Not my day

mini bibsNo one wants to talk (or write) about a bad race, least of all me. In fact, I’ve been trying hard to put my dismal performance at Saturday’s Indy Mini out of my mind ever since I crossed the finish line. Alas, something in my psyche just won’t let me bury it until I ‘fess up. It plagued me in my dreams, and I woke up this morning turning over opening lines for this post in my head.

So here’s the deal. For the second year in a row, I fell apart. It wasn’t my body that let me down this year. The weather was nearly perfect, I stayed reasonably fueled up along the course, and I was more faithful to this year’s training regimen. No, it wasn’t my body; it was my head.

Somewhere along the course, doubt began to seep through the folds of my gray matter. You still have a long way to go. You don’t really want to be doing this, do you? Why did you come out here? You’re going to need to stop soon. I tried to ignore the voices. I turned up my iPod. I even silently screamed back at them. Shut up! I’ve done this before! I’ve got this! I don’t have that much more to go!

I couldn’t fight the voices. 8.5 miles into the course, I took a break. I geared down to a walk, but I told myself I’d just regroup and then finish strong. I refueled with water and Gatorade, and a half mile later, I took off. Two miles after that, the voices had me walking again. I followed that start-stop routine to the finish, though thankfully I was able to gut out Victory Mile at my usual pace. The thought of walking past the throngs of people waving the runners to the finish line was apparently enough to drown out the jeering in my head.

I finished, but I didn’t accomplish a single one of my goals for the year. I’m embarrassed by my performance. Yeah, I know that a lot of people would have been happy to finish at 2:03, but I know I’m capable of more: I finished my first Mini at 1:44.  This year’s performance clearly wasn’t my best effort, and that’s how we should be grading ourselves, right? It doesn’t matter what someone else does; I have to compare me to me.

This year’s top female finisher ran the course in 1:12. I know I’ll never accomplish that, and I don’t feel bad about it. The last place finisher crossed the finish line in 4:29. In my current physical condition, that won’t be me, either. If, then, first and last don’t matter, then neither does any position in between. That means that the only real measuring stick of my success is whether I performed to the best of my ability.

Now I have to begin the process of figuring out why I didn’t. I have to find the right switch in my brain and flip it from What are you thinking?! to Heck, yes, you can do this! And I will. It may take awhile, but I will.

So here are the lessons I learned THIS year:

  1. Like most things, a huge part of running is mental. My psychological game plan is just as important as my physical one.
  2. I am my own measuring stick.
  3. I shouldn’t have to relearn lessons I learned last year. Even so, I only just now–well after the race–revisited them. (You can, too: Click Redefining success and Victory.)

Nope, Saturday wasn’t my day. But today is still up for grabs, and I’m going to make it mine.

P.S. My son also ran on Saturday, and he had a great race. My momma-pride helps take away some of the sting. Way to go, Jake Davis!

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Pulse check

I laid out some goals at the end of last year, hoping that holding myself publicly accountable would keep me on track. To stay true to that intent, I think it’s time for a pulse check–maybe past time. I’ve copied and pasted my goals from the original post so you’ll know what I’m talking about. Here goes.

  1. I’m going to continue my French lessons so that I can become reasonably conversational with my newfound family members. I want to be able to express myself in their language. I continued with private lessons for the first couple months of the year, but dropped them shortly thereafter. My schedule has continued to burgeon, and I haven’t been able to fit them in. I’d like to get back to it someday (soon, I hope), but something had to give. This one is sitting on the back burner.
  2. I’m going to run the Indy Mini again. My goal is to improve my time from the last Mini I ran, even if it is by one second. I ran the Mini but fell far short of my time goal. I wrote about my experience HERE, and I’m already signed up to redeem myself next year.
  3. I’m going to ride the PMC again this year. This time, I’m going to put in 500 miles on the bike before I cross the starting line. That means getting on the saddle earlier and more regularly. I. Did. It. YES! I didn’t get in quite all of the 500 miles I intended, but I trained better, harder, and more regularly. I put together a plan for both physical and mental success, and I followed it pretty closely. It paid off for me with my best ride yet. I had a great time and finished strong.
  4. I’m going to run five races besides the Mini this year. I need events to keep me true to my running. Complete, and then some. Races: 1. Runaway Eagles 5K; 2. Running for World Water 5K; 3. Warrior Dash Indiana; 4. Eradicate Polio 5K; 5. Warrior Dash Oregon; 6. Rebel Race. And my son has been pushing me to run a few more.
  5. I’m going to sit down to dinner with my kids at least one night a week. Sketchy. Some weeks I do well, others I don’t. In any case, it’s not a routine practice.
  6. I’m going to teach my kids to follow a recipe. We’ve done some cooking together this year, and I’m hopeful. In fact, I’m pretty sure they could muddle their way through alone by now.
  7. I’m going to write something bigger than an article, and then I’m going to try to have it published. Stalled.

