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. 



Ana-Maria RunTriLive said...

Yes, and yes! Exactly and so well said.
I am the same way.
The only difference is that I would never have the guts to race unless I knew I had the training required to have the race I want.
So kudos to you for racing! And the time is actually pretty good for February! You will go sub 7s all the way at New Bedford, no doubt!

Michelle Simmons said...

Totally.get.this. I don't think I've ever had the right kind of faith in my run? I'm playing with re-booting my computer (brain) now though so maybe next time... but I do believe more and more that fast racing is in our heads.

Jean, aka Mom said...

Your socks need to match the occasion, not necessarily the
shoe. A race in Maine, in February, means SmartWool. I'll
look for some. They could even
match the shoes.

World's Greatest Something said...

Maybe it's just my general outlook on things, but I get the feeling that you really wanted to post about, and show, some of the cool socks you have but felt an obligation to include something more cerebral. I'd like to lobby for an all-wardrobe post, please.

Robyn said...

Ooh! Yes, wardrobe!

It's winter and I have been running in the same. shirt. every. time. for weeks. (It's nonstinky merino, so I can do that, right?). Can't wait for warmer weather so I can bust out some new colors!

Kim said...

is it weird i blame a piece of my wardrobe when a race doesnt go my way? socks/shirt/pants?! your socks crack me up. and i think you did pretty friggin amazing!

Petraruns said...

I like Jean's input. Is she your Mom? Or just a Mom? At any rate it is extremely sensible Mom advice.

I'm not sure I agree on the have faith in your ability to CRUSH the race bit - because what if I you KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that you have not done the training to run a race well but think that plodding round is better than not doing this at all (she says, scratching her head because that is what she is contemplating doing in 2 days) - there is no point thinking you're going to CRUSH that thing because you will just blow up and you know there's no juice in the tank. But if you're realistic about pace (and focus on a pace as you mention that you have actually run recently) and set any ideas of PRs outside of your mind - surely that's the way to go? Or am I missing the point.

Re socks. I think you might have won with the gnomies.

Bob Almighty said...

I definitely feel you on the having faith part There's no worse feeling in the world than going into a race feeling you haven't done enough, aren't ready, think you're going to get you butt kicked,etc. Still 1:12 is a solid result for a 10 miler in Feb. I know you'll go out and get some payback.