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How to take a good race and make it seem bad

Fortunately, a good friend of mine, is almost a sports psychologist. Because I needed some psychology after last week’s half marathon in Greenville, SC.

It was really fun, firstly. I ran it with a friend, which is always a good time. I got to visit her and get to know Greenville. It has a beautiful downtown! We walked around this stunning waterfall, right in the middle of shops, restaurants, and hotels.

The course should have been perfect, but as we know, nothing in life is perfect. It was a very narrow start on a trail, which made for a mass of people all running the same speed for quite some time. I felt very stressed as it was impossible to slow down or speed up without getting trampled.

I won’t bog you down with an every mile recap. The short of it, I did set a new personal record with a finish time of 1:42:30. That is great. But here’s where we get into the psychology of it.

My ‘A’ goal was to finish around 1:35. My ‘B’ goal was to finish under 1:40. I accomplished neither of those. In fact, I barely finished.

Wednesday before the race I came down with strep throat. I felt awful. I couldn’t do most of my workouts for the taper week leading into the race. Begin mind game #1: would my race be ruined because I didn’t taper properly?

I got meds right away, and expected to feel better within 24-48 hours, which would be Friday morning. But I didn’t. I felt pretty bad Friday. And Saturday. Begin mind game #2: I’m supposed to feel better, but I don’t, what is wrong with me?

I downloaded an app that would allow live tracking. It ended up playing my mile splits into my headphones. What I didn’t know, it was terribly inaccurate. Every mile it screamed in my ear that I was running at or below a 7:00 minute pace. Mind game #3: I thought I was running way faster than reality.

There were so many trees along the course, my watch couldn’t get signal. The pace it showed would flash from a 7:00/mile to a 10:20/mile every dozen seconds. Only on the mile splits would it show a total mile time, which was a far cry from what the app was telling me. Mind game #4: I didn’t know which to believe, instead of focusing on effort I over analyzed data.

Lastly, at mile 10 something flared in my quad and I began an agonizing limp-gait. The pain was so intense I considered pulling off and not finishing. And of course my mind jumped back to game #3, that maybe I had been running as fast as the app said and I was blowing up. Because of game #4, I had no way to check that data. Which led to mind game #5: How do I finish (or not finish) this race? I finally made the decision to finish but dial back my effort to limit risk of injury. I knew that meant I wouldn’t go under 1:40 but I also didn’t want to get injured in a race this early in the season that wasn’t even a triathlon!

You get home from a race and everyone asks how it went.

If you say, “well, it wasn’t great. I mean, I set a PR, but I don’t feel good about it,” you sound like an entitled snob! But that’s how I felt. Then if you list all the mind games as stated above, you sound like you’re making a bunch of excuses for why you didn’t hit your goals.

But as my friend said, “those aren’t excuses, those are factors.” And each of those factors led me to make decisions that did or did not work out in the long run.

She also pointed out there’s more going on than just the results. There are performance goals, outcome goals, and process goals.

I didn’t hit my performance goal of a certain finish time, that’s true. But I did hit my outcome goals in that I set a PR and I managed the first 10 miles of the race according to plan. I also hit my process goals, in that I had a great training block leading up to this race. The point of registering for it was to give myself a target that would force me to improve my run and develop my speed training. That, I did accomplish.

Talking with her helped me reflect on the race and feel positive about the experience. I learned a lot, like too much data can be a bad thing. Don’t worry about what other people are doing, run your race. And if you have 450 miles on a pair of shoes, don’t wear that pair for a race. (FACEPALM)

I’m so excited to gear up for triathlon season, my first race is April 20. And if you need some motivation, here’s a shorty but a goody of middle kiddo doing what he does best in skinny jeans, cowboy boots, dirtbike shirt, and slow motion. Can’t go wrong there.

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