All in all, I’d give myself a C+/B-. Your advice, comments, and encouragement are welcome; please send your thoughts my way. How’s your year going?

Victory

As promised, I ran the Indy Mini last Saturday. I did it knowing I wouldn’t be able to match the time I posted two years ago, so I approached the start line with bittersweet resignation. As the minutes ticked down to the start of the race, I let anticipation and excitement take over. My legs itched to move, move, move. Besides, I had run the distance the weekend before so I knew I could do it, and I knew what pace I could comfortably achieve. I couldn’t wait to get started.

When we finally took off–all 35,000 of us–I felt great. The first mile was slow, as it always is, as the pack spread out and people wove in and out. I finally hit my stride, and by the 5K mark I was on pace with where I wanted to be. By the time I hit the Yard of Bricks (the start/finish line on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, just over the halfway point of the race), I had improved my pace even more. Things were looking good.

Then I hit a wall. I don’t know what exactly happened, but suddenly, my will and my body let me down. I struggled for the rest of the race, watching my pace plummet on my snazzy watch with each mile that passed. Although I had averaged an 8:25/mile pace for the first half of the race, I finished with an overall average of 9:28/mile. That’s about 45 seconds/mile worse than I expected, and 1:28/mile worse than the last time I ran this race. If I were the crying type, I would have burst into tears after I crossed the finish line. Instead, I’ve carried the overwhelming burden of disappointment with me all weekend.

I’ve been analyzing and re-analyzing every step of the race since I peeled off my sweaty shoes and chucked them in the corner. I’ve made a long list of changes and plan to get started right away. I can do better. I will do better. Next time.

But here’s the rub.

Even though I wrote the post, Redefining Success, less than two weeks ago, I forgot all about it. I forgot that sticking it out no matter what counts for something. I forgot to enjoy the moment.

I re-read that post this morning and have since tried to look at this experience differently. I crossed that finish line sweaty and spent. I didn’t waltz around the course; I gave it all I had. I didn’t give up. Is it possible that victory was mine after all? I’m not quite there yet, but I’m beginning to hear that comforting whisper.

Redefining success

Back in January, I laid out some goals for myself. As I approach a key milestone, I find myself staring at success–as it taunts me from just beyond my grasp.

As promised, I’m going to run the Indy Mini again this year, but I’m pretty certain I won’t improve my time. I didn’t follow my training regimen, I’m miles short of what I need to have on the soles of my shoes, and I haven’t done a lick of speed work. (Okay, I probably wouldn’t have done any speed work anyway, but still.)

My inclination whenever I see failure looming is to walk away from the project. If I’m not going to accomplish it, I should move on to something I can. I should stop wasting time on what I know will be an undesirable outcome and focus my efforts in areas where I can succeed. At least, that’s what my competitive self says, the same self who views life as a series of destinations, not a journey.

This time, I’m choosing to resist that self. I’m going to see this thing through no matter what the outcome. I know I can run the race; it just won’t be at the pace I had hoped. Is that failure? I’m trying to tell myself it’s not. I would tell anyone else that sticking it out no matter what is its own victory. Perseverance and tenaciousness mean as much as process improvement. Quitting–or in this case, not participating–means forgoing all the lessons to be learned along the way.

When I first ran the Mini, I didn’t do it for a time goal. I did it because I thought the energy surrounding the event was so powerful that I just had to be part of it. The energy hasn’t changed, only my perspective. Maybe it’s time to change it again and just enjoy the day.

Besides, there’s always next year.