What are your thoughts on racing?
Do you embrace the start line of a race? Does the thought of lining up with a bunch of others feel intimidating, or does it give you a rush of adrenaline?
1. Although you cannot control the race day conditions, you can control how you train.
This little lesson became crystal clear in my very early years of running when I was in love with my treadmill (yes, there was a time when I actually adored that beast). I could run three easy miles on it in the comfort of an air-conditioned setting (with an additional fan blowing on me) and a television screen to distract my attention.
I used to whine and complain about how hard it was to run hills, and the outdoor air was so treacherous with all that Iowa humidity. It just wasn't fair that race officials would plan out a race course with difficult hills or complicated hairpin turns. And, it really wasn't fair to allow the race to start "on time" if there was rain or extreme wind present.
There were excuses aplenty for my (usual) less-than-stellar experiences. When I transitioned to running outdoors, things dramatically changed. Although I wasn't a fan of heat (or extreme cold), I no longer feared them. Hmmmm. So, until you can find a race that allows (and guarantees) participants the luxury of "perfect" race day conditions, you'll do yourself a big favor if you prepare for it by doing some (if not most) of your training outside.
Some days, you'll wake up to optimal conditions on race day morning. Perfect weather, a great breakfast, and a flat course usually makes for a great experience, and possibly a PR. I can't tell you the number of times I've showed up at a race feeling like I was gonna dominate the day (which is silly, since I'm really not super fast) only to be passed by a large number of the crowd at the finish line.
Last year, I did my first duathlon. It was a pretty hot and humid day in Iowa, with plenty of wind as well. The biking leg was 20 miles long, and the first five miles were straight into a massive head wind. It was an out-and-back trek, and as I was approaching those final five miles I was almost giddy with excitement at the thought of how much time I would make up with what would then be a mighty tail wind to take me home! I was envisioning passing several cyclists as I cruised (effortlessly) to the transition station and then finishing the event with a victorious sprint to the finish line. The thing is....everyone else ALSO got to relish that same tail wind. (Duh!) And most of us looked like arthritic zombies as we practically fell off our bikes and tried to make our way through the final 1.5 mile jaunt of the race on foot.
3. How you place is always contingent on who else shows up as well.
Similarly, there have been times I have eyed the field of women who appear to be in my age group. I admit that I enjoy age group awards as much as the next person. After all, with my middle-of-the-pack speed, placing in the top three is not an every-race occurrence. That said, showing up at a "small" race will not necessarily guarantee you a top-three finish. And, sometimes I have been pleasantly surprised to bring home an age group award. None the less, you can run a great race and finish with a substantial PR...but still not make the top three in your age group.
4. It's in your best interest to run your own race.
You have probably heard this before. Yes, you may find comfort in having someone else pace you. Or perhaps you thrive on counting how many bodies you can pass in that final mile. Maybe you need the constant crowd support to keep yourself in motion. These are all great little "crutches" to have...but there's nothing more fulfilling than knowing you did it on your own. This also goes hand-in-hand with training. Group runs are a fantastic way to get the miles done, but what if you have a long run scheduled and no one else is able to show up? Could you knock out those 15+ miles all by yourself? What happens if you're in a race and you suddenly need to walk...are you gonna expect someone to pullover and walk with you? Granted, a true (runner) friend will stick with you no matter what...but is it fair to them?
5. Not every race will be a PR race.
Shocker, huh! Some races just need to be ran and not raced. Of course that's easy for me to say, since I'm not typically in contention for placing unless it's a small race on a cold day. I think most "new" runners want to keep getting faster and faster with each new race. What they will eventually realize is there's this (somewhat) annoying condition call plateauing.
Plateauing isn't all bad, though it is incredibly frustrating. It's a neat accomplishment to reach a point where you can maintain your fitness and (dare I say?) speed. But the more racing you do, the PR's will start to become few and far between. You've probably heard of athletes "peaking" in their performance, and that often happens to runners as well. I love a PR as much as the next person, but I no longer expect them nor do I take them for granted when they occur. And I try to simply enjoy running for the simple act of fitness that it is. I'm thankful to have discovered this sport, and I plan to keep with it forever.
|pic from PanFoto
I'm linking up with the DC gals for their Friday Five..today's theme is Fitness. A big thanks to Mar at Mar on the Run, Courtney at Eat Pray Run DC and Cynthia at You Signed Up For What for hosting this great event! Head over and check out their blogs as well as all the other blogs to see what everyone's talking about!