Just to show that I was indeed a little brain dead and racing in short sleeves and shorts with a bleeding right knee in Sunday's Joe Kleinerman 10K, I present to you this race photo compliments of brightroom. As you can see, despite the pained expression on my face and the blood trickling down the side of my leg, I looked pretty cool and color coordinated despite it being 30 degrees. Score one for me. (Yes, that's the only highlight from my race so I'm milking it for all I've got!)
Over the past few days, while remembering and analyzing the range of emotions I felt during this race, I came across this great Running Times article on Racing Your Best When Feeling Your Worst. In it, the author Matt Pulle discusses how NOT to throw in the towel at the midpoint of a race when things just aren't going your way. The article was apropos to my racing experience in my past two road races (Philly Half, JK 10K) because there were moments during each when it became painfully obvious that a PR would not be in the cards for me that day. My first instinct in each of these circumstances was to just bail and quit. After all, what's the point in racing if the end result would be disappointing or embarrassing anyway? But then, somehow, for some reason, in Philly and then again in Central Park, I continued running and racing hard until the end. How did I managed to salvage what would've otherwise be a poor performance or a DNF?
Although I tried hard to erase those forgettable races from my memory bank as quickly as possible, I still remembered a few tricks and tactics I used to keep my brain occupied and my legs turning over as quickly as possible instead of just giving up. First and foremost, I told myself NOT TO QUIT. In both circumstances, I felt I had to press on because that's what runners do. I also knew that if I gave in to the DNF temptation in these races, it will be that much easier to repeat the same patterned behavior in the future.
Once I convinced myself that quitting was not an option, I began to develop strategies that would motivate me to race the remainder of the course. For starters, I forced myself to devise an alternative goal or plan that seemed somewhat worthwhile to pursue despite having lost the overall battle against the clock. In Philly, it was let's see if I can just run the last 5K faster than I did last year. In the JK 10K, it became a rallying cry to break 40 minutes. When that didn't work, I'd tell myself to forget the race and get back to basics. After all, no matter the result, races are still an extreme form of speedwork, meaning that I can still work on my breathing, my form, and my mechanics even if the rate of forward progress was a little slower than I would have liked. Finally, during the last mile of the respective races, when the physical pain seemed to have caught up to the mental anguish of a disappointing performance, I would force myself to remember (and say) that despite everything, I was still having fun and that racing/running is always better than the alternative. I remember succinctly thanking and appreciating running as I was sprinting toward the finish in the 10K which seemed so awkward to acknowledge in retrospect because I was hurting so much at the time but I needed to remind myself why I was out there in the first place and motivate myself to do the best I can given the circumstance.
Looking bad, I can say that although I'm a little disappointed that I didn't prepare adequately and missed a great opportunity to PR in the 10K and the Half, I'm proud that I didn't fall apart despite the troubles during the race and kept it together to finish each race in a decent time. Personally, I learned it is just as important to know how to race badly as it is to race well since as you gain experience and chase PRs, that's probably more likely to happen than not.
Just curious - What do you guys/gals do to motivate yourselves to race well when the race is going badly? Any tips/strategies for success you'd like to share?