Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Learning From Past Experiences

Last year at this time I thought I was in great shape.  And I might have been too but a series of mistakes promptly took me out of the race in which I was going to prove my shape.  Today's blog is going to be about learning from your past mistakes and not committing the same ones again.  I might find new mistakes to make this time around but at least I'm not dumb enough to do the same ones over again.  I'm going to talk about my experiences before, and during a 3000 meter indoor track race but the same principles can be applied to any race from a sprint race to an ultramarathon.

Mistake #1
Half the time I race, I always get the bright idea that some odd combination of day before running/stretching/striding is going to help me perform at my best on race day.  I discount all previous experience and knowledge that I have built up.  I forget that earlier in the week I ran 16 miles one day and worked out the next day and felt awesome.  So I run about 5 miles and do some fast strides and assume I'm going to be feeling awesome the next day.

Lesson #1 Learned
Stick with what works in training.  Trying something new isn't for the day before a race.  I run well off high mileage so running 5 miles the day before might leave me sluggish.  Friday I am going to run 10-12 miles at an easy pace and do my usual post run stretching/myrtle routine.

Mistake #2
Eating too much of the wrong things.  When I am nervous I eat.  When I am nervous I don't think much about eating.  When running, and especially racing, you need to be extremely conscious of what you eat and drink.  Last year I had an interesting sandwich a few hours before the race.  I had never had it before but I wanted to try it.  I should have known from workouts that I run well when I haven't eaten much in about 4-5 hours.  I don't need food.

Lesson #2 Learned
Don't eat much.  You don't need it.  It's only a 3k!  Find out what food works for you on race and workout days and eat that.

Mistake #3
Standing around on my feet for too long all day.  The 3k is one of the last races and I enjoy track so I was wondering around, cheering on teammates and all that.  Sometimes I just have to be selfish and just shut myself off from the crowd and track until after the race.

Lesson #3 Learned
I am going to find a coffee shop, or library, or something of that sort where I can sit and read and relax, take my mind off the race for awhile.

Mistake #4
The warm-up.  For workouts I run 15 minutes, put my flats/spikes on, stretch a little and do a few strides.  Then I am ready to go. The whole-routine takes only about 30 minutes.  Why am I warming up for 50 minutes before a race again?

Lesson #4 Learned
Plan your warm-up according to what works for you.  Like eating, pre-race day running, and other factors this is trial and error.

Mistake #5
Taking the lead early, and with a big move.  I had already learned from earlier years that patience is key for me in track races.  Surges tire me out and other runners are likely to fall off pace if I wait for them to do it.

Lesson #5 Learned
I am going to be patient in this race.  I am going to let somebody else lead for at least 10 laps and I am going to stay relaxed and enjoy the race.  When I feel the time is right I am going to make a gradual move and increase the pace.

Overall, racing and running are about finding out what works best for you.  You can try my techniques for race preparation but I'm not sure if they would work for you.  I know many people who race well with 5 miles the day before but I don't.  Running and racing is trial and error.  However, races are not supposed to be experiments.  You are supposed to have already performed the experiments and the race is supposed to be the accumulation of your positive results.

The Video of My Bad Race Last Year

 As you can tell, I am bitter at myself for this race.  Last year I had a poor race and ran 9:11. This year I plan to run at least 8:45.

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