Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Racing: a crazy runner's viewpoint

Over the last week, I've read two posts that discussed racing attitudes. The first was over at Running and Living, where she discusses how runners who race have different goals from those who run for fitness. She mentions how many times her goal in a race is to suffer. The suffering and pain let's us know we're pushing our limits. The post is great, but I couldn't help thinking when I read it that I just don't think of racing that way. My goal when I race is almost always the same...to run as fast as I can. And yes, I've said that to people who ask before a race, and yes, they often look at me funny.

Inevitably, running as fast as one can run in race will come with a certain amount of discomfort. To me though, the discomfort or suffering that comes along with racing is something that's in the background. I know it's there, but it's not my focus, it's not why I love racing, and during some of my best races I haven't even noticed it. Running fast is why I love racing. I realize that might sound a bit ambiguous. After all, one person's fast can be another person's slow. Maybe I should say, running as fast as I can on any given race day? Besides the goal of running fast, I do have specific time goals for every race I run. I almost always have a stretch goal, which I often don't accomplish (but I do sometimes). I have a more realistic goal, which isn't easy to accomplish, but it's more realistic. Finally, I have a goal that I tell myself if I meet it I won't be disappointed. Sometimes I miss all three goals, more often than not I'm able to achieve the middle goal, and rarely I achieve the stretch goal. I always feel compelled to have a stretch goal though, regardless of the fact that I often miss it.

What it really comes down to though is, did I run as fast I could? I can miss all three goals for a given race, but if I ran as fast I could that day it's hard for me to be too disappointed. For example, I ran awful at the BayState Marathon in October, but no matter how many times I go through that race in my head I just don't think I had a faster time in me that day. That was as fast as I could run. Yet last spring I ran a 5K in 21:45, a time many people would be happy with, but I was so disappointed in myself at the end of that race because I just knew I hadn't run as fast as I could. That's the question I always ask myself at the end of a race, did I run as fast as I could today? And if the answer is yes, I'm usually happy.

That brings me to the second post I read regarding racing on TRI'ing to balance it all. She talks about pre-race rituals and how no matter the race she always gets nervous. She writes "There is something about putting your toe to the line and committing to mentally and physically challenging yourself for a 110% effort that just gets me riled up." I love this quote! Yes, this is how I feel every time I race, and I believe that although stated a bit differently, that Running and Living was trying to make the same point.

Okay, now this brings me to why I was really thinking about racing attitudes. Sunday I ran a 5K race, but didn't race it. This was the first time I've ever run a 5K and not raced it. Not racing during a race was much more difficult than I thought it would be. On the plus side, I didn't get nervous or worked up. What's funny though, is I still had goals. I ran the race with my mother, and I didn't realize this until long after we finished the race, but I had three time goals based on her last 5K time. Basically, I had goals for my mother, because yes I'm crazy. I guess if I'm not going to run as fast I can during a race, I want to make sure someone else is running as fast as they can...my poor mom.

There were no timing chips for the race and we made the mistake of starting farther back from the start. It took us at least 20 seconds to get to the start line and weaving through the crowd really slowed us down. We got through the first mile at 8:50 (which was the official time and about 50 seconds slower than I was hoping for). So of course, I started picking up the pace. My mom, being quite the trooper stuck with me. We crossed the second mile mark at 7:40 pace. Then I settled down a bit. I could tell my mom was running hard. The last mile was 8:10. Our official finish was 25:30, but by my watch it was 25:10 (5 seconds from her PR)! And her second mile was a PR in the mile! So she ran awesome. What I find funny though, is the fact that although I wasn't racing I still needed to have time goals even if they were based on someone else. I'm such a crazy runner!

Training Journal (2/1 - 2/7)
Total miles run: 39.1
Total time running: 5:45
Average pace: 8:49

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

And there I was like the yellow lab running after my kid. At the end of the race as I was near death, I hear the words "I don't even feel like I ran". "It was difficult to hold myself back at times". "We could have done better, the start was just too slow". Next week I'm running a half marathon with this crazy running woman...

Katie said...

Sorry Mom! I love you! You ran awesome!

Julie said...

Hi Katie,
Welcome back! Great post today! I agree with so many of the things that you are saying. FYI...you have great times and I would of been thrilled with your crappy 5k time:) But, I understand how most of us know what are bodies are capable of doing. It is disappointing to finish knowing there was chance we could of done better by pushing ourselves a little harder:) I hope you have a great day Katie!!

Colette said...

Great "race" this weekend! I agree that the pain/suffering part of running is all just part of the package....we all have to push to our own edge, whether that's an 18 minute 5K or a 35 minute 5K. we all have an edge, we all know what it is and to me it's about the mental commitment to pushing yourself there even when your body is telling you it can't be done. Hope we can meet up at another event! Good luck at the 1/2 marathon!

Colette said...

Ooh- and my watch gave me a faster finishing time too!! I missed the chip!

Running and living said...

Katie, today I had a breakthrough in running. I have been thinking a lot about your response to my post, and than what Mary and others said on my second post on pain. In any case, I discovered that my pain becomes suffering in races or training runs when I let my mind wonder about how much longer I have left, and whether I am going to be able to hold pace. It is really the fear that I would have to slow down. So today I had a 10 miler with 6 miles tempo @ 7:24. I managed to stay in each mile, and not focus on what I had left, just on the run, on staying relaxed, and on my songs. I did not look at my watch much and ended up running 7:08 average. I had pain, but no suffering. So thanks for giving a different perspective.

Meg said...

This is an interesting topic and I've been following Running and Living's comments and read your thoughts on her post. I still believe that I know, even before I race, that pain is inevitable. I look forward to it and even prepare mentally for how I will react to it and how I will use it to go faster. It's never something I over look or can ignore. Now, I started thinking that maybe that's because I am almost 45 years old and I've been running for about ten years. Once I turned 40, I had more pain when I woke up in the morning and during marathons and races. Pain has actually become apart of running for me; whether I'm racing or doing a rigorous, technical train run.
How I manage it and use it to my advantage is the challenge. Maybe I'm the crazy one!

Katie said...

Ana-Maria: your training is going so well! And now that you mention it, I think that's how I usually race. I just focus on one mile at a time and don't worry about what's left.

Meg: Well I read your last marathon report, and you were definitely one tough chick in that race! I'd say you deal with the pain better than most.

Jill said...

I love posts like this that make you really think for a couple days about what your doing out there! That's so fun about your mom and setting a goal for her :). Happy miles!!

NY Wolve said...

The last race I ran, I really didn't have a time goal -- until I got to the race. And then I started thinking ... what AM I going to do here? It just seems natural, and my goal was off but I just couldn't help myself. And even after the race, I did a post mortem and what I didn't do to reach my goal -- a goal I formulated maybe 10 minutes before the race started. So, I understand; I guess it is natural.