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Racing: Learn from your mistakes.

Post race with support team

Post race with support team

I stood  tonight waiting to run my first night race – the Rockville Rotary Twilight Runfest 8K a popular Maryland race in it’s 24th year and is one of five Maryland State RRCA Championship Series Schedule races.  The race brings everyone from politicians to local stars to race under street lights instead of sun light.  As we waited for the gun to go off at 8:45 PM many things were going through my mind.  First, I was glad that my over indulgences at the neighborhood wine tasting even on Friday night seemed to have passed through my system. I felt great and no longer had a dull headache. I was not worried that a hangover would affect my performance.  I was worried dehydration would – and I spent the whole day drinking water and knew I was alright on that front. 

This race was important for me on many fronts. It was my first race of the season, so I wanted to test my fitness. It was also my first evening race and first 8K. I was completely ready for this race in terms of the distance.  However, I was running this race coming of two really dismal training weeks.  I also for some reason, had not been sleeping so I was very stressed and uptight due to lack of adequate sleep.  In fact I decided to run this race in hopes of ending a negative trend of insomnia so that I can run my next race in two weeks, a little more relaxed.

So as I ran through the streets of Rockville in the darkness, this is what went through my mind.

Ipods – Use Them!

Waiting around; crowds were light until about 5 minutes before the race.

Waiting around; crowds were light until about 5 minutes before the race.

I was thinking, as I stood around people watching before the race, about race regulations.  I read the race rules and as usual, I decided to forgo my Ipod because the race threatened disqualification if you wore one.  So as I stood with over 2000 other people waiting in the dusk for the race to start, I realized that at least 30% if not more of the contestants had everything from Ipods to Iphones to everything in between. I cursed myself and wondered why I did not just bring it with me.  As I learned as ran alone in the dark with utter strangers is that things go through your mind. For me, my inner demons wake up. The music drowns out the negative voices and physical pain – of which there was a lot, as I trudged uphill over and over and over again.

The Ipod issue, I came to realize was important in this race. I wanted to run an 8:20 pace but knew, given the fact that my workouts from the last two weeks have been horrendous; I have not had good sleep; and I have a new found pain in my knee, I decided to cut myself some slack. I am glad I did but I really had to do a lot of talking to myself during the race and what I was hearing was not good.

“You’re a loser, you are running too slow.”

“Gosh everything hurts, there is something wrong with my leg”

“Stay with this person, oh, this is too hard, back off.”

The loser comment was really bothering me. I mean, c’mon now brain! Do I really feel that badly about myself?  What I think was the issue is that my sister just started racing. She’s racing faster than I do. It bothers me a lot. I can match her times and even beat them in tempo runs but in the actual race I slack of.  There is something going on there which bothers me to no avail. When I wear my Ipod, I don’t have these converstations with myself (or if I do I can’t hear them haha).

Starting Line

Starting Line

The mental part of running is the toughest. My work outs have been great. My training for the most part has been good. Work/life balance has been hard. Having two small children is hard. Everything is hard.  New runners don’t have the running baggage we runners of over 20 years or more have. We’ve had plenty of time to develop our injuries, assess them, talk to doctors about them, go to physical therapy or any other list of things. We obsess about injury and should know when to back off.

As I ran today, the only good converation that came out of my brain was that I need  to do more strengh training. I am going to get PX90 because I have seen the results on people I know. Why my husband bought me the Wii Fit, it’s nice but I have to compete with my kids to do it and while the programming is brilliant, I am finding that it’s not for me.  So off to the barter Web sites I go or to Ebay, to unload the Wii Fit, and get the PX90. 

Start In The Right Spot for Your Race Pace

I made the very wrong assumption that if I started any where that it would not matter. I was being very lazy and did not move up into my 8:30 or 9:00 mile pace area. Not that you could really tell where that was because they wanted us on an honor system. I felt I was too far back but I didn’t give it too much thought until I crossed the starting line. It took me a good few minutes to tip toe, shuffle, and readjust my position in the crowd to even break away from it. That alone probably cost me about 2 minutes. When we crossed our mile splits I felt I was about 40 seconds too slow. Well that adds up mile per mile if you don’t get it back. Note to self – start where you should!

Water Stops

I had a little fun with the water stops this time.  Every time I enter at the beginning of the line and take a water; then try to get more at the end. It did not matter whether I had a cup in my hand or not, that person would reject me. It became comical and I wonder what would have happened if I stopped and said something!

Conversations, Don’t Eaves Drop!

I really don’t try to listen in on people and I certainly don’t expect to have a conversation myself when I am racing but someone started talking about how he had just been to Five Guys about two hours before the race and that thought made me so ill I obsessed about it the rest of the race. There’s that guy who had Fives Guys, I would think to myself. Here I go, passing the Five-Guys guy. So me and my burger thoughts really entertained me I stopped concentrating on myself. At mile 4.5 I developed this horrible cramp and actually had to walk for about 30 seconds to work it out.

My Training Paid Off

So as I started my plan for the finish line, I cramped up and was pissed because I was pacing behind someone going about 8:30 and it was nice and comfortable. The stitch in my side caused me to let her go, to my disgust and Five Guys guy caught up with me.  Despite the fact that I beat him anyway, my time was slower than I wanted but I ran faster in the second half of the race than the first and that’s exactly what I trained for.  I came in 306 out over 2000 people, and top third in my age group.  So for that, I am happy.



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