Monday, July 22, 2013

Denver Double Road Race: Race Report

I never thought that running a 10k and 5k on the same day at altitude separated by an hour was a good idea. But, in the spirit of team cohesion and never one to shy away from an interesting challenge, I signed up for the Denver Double Road Race with trepidation; I’m no fool, these events are hard individually.

Running races at altitude presents several challenges. First, there is the obvious lack of oxygen up here. Second, my ribs are still not 100% which compounds the problem of less oxygen. My rib cage just is not quite up to the task of working that hard. Of course, I do not help matters by going as hard as I can for as long as I can and then hanging on for dear life until the finish line with my abdomen and sternum burning.

I just cannot seem to shed my desire to be competitive and go fast and run hard. It makes no sense to me to sign up for a race and then trot through it; so, I do these races knowing that there are limitations to what I can do and there will be some level of discomfort. I make this choice because it is better than sitting on the couch and looking up the results later.

With no experience in racing this type of format, I really did not know how to approach it. In the end, I ran the 10k like it was the only event and hoped that I could run the 5k at least as fast as my 10k average. Here are my three 5k splits: 18:06, 18:54 (ouch, I blew up big time) and 18:13. The second 5k of my 10k was atrocious, attributable to breathing difficulties stemming from poor pacing the first two miles and the aforementioned rib issues. I am constantly amazed at how easy the first two miles feel and how shitty the last two miles feel in a 10k. I constantly preach about good pacing, but I still have yet to master pacing in a 10k.

After the 10k, the race organizers set up a recovery area replete with chiropractors, massage therapists and foam rollers. There was a lot of food on offer – gels, bars, donuts. Yes, there were donuts. And, yes, people scarfed them down. I overheard numerous conversations that went like this: “Did you see the donuts?  I’m going to get one or three and eat them for my recovery.” I wonder how they fared in the 5k?

After the 10k, I jogged a mile easy and then ate a Power Gel, drank some water, took some Salt Stick capsules (sorry, have to shill for the sponsors; I only have a few left) and sat on the floor dreading the 5k.

My warm up for the 5k consisted of 5 minutes of easy jogging, a single stride of 10 seconds and a trip to the Porta-Potty. Lining up at the start line felt like deja-vu. It was hard imagine running the course one more time.

The first half mile felt like crap. Then, my legs loosened up and I actually started to feel good. I started thinking to myself that this wasn’t so bad and got lulled into a false sense of security.

There was a hill before the 2 mile marker. It wasn't too big, but suddenly it felt like Everest. My hip flexors ached and my breathing was shallow. The last mile I just hung on and tried to slow down as little as possible.

All in all, the Double was “fun”. Perhaps next time I would skip the 17 mile run two days before; but then again, I probably won’t.

When it is all said and done, it is possible to run fast when your legs are dreadfully tired.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Are you mentally tough?

What is mental toughness? This concept is bandied about in the sports world, often used recklessly. Is it mentally tough to forge through a race injured, bleeding or puking? Or, is it mentally tough to train while sick or when the weather is shitty? Perhaps this is merely bad decision making, something I have fallen prey to in the name of “mental toughness”. I think that the construct of mental toughness is overused philosophically and underused in practice. Mostly, this is because mental toughness is generally misinterpreted rendering true mental toughness hard to find.

Mental toughness is the ability to toe the line at a race, and no matter which athletes show up, not letting them affect you or ruin your game plan.

Mental toughness is racing to your potential whether you are 1st or 31st or last.

Mental toughness is looking at your workouts for the week with a small amount of fear and a large amount of excitement at the challenge set forth.

Mental toughness is putting aside the chaos of life for a designated amount of time each day to properly execute your training.

Mental toughness is doing the little things that make a big difference.

Mental toughness is finding that last ounce of energy to keep going until the finish line when your body wants to quit.

Mental toughness is going back for more even if you’ve been disappointed or embarrassed.

Mental toughness is taking adversity and turning it into an advantage.

Mental toughness is not being a lemming and just doing whatever everyone else is doing.

Mental toughness is having self-confidence and not self-doubt.

Mental toughness is savoring the small victories and knowing they will lead to larger ones down the road.

Mental toughness is having trust in yourself, your coach, and your advisers to lead you down the right path.

Mental toughness is learning how to focus.

Mental toughness is not giving up because it is too hard.

Mental toughness is not any one thing. It is an amalgamation of so many different things, and that is why it is hard to truly define it and achieve it. But, mastering at least some of these aspects of mental toughness will undoubtedly make you a better athlete.