I don't typically opt to run a Thanksgiving race. Part of it is that my “season” usually ends around Thanksgiving and I take a one week break to recharge before slowly getting back to full mileage in preparation for spring. The other part comes from a logistical standpoint. I usually spend time driving to family events on Thanksgiving day, and on the Wednesday before I typically host a Thanksgiving party at my apartment where 25 people are crammed in eating too much food and drinking too much beer. This time around I got 4.5 hours of sleep.
This year I had other variables that made racing more challenging; I worked nearly 40 hours in the 3 days leading up to Thanksgiving and I have a whole group of athletes who are running races, so I was constantly texting/calling/emailing them. I have some business opportunities that I'm weighing as well. The truth is, these are all good “problems” to have. I love coaching, I really enjoy my job and I'm quite interested in business opportunities - they just all happened at the same time and that didn't create the ideal scenario for success in a race.
I decided to race anyway as chances to race before my peak race aren't as plentiful as other times of the year. The winter in the frigid Midwest can make quality races tough to come by. I don’t regret the decision, but it could have had some negative impacts on my performance.
I went out with the lead pack, which died off after the one mile mark on rocky and hilly terrain. The eventual winner and I came through the 2 mile mark at 12:02, seconds clear of anybody in a chase pack. We were also ahead of course record pace. Midway through mile three, the slowest mile for most runners in this race, the eventual winner dropped me quite easily. I also slipped and fell on a wooden bridge on the portion of the mountain bike course that was tough to run on, but it did not impact the outcome of the race in anyway. (I was just outclassed)
At about Mile 4.5 I was back to clocking low 6 minute mile pace over hilly terrain that was littered with loose rocks and tree roots. Near mile 5, there was a long downhill section and I could see the first place runner. I couldn't believe I made up that much ground! I ran out of space to catch him, but I was excited about the distance I made up on him in the final two miles and also how well I handled the big climbs and downhills. I think the ability to run downhill well can separate the leaders from the mid-packers and it's really important to develop that skill for anyone looking to improve as a runner. My plan is working and that's the bottom line regardless of the result.
On the ride home I really wasn't happy with the outcome of the race. It could have been how tired I was, how hungry I was or how stressed I was, but I wasn't happy. I don't like losing. I'm fiercely competitive, but at the end of the day is 2nd place overall, and losing to an excellent runner really that bad? The point of racing/running/training is to learn and improve. It may sound cliché, but I learned much more from that defeat than I would have learned from winning.
In every facet of life there are peaks and valleys. The valleys suck, but they make the peaks seem so much higher. Sometimes trusting the process is hard, sometimes it hurts, and sometimes you just don't want to do it. But if you trust the process and embrace the grind you'll come out stronger following every experience. Experiences - good or bad, are the stimulus for growth. Adversity is a catalyst for self improvement. Embrace those things because one day they'll make you invincible. I learned a lot, I was sad and happy and now I'm focused on the future. I drowned my sorrows with a 15 mile run at 6:30 avg pace today. Whether you win, lose, or drop out - whether you accomplish your goals or not, you have to bounce right back and have a short memory if you want to have a bright future.
My race stats so far in 2017:
8 races, 7 overall wins and a second place overall
(2 course records)
Upcoming races in 2018 and goal times in parenthesis: More will be added later.
Yankee Springs 25k*
Hellcat 50k* (3:30, CR)
Seamus O'possum 30k* (1:50)
Rock CF Half Marathon (1:11)
Short's Brewery 5k (15:30)
Burning River 50M*
*Denotes trail race
() = goals if applicable