Thursday, September 1, 2016

Race Preview: Race to the End of Summer 10K

You guys, I am feeling so jittery and nervous and just plain EXCITED about this race.

It has been so long since I've run a 10K where I actually thought I had a chance at a good race. I mean, it will not be a PR race; after all I've only got 3 weeks of speed work in the legs and won't really be tapering. BUT, I've been lifting a LOT (which I feel like makes a big difference for me at the 5K-10K distance) and I feel like I've built up a pretty strong base. So I'm feeling fairly confident that I've got a solid 6.2 miles in these legs. (As RunnersConnect reminded me recently, the 10K is still 90% aerobic, so there's that.)

The main thing I'm trying to make sure I have a handle on is the mental piece. I ran my first 10K post-stress fracture last February knowing that I wasn't going to set any records, but I still thought I could probably pull out a fairly respectable race. Instead my legs felt like lead and I proceeded to completely lose it mentally within the first mile, spent most of the rest of the race alternating between panic and grumbling to myself, & finished just fast enough to tie my personal worst.

In retrospect I think I went into that race afraid to truly run hard and suffer. It's true that I didn't have the fitness to run a great time no matter what, but I think if I'd gone into it more mentally prepared and braced for it, I wouldn't have fallen apart so easily. To quote triathlon legend Chris McCormack, "The common theme in every battle with pain I have ever won was my mind-set. It was only those times when I allowed the fear of the moment to manifest big enough in my own head—-when I didn’t think I could fully beat the problem with my self-talk and my checklist—-that the battle was lost."

So, here's the mental pep talk I'm giving myself for this weekend:

  • Running fast is so, so, so much fun. Through all the marathon training & base training over the last few months, I have really, really missed the heart-pounding excitement of short, hard races. Yes, marathons hold a certain appeal for me, but there's nothing that makes me feel like a runner, like a competitive athlete, than going hard start to finish. I'm trying hard to hold onto my excitement about that.
  • Running fast also hurts. A lot. Chris McCormack again: "As I began to think about it more, I realized that no matter how much I loved racing or how hard I trained, at some point a race is going to really suck. It is how I reacted to this moment that determined everything." (In case it isn't clear, I love that article.) The pain isn't your enemy; it's an indicator that you're pushing yourself hard and getting closer to your goal. "Pain is my friend, and I treat it that way. As it presents itself, I smile and say things like 'OK, here you are. I have been waiting for you.'"
  • BUT, you're pretty good at coping with it. I really think that the last six or so miles at the Eugene Marathon helped me get my head back on straight about this. Those miles truly, truly sucked, but I had decided ahead of time that a) I was not going to back away from the pain and b) I was not going to let myself get into a negativity spiral about how awful it was or how slow I was going. Instead, I just kept reminding myself that "Baddasses embrace the suck. Are you a baddass or a weenie?" Afterward, I remember thinking, "Wow, that was truly, epically awful & you handled it fine," which was exactly what I needed.

According to the forecast it will probably be around 60° during the race (8:00am) & full sun, so I am mentally preparing for an uncomfortably warm race (not because I think 60° is hot, but in my experience that's the number where my performance starts to actively go downhill & full sun makes everything 10x worse, especially on pavement).

(Update, they're now saying partly cloudy/high 50°s, WOO-HOO!!)

On the other hand, it is a pretty flat course with almost no real turns, so--**provided I can get some good sleep & rest up sufficiently between now & then**--it should be a decent indicator of where my current fitness is.

So yeah--we'll see how it goes! :)


  1. So excited to see how this plays out! I've been learning all sorts of interesting lessons of suck from hiking at elevation but racing lessons are the best. So please to be sharing!

  2. Woohoo! Good luck! I can totally relate to a lot of this. I've recently tried to make it my mission to look terrible in race photos, because if I notice the race photographer and manage to grin, I'm definitely not trying hard enough. ;)

  3. Have a blast!! I haven't run down at Hellyer (I think that's where it is) in a year-plus ... I live on the other side of town ... but it's a nice place to run and is very flat. Have a blast!! 10ks are tough. They're such a calculated distance to race. You'll do great!

  4. Love the pre-race nerves, the anticipation is a big part of what makes racing so fun. I feel for anyone who's raced so much that they no longer get jittery beforehand. And maybe it's six of one/half-dozen of the other to most folks, but I don't ever think of in-race suffering as "pain"... pain to me is acute, like tearing a muscle or tendon in the middle of a race and being unable to finish. In-race suffering is simple fatigue, and a whole lot of it. Maybe your brain wants you to THINK you're in pain, but then 20 minutes after you cross the finish line you're like "DAMN, I could've run faster!" So I try to look at it as just being a little more tired than usual, and who wants to slow down just 'cuz they're a little tired?? Though admittedly, "No pain, no gain" is catchier than "No fatigue, no intrigue"... can't see the latter ever catching on outside the Stanford track team.

    And YES, running fast is a blast. GOOD LUCK, run strong and don't let your brain tell you otherwise!

  5. That is such a great piece by Mccormack! Hope you had a great - and minimally painful - race! ;)

  6. That is such a great piece by Mccormack! Hope you had a great - and minimally painful - race! ;)

  7. Thanks for linking to Runners Connect, Angela :) We appreciate the shares, and YES! It is so important to build that base. Keep up the good work with your training (I am also racing CIM), best of luck over the next few months :)