Have Dental Floss, Will Travel

Mapping the world, one waxy strand at a time…


Good morning from the glorious Amtrak rails!

I’m currently on my way to New York for a four-day conference on innovative approaches to teaching history (does it make me a total dork that I learned about this approach a few years ago and have been looking forward to this conference ever since?). So, for the rest of the week I’ll be living in a college dorm room, eating college food, and working out in a college gym.

Sounds thrilling, doesn’t it?

The other night, as I was frantically preparing for this trip, I received an email from a friend.  A dorky professor-type in his own right, this friend (writing on the condition of blogging anonymity) offered me a narrative analysis of my Longest Day race report.

He dissected my sentence structure and pronoun use and came to the conclusion that I’m too hard on myself in my assessment of myself as a racer.

His email, combined with a couple comments I got about my definition of competence, got me thinking about reasonable vs. unreasonable expectations.

And here’s the conclusion I came to: it’s all relative.

When I first began adventure racing, all I wanted was not to hold the boys back too too much. I was totally green, and I was teaming up with some seriously seasoned athletes. I expected to be dragged around in the woods, to be towed on bike, to carry minimal gear and have minimal responsibilities.  My goal? To minimize the burden I was placing on everyone else.

But that was a few years ago. And my expectations for myself have changed.

Now, I want to be an active and productive member of the team.

I not only want to carry my own gear; I want to help my teammates get their stuff ready in transition.

I not only want to keep up with the boys; I want to understand our strategy, and see where we’re headed.

I not only want to be an extra set of eyes in search of the checkpoints; I want to punch a flag on occasion, too.

So, yeah, I may not highlight the moments when I’m pushing the pace up a steep ascent, and I may not dwell on the times when I pack someone’s gear because he’s readying the maps.

Because that comes with the territory.  That’s what it means, to me, to be reasonably competent.

And the fact that those moments don’t feel extraordinary now, the fact that they’re part of each race experience?

Well, that’s just awesome.


13 responses to “Relativity

  1. kari @running ricig June 9, 2011 at 8:35 am

    I think that totally makes sense. It’s like when I went to my running group and the women kept telling me I was fast and I thought, “well yes, I’m faster than your 13 minute miles, but I’m by no means fast.” It’s all in the eye of the beholder. And really it only matters how you feel about yourself.

  2. Anonymous June 9, 2011 at 8:52 am

    So true! Beauty, athleticism, and brains! I always hated diagramming sentences in school, but even your friends are profound. Even the Bruins are playing well; Brent is a lucky guy! Have fun being a college student for a week.

  3. Kara June 9, 2011 at 9:35 am

    Being a college student again for any amount of time is my dream. 🙂

    You are hard on yourself, but I don’t know if that’s a bad thing. Being hard on yourself means you will push yourself to improve. You don’t sound like you let it get in the way of enjoying the day, so it’s all good!

  4. Kim (Book Worm Runs) June 9, 2011 at 10:36 am

    Abby, you are awesome! It is always good to push yourself and see what you are made of. And since you participate in a team sport it makes total sense that you would want to be a productive member of that team…and nobody can argue that you haven’t achieved your goal of keeping up with those boys. Keep up the amazing job…you guys are going to rock Costa Rica!!

    Enjoy your few days as a student again 😉

  5. Johann June 9, 2011 at 10:55 am

    I’m totally with you. I think when you read most race reports you can feel the author is being to hard on him/her self. Or is it a blogger/writer thing to rather beat ourselves up than praise ourselves? I’m not sure but I think there is a trend amongst us.

  6. Julie (A Case of the Runs) June 9, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    Have… fun?? Just kidding. I wish I could go to more conferences, but they are $$. Hoping for a company-sponsored one at some point. Innovative ways to share history? It would help. I always found history SO hard to learn (at the undergrad level), so any new ways of getting it all to stick, yes!

  7. Shelly June 9, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    It is so great to hear you love and get excited about learning new ways to do what you do! Whether you guide the future or clean toilets, I believe our work should fill us with purpose and pride. So do it well.

    I love your attitude about it being part of the race. How nice that working as a team has just become part of it for you. I’m sure expectations change as you have become more and more experienced. It’s the wise person who can keep those expectations applied correctly; to themselves and others.

  8. Sarah S @RunningOnWords June 9, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    I have to agree with Kari. I think most bloggers I read are incredibly fast runners because I am not. They often complain about how slow they feel. For the record, I think you are amazing for doing this adventure racing stuff at all. I’m really enjoying learning about it from your blog.

  9. Laurie June 9, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    Kari, I so agree! People who you are faster than will think you are fast, people who are faster than you will think you are slow. For some an 8-minute mile is the height of speed, for others an amazing failire.
    Also, Abigial, who is this sexy dorky-professor-type mysteriously e-mailing you?
    And, we are all faster than the people who don’t ever run a step, right? At the finish line of races where I’ve basically STB I at least try to remind myself that I am faster than (most of) the people who are still asleep.

  10. Laurie June 9, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    Also, that should be “amazing failure.” I don’t know what a “failire” is.

  11. pawsitivelife June 10, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    God I miss conferences, all us geeks together in one place…sigh my work needs to send me to one. My goals as an athlete constatnly evolve. For now I just want to finish a marathon in one piece

  12. RunToTheFinish June 10, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    It’s really interesting how our goals are constantly shifting and changing. I think it’s because we enjoy challenging ourselves and just want to live our very best lives. Seriously can’t wait to hang again soon!!

  13. Black Knight June 12, 2011 at 11:35 am

    I agree, the goals change for many reasons. Beautiful and interesting post.
    I cannot stand the conferences to “innovative approaches”. About my job it is crazy: I plan the port organization, that is to say where the ships must berth. I learned this job in 20 years of Coast Guard (I have been working by 33 years) where I got many professional degrees and licences (licence to steer/command patrol ships, rescue, radar, safety, security, first aid ecc); sometimes some young consultant of some company comes here to listen what I do and after to teach me how making better my job!!! And usually they see the sea only on a post-card. During their interview I like to say words and terms unknown for them (typically sailor’s). Of course I never follow those conferences and courses. It would be different if the Coast Guard or the Navy organize such events (I would be interested).

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