Monday, February 6, 2012

You Gotta Have Faith

Having a good race doesn't just happen.   There's a recipe for good racing, and usually the ingredients need to be in place and mixed correctly in order for the race to come out right. 
  • You need to train adequately, if not exceptionally.
  • You need to fuel correctly before and during the race.
  • You need to go into the race fresh, tapered, and not having been sick in the week leading up to the race.
  • You need to pace the race intelligently--based on how you have been running in training recently, as opposed to how you want to have been running recently.
  • You need to have faith.
  • You need to have fight.
  • While racing, your faith and fight cannot waver for longer than a millionth of a second before you put them back into their correct place.
  • You need to wear the right socks.
Some races pleasantly surprise you, and even if all the ingredients aren't in place you come out with something pretty appetizing. But then sometimes just one ingredient is missing, and the whole race goes rancid.

I raced yesterday. I didn't have all those ingredients in place. In fact, looking at this homespun list, I actually think none of the ingredients were in place. Still, I secretly hoped for a good outcome. You never know when the recipe is going to just randomly work--even if you didn't follow the directions, right?

(Are you sick of this analogy yet? Me too.  I'll can it now.  It's just become less than appetizing. I cant stomach it anymore!)


Here's what's interesting: even if you know the ingredients aren't in place, if you're like me, you're still disappointed when the result isn't spectacular. I'm sure this disappointment is annoying to those people who must deal with me and my whining. Nevertheless, I feel the need to foist my disappointment on said people (read Andy, Kurt, Ange...) AND you out there in Bloggy-Land! Sorry guys.

Just to annoy you further, I will itemize my lack of proper ingredients/preparation for this race. I will start at the top of my special list, and work my way down.

1.  I have been training. I have been getting in all my workouts, with focus and as prescribed. So that is good. The only problem is my training has been focused on building a very solid foundation for my IM this summer. It hasn't been focused on racing a 10 mile road race. 

2. I had two bowls of Wheat Chex with raisins before the race, which isn't perfect, but for me, it's fine, because it is akin to what I eat before many of my morning workouts. My problem was in forgetting to bring water or sport drink with me to the race. I actually felt thirsty during warm up, which is never a good sign. When I got in from warm-up I went into what I thought was Ange's stuff and took a big swig from her water bottle. Some guy looked at me really strangely while I did this. Later I learned that Ange had no idea who the water bottle belonged to.


I had a gel before the run. Without water. I brought a gel with me to take at mile 6, also, but then mile 6 came and went and I didn't take it.
Bad move.
I also took in no water or sport drink during the race.
Why did I fail to take in any sugar or drink during the race?  I'm not sure. Self sabotage perhaps. Maybe just race-induced stupidity. Maybe both.  I think my reasoning was that I shouldn't need much in a 70 minute race. This is true. But I know me... and I do need something in a 70 minute, all-out race.

3. It's a luxury to be fresh and tapered for any race but your A race, in my opinion. I don't expect to be fully rested in a race that is just "for fun" and I also know that even when I'm not fully rested I can often pull out a pretty result IF I have the right mind-set. Not this time.

4.  I wanted to run sub 7s. I have done nothing close to sub 7 in my training recently, however, save during a few well-placed, down-hill strides. I did take the race out in sub 7. That was pretty much the only mile that was at that pace, however. Again,I should be clear. Just because I had not been training in the sub 7's doesn't mean I couldn't run that pace.
But I didn't run that pace, and I guess that's all there is to say about that.

Okay. I have finally arrived at what I want to write about! Took me long enough.

When you have a race that doesn't go as well as you'd hoped it would, you often learn something. Here's what I learned in this race:

You Gotta Have Faith. (Thanks be to George Michael.) I knew this before the race, but I learned  it anew when reflecting on why the race didn't go very well.

Whether you have prepared appropriately or not, you MUST have faith that you can race hard and do well, NO. MATTER.WHAT. If you allow yourself to detail the reasons you shouldn't race well (as I have done so above) you will sabotage your race before you even hit your first quarter mile. In my opinion, the reason to prepare well for a race by adhering to the principles of good racing prep is, ironically, less about your actual preparation and more about knowing you have done what you needed to do. What does it take for YOU to believe you can race well? A good taper? A good breakfast? A pair of good luck socks? Does it matter?
No. What matters is that you believe. You must believe that you can crush the race, and you must not allow anything to puncture holes in that faith.

Going into this race I did not have faith. Maybe I had good reasons not to have faith, but what I want to make clear is that I truly believe the reason I did not race well has mostly to do with this lack of faith--and not my lack of race preparation. I raced poorly before I even took my first step on the course, because I did not believe I would race well.

Linked closely to faith is fight. During the race, even in a sprint that lasts under a minute, there will be moments that your faith gets shaken. For me, it first happened at mile 2 when my super- fast friend Stacy, silently and with assurance, passed me, and didn't look back. She had the faith. And her faith rocked my faith... which was barely in existence in the first place. A wave of hopelessness passed over me, and I did not fight it.

You must fight it. The minute your faith lapses you must see it for its ugly self, and you must hammer it back into submission. I often find that getting angry helps. WTF! I see you Stacy! I'm going to get you! Let's go, body! Let's go! And welling inside me I can feel the fight and the faith return. On Sunday, however, because my faith was so lacking, I could not, or would not, fight. I let Stacy go. And she went on to crush the race, and I went on to fall further and further behind her.

And so that is what I learned. Whether you are ready to race or not, you better come equipped with faith and fight. If that's not in place.... why bother?

I must pat myself on the back for the moments my faith and fight did show up during this race.  When I could conjure it I did have stretches of  running relatively well, and the result was that I eked out a 1:12... which isn't a PR, not even close, but is respectable enough (for me) not to want to hide myself under a rock. And today I went to the pool and tore up 3800 yards to make up for the stretches of faithlessness that soured my race yesterday.

