It's just a race...what could go wrong?
Possibly nothing, or maybe a lot. That's what could go wrong.
Sorry to have to break it to ya, runner friends, but a lot can go wrong once you cross that start line. Even experienced runners are not exempt from distress on the race course.
I've had my share of racing mishaps, and I'd be doing you all a deceitful disservice if I didn't share a few of them with you. Besides, we're all friends here, right? We might as well keep it real.Here's a few of the more significant ones (and lessons learned):
I've gone out too fast
After running several 5K's (back in my early days), I got a little more confidant in my (ahem) abilities. I could knockout 3.1 miles without any walk breaks, so I was no longer an amateur (or so I thought). At our local Labor Day weekend race (many years ago), I inadvertently lined up towards the front of the pack, among a bunch of the high school cross country runners. It didn't occur to me that they'd be racing those 3.1 miles a lot more competitively than I would. The gun sounded, and we were off. It didn't feel like I was going that fast, since I was simply "keeping up" (and not attempting to pass) any of those high school babies who were 30ish years younger than me. This was before I had a watch, so I had no idea what my pace was. When we approached the 1-mile mark, though, I was gasping for air as we rounded a corner and started up a big hill. It wasn't too much farther and I could feel myself slowing way down and all those kids kept forging ahead, almost effortlessly. It wasn't long before I had to pull over and walk. I was able to run a few minutes later, but had to finish the race with run/walk (mostly walk) intervals because I was so worn out from that first mile.
Lesson learned: A 5K isn't a distance race. It's more of a controlled sprint. Also, that first mile will make or break your performance. It's hard to gauge your actual speed right out of gate because everyone else is running fast, too. Just because you can keep up with them for the first half mile is no guarantee you're going to be able to stay with them for much longer. Chances are really good you're going to bonk before the 1-mile mark and regret it for the remaining 2.1 miles.
|live (and run) and learn|
I haven't read the fine print
A favorite half marathon of mine was Park to Park (I ran it from 2009-2016; I had to miss it in 2017, and it has since disbanded). In 2013, I had been on antibiotics (bladder infection) for a few days prior to race day. Race morning arrived, and I was feeling off ...tired, no appetite and my tummy just wasn't happy. I didn't have much for breakfast (again, no appetite) and even water didn't sit right. It was a warm and humid morning (early September), but I was hopeful I'd feel better once I got moving. A few miles in, I still wasn't feeling any better. I'd tried slurping down part of a gel at the race start and almost gagged. I ate part of another gel near the halfway point of the race, and had been grabbing a little water at the water stations....but nothing was making me feel any better. The temps were getting warmer each mile, and my tummy was feeling worse. It was around the 8 or 9-mile mark when I gave in and walked for a minute, my pace had slowed and I no longer cared about my finish time. This race, as the name implied, went through a couple of big parks. The trails were beautiful, but the porta-potties were scarce. I say that because by the time I'd reached the 10-mile mark, I was worried that I'd need a pit-stop (and not for food, if you get my drift). I started taking more walk breaks because I was feeling so exhausted. Every time I'd try to run, I was good for maybe 1/2 a mile, then my calf muscles would cramp up. And my tummy continued to give me all kinds of anxiety. I was feeling light-headed when I finally finished (no doubt I was dehydrated). Thankfully, I didn't have any GI emergencies (or accidents), but I finished with one of my slowest 13.1 times ever.
Lesson learned: I've taken antibiotics before, so I didn't see the need to read any of the extra information from the pharmacist. It wasn't until I got home that I thought to read the fine print of the medication handout that had come with the meds. Turns out some of the side effects were dehydration, loss of appetite and diarrhea! Looking back, I realized I hadn't eaten much in the days prior because my appetite was jacked. Even though I'd been hydrating like usual, it wasn't enough to compensate for the meds. And the diarrhea! Well, that explained why my tummy was a mess the morning of the race.
|One of my tougher finish lines...|
I experimented with fuel on race day
The spring of 2015, was a typical spring for me...busy with dance recital details and prom committee duties, as well as training for Grandma's Marathon in mid-June (race recap HERE). We also had a lot of rain, so my long runs weren't as long as they should have been. Then we lost my mother-in-law, so a few more long runs suffered due to travel. Oh, and there was my first case of plantar fasciitis that decided to erupt about three weeks before race day. With all of these factors, I hadn't had much opportunity to experiment with my fueling (my longtime tried and true GU gels were no longer working for me). Race day arrived, and I decided to try fruit snacks since I was at a loss on what else to use. Did I mention we had rain for the first 10 miles or so that morning (I know, rain and marathons seem to be my thing)? My strategy was to eat a pack of fruit snacks every 5-6 miles (which is what I would have done with gels) and alternate with water and Gatorade every couple of miles. All was going well until about mile 15, when my tummy started to signal that it needed a pit stop (immediately). For the next eight miles, I had to pull over at every available porta-potty on the race course. Thankfully, there were ample porta-potties at every mile marker. By the 23rd mile, I was feel much better, albeit exhausted.
Lesson learned: I was worried about hydration and electrolytes, so I was alternating Gatorade and water. Not necessarily a bad plan, but I didn't need it at every mile. The mix of the fruit snacks (hello? sugar, anyone?) with the Gatorade was not a great combo, especially since I had not experimented with it prior to the big day. I probably would have been fine with Gatorade every fourth or fifth mile since it wasn't an especially warm day. Thankfully, I didn't have any embarrassing accidents. I'm just glad I can look back and laugh about it now.
I did not warm up/cool down enough
Have you ever done a 1-mile race? Let me tell you, the adrenaline rush is pretty intense. Every race starts off (somewhat) fast, but a 1-mile race starts off in a dead sprint because there's not a second to waste. I've done the Grand Blue Mile twice, and both times I've been happy (if not all-out shocked) with my finish times. Not being a natural-born sprinter, running fast does not come easy and it feels very awkward. The second time I ran this race, I did a 1-mile warm-up run right before lining up. I ran the race hard...my throat hurt, my lungs felt like they were exploding, and my legs felt like over-cooked spaghetti as soon as I crossed the finish line. It took me several minutes (maybe 10?) to calm my breathing, and I think I had a painful dry cough for a couple of hours afterwards. I did some stretching, and that was it. It wasn't for several days that I felt like I could walk (and run) like normal again.
Lesson learned: It was pretty humbling how much recovery time was needed following a mere 7:23 minutes of running. Even though I did a 1-mile warm-up, I should have run or walked a little more, to be really assured I was loosened up and my muscles were ready. And, that dry throat? A little more hydrating would have been a good idea since there were no water stands along that short of a race course. Afterwards, I should have done a brief cool-down jog. Even though it was a long walk to our car, a little more action on my feet would have been beneficial. Also, it would have been a good idea to foam roll on the ride back home (the race was an hour away, so there certainly was ample time).
|A few seconds after the finish line...|
Anyways, that's just a taste of some things that have happened to me. Notice the one thing they all have in common is they were (ultimately) in my control? Yeah, sometimes we're our own worst enemies. Even though these were simple (and perhaps, innocent) mistakes, they all could have been prevented, avoided, or minimized. Oh well, the beauty of making mistakes is the opportunity to learn from them. Glass half full.
Enough about me...your turn! What are some race day mistakes you've made? Did you do them more than once?
I'm linking this with Kim and Zenaida for the Tuesday Topics Link-Up