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