Well, it seems that just finishing races was enough for me until I started falling towards the back of the pack. Last Saturday's trail race put me in the last 5% of runners. I was happy to finish, but I was feeling bad about my performance. I bucked up and told myself that I was going to run that course two more times and that now I had a time to beat. Yeah. And I am going to beat it... But this Saturday I think I mentally put myself behind the eight ball before I got to the start line and I held myself there throughout the race.
I felt like the race could've been better organized. I'm not usually one to complain about venues or parking for races, but this was a little inconvenient. My boyfriend and I arrived at the park, parked the car where we were told to, and started walking towards the ice rink. When I realized it was about 15 minutes until the race started, I started jogging. I caught up with a few other runners who were having the same problem. We realized as we got closer to the ice rink that we had just jogged about two miles from where we parked.
|Here I am as Fitness Barbie.|
The gun went off and we began to climb the first hill. The tagline for this race is "The first hill's a killer." They aren't kidding. I've never run up such a steep incline. Chalk it up to inexperience. I trotted up as long as I could handle and then walked. And walked. The hill just kept going. It felt like it should've been half of the race, for as much effort as it took to scale. I joked with one of the other runners that I had forgotten my rappelling gear.
After that hill, a brief reprieve, then another. And another. Even though these subsequent hills were smaller, they felt gratuitous and cruel. By this point, the pack had thinned out quite a bit and I knew I was in the back 10% without a question. I felt even more defeated.
I trudged along. When I saw the mile markers, they felt like lies. Surely I had run farther than that. I thought about quitting. I was having trouble breathing, my asthma inhaler felt completely useless, and it seemed like my chest couldn't expand enough to take in the air that I craved.
|I'm pretty easy to spot in all that pink... I also appear to|
dwarf everyone else in the photo.
Now that it's been a few days since that race, I've had some time to reflect. I'm not going to get all Pollyanna and say that I've learned so much from this experience, blah, blah, blah, but I have learned a few things.
- Plan the pre-race stuff better. Parking, bib pickup, and start line location should not be something I'm figuring out on race day. I *thought* I had this figured out for this race, but I should've confirmed this with a map or a phone call to the race organizers. Getting to the start line should not be a gauntlet in itself.
- If possible, run the course before the race. This probably wouldn't have been possible for this race, but the second best option would've been to talk to others who have run it and find out what it's like from them so I am a little better prepared for its challenges.
- Get out of my head. This is something I'm getting better at elsewhere in my life, but until this point I had felt like coaching myself through a run was helpful... not this time. My inner coach took on a menacing tone and basically berated me for most of the race. That is not helpful. Instead, I need to be mindful of my surroundings, my body, and my goal.
- Finish. Just finish. I keep telling myself that my goal is always to just finish, but that wasn't true on Saturday. I did finish, but that wasn't enough. IT IS enough. I did it. I am becoming okay with that. It wasn't my best race (in fact, it was my worst to date), but I still finished. I did NOT give up and quit, even though I felt like quitting several times throughout the race.
|That is one ticked off Barbie. 1:15 was only 7 minutes on to|
my first 10K time (1:08), but I was really upset.
The mental run is just as challenging, if not more so, than the physical run. To this point, I have been training my body. Now, I've found, it's time to begin training my mind to match.
Any suggestions? How do you stay focused or positive during a race? How do you avoid feeling defeated?