Welcome to another edition of Ed’s Calm Corner! This post will be a post-race edition instead of the usual pre-race posts.
Queens Distance just had another amazing weekend with teammates participating in many races in and outside of NYC. Races included the St. Louis Marathon, the President Lincoln’s Half, Rockaway Spring Half, the Boomer’s Cystic Fibrosis Run to Breathe 4 Miler, and others. I, for one, participated in the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile race in Washington D.C. along with Vikram Singh, Cathy Huang, Valerie Lores, Abilene De Jesus, Cannigia Laluw, Jessica Peralta, and Diana Wong. Jose Donado, who is coming back from injury, raced and WON the 5K event in D.C.!
At the expo the day before the race, we met with Deena Kastor, American record holder in the marathon, who signed my bib and Diana’s copy of her book, Let Your Mind Run. It’s a personal favorite running book and one that helped me realize that everyone has untapped potential to achieve more than they think is possible. We’ve seen this recently. Many teammates are about to run a marathon very soon (Boston, New Jersey, Queens!) and their training has been excellent. Kevin and I keep an eye out on everyone and it’s exciting to see all the progress and achievements being accomplished.
At the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile race, I was not the fastest runner on the field but I succeeded in overcoming self-doubt, earned a personal best, and gained so much from the experience. The training cycle leading up to the sub-58 minute race was tough, but it contained many miles filled with happiness. The following few tips are not for the physical part of training, but more the mental aspect of training which I hope can be useful for experienced runners and new runners attempting longer distances.
Enjoy the training cycle
Many runners run for fun but many run with big goals in mind. These are goals that get us up early in the morning to run and make us plan our yearly calendar in 18-, 16-, or 12-week cycles. Many of these goals won’t be achieved for years, and that’s okay—big goals are meant to be broken down into smaller goals that we can reach one at a time.
With a goal comes the commitment to train and have a schedule, one that may not always seem flexible for anything life throws in your direction. One of the most important things I learned this past cycle was to enjoy all aspects of training and not be so strict about it. For me, this meant that taking a trip to Zion, Utah for a half marathon and not running for a week (but hiking instead) before another race was acceptable.
I was worried about losing fitness that week leading up to the Washington Heights 5K but it turned out well in the end. The hiking made up for the lack of mileage as cross-training. You don’t always need to run many miles; you can enjoy a trip and still make gains. Reflecting back, the Washington Heights 5K was a club points race and that added unneeded pressure.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
There were plenty of times in the past when I was hard on myself leading up to training sessions or long runs, meticulously planning what I wanted to do. This time, I was more relaxed and often decided on a workout right before it was executed. It’s not that I wasn’t serious about training, it’s just a more relaxed mentality.
Each training cycle is different and sometimes you can’t hit a pace in a workout that you were able to execute weeks or months before. Fitness is different each cycle and knowing you are feeling well can be better than hitting a pace in a workout. So when sessions don’t go well, let it go, the road will always be there.
Acknowledge that training runs won’t always go as expected
There was one key long run workout I did to prepare for the ten mile race (2x3k, 3x2k, 5x1k) which I did not complete. The first part of the workout went much better than I expected it to go. When starting the last part, unfortunately, I could not move my legs to the pace I wanted to hit. I called it a day but did not consider it a failure. I reminded myself how well the first part went and that was more than enough to cheer me up.
Completed workouts that go well feel great, but they are not always the key. One workout won’t define your training. Whether it’s a great workout or a bad one, when you toe the line to your race you are showing who you are based on multiple weeks of training. So, when you miss a workout or it doesn’t go well, that’s just another reason to make the next one better. I would not recommend trying to “make up for it” and doing it the next day but instead letting it go and keep with the training schedule.
Photo courtesy of Cheryl Young
Keep to your race plan
For the past two races I had trouble making up race plans. Should I be conservative or more aggressive? Whether you make up a training plan for yourself or your coach gives you one, stick with it. The coach knows you well enough to know you can execute the plan. They believe in you, now it’s your turn to believe and achieve.
The later miles in a race will always be difficult. For a marathon it can be the last six miles, for a half the last three, for this ten miler it was the last two miles. Whether it was a good day or a bad day, my plan was to give everything I had for those last two miles and I stuck with it.
Don’t rely on the watch too much
Sticking with a plan means having a pace you want to hit. The best way to keep track of it is with a watch but sometimes it can backfire. I’ve had races where I wasn’t hitting the pace and I panicked. Any small amount of panic can cause bad results.
Sometimes, like at the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile race, the watch will read faster splits. Perhaps you need to slow down to a pace you know you can more comfortably hit. But, if you are having a great day and the faster-than-expected splits are feeling good, then why not keep going? The watch can unconsciously set a limit on what you think you should run and not what you are capable of.
Remember why you run
The Cherry Blossom Ten Mile race was gorgeous. As you made turns you could see monuments in the distance and as you went on the straightaways there were cherry blossoms on each side of the road. During mile three or four of the race I reminded myself why I was running the race, who I was running for, and what I wanted to get out of it. You can be fueled with thoughts of “I need to get this time” or “I need to beat this person” but I don’t believe that will get you far. Whatever or whoever you think of, make sure it makes you smile. Just ask Eliud Kipchoge how much smiling helps him in a race.
Failure happens to all of us. Bad failure is hard to deal with. Good failure motivates us to be better. Set the bad thoughts aside and put your heart out there. And remember, you have a whole team behind you!