hold back in the early stage of a run when you’re feeling so fantastic, regardless of your experience level. Best of luck moving forward, KG!

  11. Erin

    Kara,
    Great to have you blogging again.
    I watched the post-race interview before this blog, and I must say I was really surprised. I’m a big fan of Team Schumacher and it felt a bit like a betrayal of the team (blaming Jerry, wishing for Salazar’s coaching strategies). I appreciate that you somewhat addressed it, though it’s interesting to me that you posted the video without talking about those statements specifically.
    I also wondered why you and Shalane trained separately this round- I thought part of the benefit of training with Jerry was that you would have a great training partner.
    All in all, I just want you to continue your successful and positive career and I support that, Team Schumacher or not.
    Best of luck!

  12. Rachel

    You are an inspiration, regardless of whether you win all your races and make it to all the World Championships and Olympics you try for. Actually, one could argue that you’re *more* of an inspiration, because struggling through a hard and disappointing race is something that many more of us will go through. Seeing someone so successful struggle and not give up is wildly encouraging. I recently finished my first marathon, and despite feeling and running stronger than ever the past 2 months, the heat killed me and I ended up finishing in an extremely disappointing time. Pretty much the only thing I can say is that I finished, and didn’t actually stop, but it’s still really discouraging. Hopefully I can find the inspiration and excitement to keep training, so I can get out there and try again.

  13. Allie

    Kara, thanks for writing this post. THIS is why you are a hero to so many other runners. While we are awed by your speed and your accomplishments, the thing that really sets you apart for so many is your honesty, your grit and your positive attitude. Thanks for being a great role model for the rest of us.

  14. Raciel

    Thank you for sharing. Sometimes we “regular” folk forget that Olympians & professional athletes are “regular” people, too — but what actually makes others special (like yourself) is the ability to bounce right back up, switch gears, and keep fighting for more. Thank you for being an inspiration for people like me that aspire for great things and work towards our goals (athletic or otherwise), and for showing that one speed bump shouldn’t break your resolve. I look forward to your new site!

  15. Ward

    Having just completed a half marathon this past Sunday in high heat and humidity, I have a far better understanding on what it can do you! Thank you for charging forward and keep on keeping on!

  16. Krystin C

    You are an inspiration, such great advice to follow your goals.. don’t stop because one doesn’t come true! Thanks for sharing!

  17. Karissa Cominator

    Woohoo. I tweeted how much I missed your blog (you favorited it and i did a happy dance down the hallway ha) but you inspire me and I’m your biggest fan. I think its important to admit and make mistakes it let’s us know you are human ha. You are so inspiring and brave sharing this. Running is so.up and down and to see you say your setting new goals and moving on allows me to do the same (: thank you!

  18. Emily

    I have been following your career for a long time, and you are really an inspiration to myself and the high school team I coach! Keep following your dreams, and know that there are a lot of people out there wishing you the best!!

  19. Sara Schwendinger

    Kara, I saw your post at the perfect time. I tried to qualify for Boston this past weekend at Grandma’s marathon and imploded at mile 18. I found a coach to work with and trained for a year and tried in January at the Rock n Roll Marathon in Arizona and finished almost a half hour off my goal. When that didn’t work we refocused and changed up training and I decided to try again in Duluth. My training was great and I had a fabulous 16 mile run a few weeks out and I thought I had it this time. Once again, the distance proved too difficult for me. I did get faster by 2 minutes but so far off my dream goal of running Boston. I’m going to continue with my coach since I have achieved so much in terms of fitness over the past year but am taking a break from marathoning for now to see if I can conquer some other running goals. I think you are truly inspirational and I just love to follow your running no matter what the outcome. I have no doubt you will continue to do great things. You help me continue to believe that at age 36, I can still achieve my running goals. Go girl!

  20. Matt

    I have to say, I watched the race and was trying to figure out what you were doing. It looked like you try to mimic the Stanford invitational. But the conditions were bad and the competition was stiffer. In hindsight, I bet a more technical race would have been better? Good luck this summer!

  21. Jessica

    You’re awesome Kara! You are my fave female athlete! I was shocked and sad when you weren’t top 3 but I know you will rise above and come back even stronger this summer! Here’s to some fast running!!! :)

  22. Liz

    You are such an inspiration to all of us who train and will never be half as good a runner as you. Thank you for being you and giving us something to strive for!

  23. Gaby Acosta Saucedo (@Magas_LaRock)

    GO AHEAD, KARA! I love the way you describe how to get up after falling down… I agree about this. You must stand up and keep fighting. You are a great runner,.. so, you must go on.

    Good luck, girl!

  24. Jon Holmes

    Good luck. I hope it all goes well.

  25. Joanne Godfrey

    thank you for your honesty, reflection and words…we have all been there no matter what our speed, distance or time…persevere and you will be on top once again…then again, after reading this post, I believe you never stopped being on top!