And now I'm hungry to race again and make all this lack of faith and fight shit right again.  You really do get something out of your bad races, you know?

You may note I did not yet reflect on the final ingredient on my list: sock choice. Perhaps not quite as important as faith and fight, sock choice is something to think carefully about prior to racing.

For this race I chose to wear my Sock Guy Donut Socks.

I selected them because they matched my current running/racing shoes, which are black and pink. However, they are not good luck socks, and this is where I went wrong. I have used them in training and I have never run well in them. I'm quite sure it's subliminal. The donuty mindset is one of sugary indulgence. Really... is that what I was aiming for on Sunday? I think not.

Better to wear  tried and true socks... like my Speed Socks, which have proven repeatedly to be good luck when training and racing and also send an appropriate, if somewhat sassy, subliminal message to my legs.
My cat socks may have been another sound choice. Though  still relatively new, these socks have proved themselves worthy of racing after allowing me to perform very well in several recent workouts.  They are also fun and attaching grabbing... which is always good, I believe. Of course, neither my speed nor my cat socks matched my black and pink shoes, which was obviously extremely problematic.
Probably the best choice would have been my Gnomies, which matched somewhat, since they are black, and which have provided me with great luck recently when biking outside. Plus, I just like the idea that I am racing with my Gnomies...

My point is only that a final thing to think carefully about before you race is the sock that will both match your shoes/outfit, provide you with good luck and send an appropriate subliminal message to your legs and body. Such things cannot be overlooked. You can be sure I won't make the Donut sock mistake again.

Race on. 


Thursday, February 2, 2012

How You Know You are Getting OLD

An easy way to determine this is to simply look at your next birthday fast approaching. If you're like me, you no longer cherish you birthday. Or I should say, in the first moment you think on your birthday you experience a certain warmth, followed by an almost immediate bittersweet wave of angst. Another year bites the dust.  And yes, you were alive, kicking, and attempting to listen to it in reverse when that classic song hit number 1 on Casey Kasem's American Top 40. Am I right?

Yep. You're old.

There are other ways to determine you are getting on in years--a few uplifting, but mostly extremely depressing. Recently Alina and I, over cups of hot coffee and scrambled eggs, discussed qualities that manifest as one ages, and came up with a list to share with you. Here it is. I'm sure you could add a few good ones to this list. Please feel free to do so in your comments.

How You Know You are Getting Really Old

 1. After a morning swim you look in the mirror and witness goggle marks so deep you know you will spend the day explaining that NO, you are not extremely tired or sick. You just have permanent indentations in your eyeball sockets from wearing goggles. And no, you don't wear them too tightly. It's just because you are OLD.

2. You look in the mirror and notice that you are growing sideburns, and you are a woman.

3. You constantly are on the verge of throwing out your back. Or you neck. Or your knee. And then you must discuss this fact ad nauseum with anyone who will listen--most likely another old person who knows what you are going through and can compete and compare with his own old people ailments.

4.While sitting in a work meeting your brush your hand to your chin and feel a CHIN hair. You begin to panic. Is it long? Is it black? You notice yourself covering your chin with your hand and excusing yourself to go to the lavatory so you can pluck that mother out. right. now. Yep, getting old.

5. You begin to think that drinking Metamucil on a daily basis is actually a very good idea.

6. You carry a really tacky dog purse.
Exhibit A.
(This was Alina's, naturally, in reference to my lovely purse choice of recent months.)
More accurately, you no longer give a rip if someone--anyone--thinks you're a tool for carrying the bag you carry, the shoes you wear, the brand of your jeans you have on etc and so on. In fact, you relish carrying a tacky dog purse because you spent so many years caring way too much about that stupid fashion stuff.

7. You find yourself buying ridiculously expensive facial creams and half believing that they will make you look younger if you just stick to the "regime" described by the skin "clinician".

8. You develop bunions. And they are really ugly. And they make it hurt to wear funky cowboy boots or sexy heels, or really any attractive, made for a young-person-without-bunions type shoe. So you wear slippers or clogs. And that's it. Even at work.

9. You find a white pubic hair.

10. You knick yourself shaving and it takes three weeks to heal.

11. You appear to be developing elephant knees.

12. You go into a room, wonder why you are there, leave the room, remember what you needed, return to the room, forget why you are there. And so on.

13. You continually find skin tags in odd places like in your arm pit or by your left ear.

14. Staying up late means you are up past 10 p.m. on a weekend night.

15. You fall sound asleep at 9 pm. and awake at 2:30 a.m. You don't fall asleep again until 5:30 a.m. Fifteen minutes later your alarm goes off and it it's time to start the day.

16. You drive a minivan. And your second car is a Prius.

17. You worry those night sweats you are having are the first stage of menopause and not just because your husband throws the covers off himself and onto you in the middle of the night.

18. Going out for drinks with the girls actually means meeting them at 6:30 pm on a Tuesday evening at a local restaurant in the burbs, having one glass of wine and dinner, and returning home  by 9:00 p.m.

19. You look at your hands and think, Wow. Those are old people hands.

20. You thank those who card you profusely, and say things like, Oh, You don't have to do that. So thoughtful... And you find yourself frequenting the establishment just in the hopes that said carding will happen again.

21. Everything you remember from your high school and college days is now considered "retro".

22. You have forsaken plucking out white hairs in favor of just dying your whole damn head. Enough already. The white has won.
Okay. Enough of that.
Here is my training update:
I have been training.
Some days I feel uber confident. Somedays I feel like I should just throw in the towel, get fat, and can this IM stuff.
But I keep trucking along, hoping I will see the IM result on 7/22 that I so desperately want and have worked for these last few years. 
Old lady or not.