Several months ago, I wrote an inspirational article about hurdling life’s obstacles. It spoke to the experiences I have with clients who aren’t willing to try new things or to do things because they are afraid of the outcomes or who aren’t willing to change. It also noted how therapists are required to take our own advice and step out of our comfort zone, despite our excuses. And it publicly confirmed taking my own advice and as I entered into the 2015 State Games of America.

The last time I competed in college was 2005, when I was in my Master’s program and having fun at open track meets. Fast forward ten years, three kids (one born eight months ago), 20-50 extra pounds (depends how close to the last birth), injuries and, well, etcetera. Lots of excuses as to why I should NOT enter.

So I started training – as much as I could. I dropped 40 pregnancy pounds and worked on my sprint drills. I got faster. I got stronger. I had to take several breaks because my body broke down but I didn’t let it get me down.

I trained on vacation. I ran up the driveway at our cabin in the mountains and let me tell you, that was no easy task. I used mental imagery and imagined how it felt to long jump and hurdle. I kept a positive outlook and high expectations. I wasn’t going to give up on myself and I would do my best. Above all, it was the experience and the fun!

What I couldn’t account for was how my body would react. I wasn’t able to train with long jump equipment, hurdles or blocks. My mental imagery saw things as I remembered them from ten years ago, not as my now-body would react.

In college, I averaged 18′ in the long jump so I figured 15 feet would be a good goal ten years later. I went 13’3″ on Saturday. Talk about seeing your goal go up in smoke!

In college, I ran the hurdles in 14 seconds so I was aiming for 17 seconds ten years later, but jokingly said under 20 seconds would work. When I took the first step out of the blocks, I knew my legs didn’t have it in them. Four attempts in the long jump just an hour prior left my legs too exhausted for hurdles.

When I crossed the finish line and heard the announcer say my time as “…19 seconds…”, I stopped listening (so I have no idea how the sentence ended). To make matters worse, Olympic hurdler/bobsledder Lolo Jones asked which of us was the over-30 hurdler (she would have been in the same age group) and the two girls who were ten years younger than me pointed at me. My thought: I’m totally and utterly embarrassed. Can I please just crawl into a hole?

Reality check. I’m older than I once was. My body has changed. I have children. I have extra pounds. I get tired faster and recover slower. I have other priorities that come before training. I can enter 5Ks without worrying about my time because I was never a distance runner but placed in my former competition areas and I have high (and apparently unrealistic) expectations.

Reality check. This is what I work with in my clients. Expectations aren’t met. Repeatedly. So they give up. They won’t try. They want others to do it for them. They are unrealistic.

Reality check. I did it. Despite my injuries, age, family and work obligations, I got into shape. I was the oldest woman hurdler competing. I got to meet Lolo Jones, take a picture and get her autograph. I got to see people I competed against/with in college and get reacquainted. I got to use my knowledge to help several others with their events. I had fun.

Things didn’t turn out like I imagined. Not by any means. My reality check was hard on me, as they usually are. However, I choose to overcome this hurdle. In fact, I think I’ll take the advice I give to my clients: Learn from it. Change something. Try again. Know that you are doing your best. Live knowing that you don’t have the regret of not trying.

Jessica McCaslin

Jessica is a mom who is working outside the home part-time and who is learning to cope with the ever-changing daily challenges of full-time parenthood. She graduated with her Master's degree in community counseling from the University of Nebraska at Kearney in 2005, and works with a diverse mental health population. Jessica resides in Central Nebraska with her husband and four children on the family ranch.