  26. Sierra Stevens

    Kara, that post right there yet again proves to me one of the main reasons why I look up to you, why I have your picture pinned to my wall for me to look at: no matter how bad of a race you had, you still remember that you can’t give up, that giving up means admitting defeat. That is why you are one of my heros, because you don’t quit after a bad day, or even really think about throwing in the towel. Thank you for being like that. It’s inspiring for me, not only to watch you race, but to know that you have that attitude about everything and that I shouldn’t give up either

  27. Alex Ashlock

    Thanks for posting this Kara. I appreciate your honesty.

  28. Barb Broad

    Kara, when my friend and I first ‘bumped into’ you and Adam on a deserted street in downtown Philly (Half Marathon weekend), we marveled at how totally down-to-earth and funny you are. At first, we were literally ‘stage struck’ just seeing you…but after a minute or two, we’re having a conversation with you like you’re one of our running buddies. You are open and honest, and talk from your heart. And your blog reflects the mental and emotional strength that makes you rise above your competitors!

  29. Luke

    Kara..thanks for sharing in your usual honest style. Your legacy goes way beyond your result in any one race. Your attitude to your profession; your discipline and sportsmanship; you respect for those you work with and your love for your family all have as their common thread your brilliance as an elite runner. But that’s not who you are…you are all of the other things..running is just your vehicle to reach out to us and teach us. Thanks for all that you have done and continue to do. Keep pushing yourself to your limits and giving us a window into what a true ‘sportswoman’ is like.

  30. Rachel

    You are my favorite runner by far and always will be. Living (and marathon training) in the Southern Illinois heat and humidity, I know how challenging that race must have been. I don’t care how prepared a person is…nothing screws with a race like heat. You will come back and be fine…perhaps better than ever.

    As for the grandparent comment…I thought it was very sweet and proves what a very normal and down to earth person you are.

  31. bkaikai bergheer

    You cant always get what you want…ed Kara its in a great Rolling Stones Song altered but, meaning the same… You must try sometimes and you just might find you get back to me… Keep on it Kara you can do just about everything humanly possible when it comes to running… I know a bit about kicks and Ive seen what yours looked like at Beaverton Nike Track. So, do those 200m 400m repeats like we were doing that day. It works!!

  32. The Edge

    Taking ownership when you have failure expedites the rebound vs wallowing in finger pointing and complaining. Sometimes you have to kick ass not kiss ass.
    Your coach made a mistake,your racing instructions held true for a perfect weather night not a survival night. Athletes make emotional decisions often where the coach has a job to ground you into reality. In this case an easy read of the out outside temp and humidity should have had him tell you “game plan change its hot “. 2nd place made a in race game plan change with side line council from her coach.
    Have a back half racing season.

  33. Courtney

    What an encouraging post — we all have bad days or bad runs or both. I’m so sorry yours happened on the track, but I love hearing how you are dealing with.

  34. Rick

    How about getting that PR somewhere in the US?

  35. Stephanie

    Thank you for posting this! I know it was hard and I am no where near the runner you are but this is inspiring to me. It lets me know that everyone has a bad day and when I have mine I won’t be nearly as hard on myself. You are wonderful.

  36. Jamie

    Thank you for posting this and being honest. It is refreshing to see someone admit the responsibility for mistakes. I know you won’t be kept down for long! Mother Runners fight hard :)

  37. Therese

    Kara you are my hero because you always cheer me on in my Nike App! You always inspire me. Plus I’m nursing a hip injury -things are not going the way I want right now, but they will!

  38. Last Chance Runner

    I didn’t see the sign in my mid 30′s. Subtle but still there that my body could no longer handle the workouts I had been doing in the past. Both runners and coaches of “mature” athletes with miles on their legs are surprisingly unfamiliar with how to adjust. What you once could do, you can’t do anymore.

    We age but often don’t respect it. It was tough for me to come to grips that taking a day completely off, for example, was a training day.

  39. Pavement Runner

    We love you Kara… keep doing your thing.

  40. Mary @ A Teachable Mom

    Great message on how to adjust to the curveballs of life – 1) feel the disappointment 2) study the “game” tapes 3) get support 4) accept 5) make a new plan! Love! Congrats and thank you for inspiring the rest of us!

  41. Lisa

    All us Atlanta regular-type runners would love to have you as one of the 60K folks beating us to the finish at Peachtree this July 4 :) I just looked at the track club’s website and I know it’s not marathon-type-dollars, there’s still some pretty decent prize $ for elites!

  42. Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat

    Thanks for this post, Kara. Echoing the other commenters, I love how honest and open you are, and how you’re not afraid to show disappointment. I’ve been struggling with my own running setback – I just found out my iron is low, which would explain why my training has felt so crappy for the past month. I’m supposed to be running a half marathon in August and time for quality training is running out.) Hearing you express your disappointment and frustration, but then turn things around with a determined, positive, and persistent attitude gives me hope that I can do the same. You’re awesome!

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