Heather Braithwaite, MD |
Endurance Sports are Not for Those Who Require Instant Gratification
You’ve invested the time. Fourteen weeks (or more) of faithfully following your plan despite early morning wakeups, blustery rainy runs, ugly toenails, faced the dreaded foam roller and taken plenty of Epsom salt baths. You’ve carefully made your travel plans, tried to get enough rest and eat all the right foods. You’ve checked and rechecked the weather a hundred times and you are ready for a great race! But what happens, when despite your careful preparations, you fail to meet your “A” or “B” goal? For a variety of reasons, often beyond our control such as weather or illness, a race can sometimes end up- well, with an underwhelming result.
This is a delicate topic for athletes since one person’s disappointment might be another’s dream result. As runners, we know the daily effort required to prepare for a big event, yet talking about missed goals as “failures” may be insensitive. However, the occasion of missing your goal is a prime opportunity to scrutinize your preparation and performance and identify some critical areas of improvement. Furthermore, it is a time to reflect on goals and reevaluate what you really want to achieve.
My experience at the 2019 Boston Marathon afforded me one of these unwanted learning opportunities. I was coming off a solid training cycle, buoyed by steady continuous improvement over my 4 prior marathons. The weather was predicted to be 50’s and light intermittent rain which, for me, is ideal! I made sure to fuel up with plenty of carbohydrates and had a strong but deliberate start to the race. Early rain showers and wind had passed through before I even reached the start line. Warm humid pockets of thick air began to accumulate in the low-lying areas of Ashland and Framingham. My insides felt heavy and were starting to gurgle by mile 10. Somewhere around the halfway mark, the sun came out and it seemed like visible steam was rising from the pavement. I felt my goal slipping away.
A few short years ago, I was thrilled to even earn the privilege of running the Boston Marathon with a BQ 3:41 at The Wrightsville Beach Marathon (2017). So, it seems trite that I would feel “meh” about a 3:16 in Boston (2019), falling 2 minutes short of a PR achieved 6 months earlier at Marine Corps Marathon (2018). The 2017 me would have had a great guffaw to know I would soon be hoping to run such fast times. Yet, dissatisfied I was. I knew I was in 3:05-3:10 shape. As I hobbled back to my hotel, I vowed to never run another marathon. By nightfall, I was already searching for races and plotting my redemption. I set my sights on Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, MN about 2 months later. I am tenacious, if nothing else.
Nothing worth having comes easily
Is it wise to race another marathon so soon after a failed attempt? Usually, no. It is risky to extend your training cycle for another 6-8 weeks. Even when you are feeling healthy, racing causes microtrauma to muscles and tendons that can lead to chronic tendinitis and other maladies. Overtraining, especially if you have a negative mindset from recent underperformance, can lead to athlete burnout. After careful consideration, I decided to do it anyway. Here is what I learned:
Analyze the data
Shortly after your race, write down a list of positives and negatives. What went well in your race? What contributed to poor performance? Was it a hard day for everyone? Talk to your coach or a training partner who will give you honest feedback about your current status. Are you injured? Fatigued? Over-reaching?
Share your disappointments and goals with only your inner circle
The more we talk about things we want to do but do not achieve, we lose credibility with ourselves and others. We may feel demoralized, lose faith in ourselves and may abandon our goals. Even worse, we may avoid doing workouts or socializing with fellow athletes.
Don’t shortchange proper recovery
Take a brief recovery period to let your muscles heal and relax. As a physician, I cannot overemphasize the importance of adequate sleep, hydration, and nutrition. In addition to eating a balanced diet, Runners Essentials Daily Vitamin Formula allows me the confidence to know my body has the best available tools to repair itself and build additional muscle. Its unique blend of vitamins and adaptogens such as beetroot, rhodiola and ginseng gives me the energy to keep up with those high mileage weeks. In the past, after a big race or intense training week, I would immediately come down with a cold or other minor illness. Since I’ve been taking Runner’s Essentials, the biggest change I’ve noticed is how easily I fight off or recover from illness. If you are not healthy, you cannot put in the work needed to reach big goals.
Consult an expert
A credentialled coach can help you formulate a safe and effective training “extension”. Most importantly, trust the training and resist the urge to do “extra” miles or workouts.
Adjust your goal/ focus, if needed
Perhaps the original goal may have been ambitious for this stage in your athletic development. A more conservative or less specific goal such as “get a PR” may be more manageable and still satisfying.
Remember your “why”
A goal which does not really resonate with you will ultimately be a waste of time an effort, impossible to achieve or will leave you feeling empty and unsatisfied.
Let go of anxiety and “just do it”!
Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will. Stop underestimating yourself. I found I was able to execute my race better when I told myself it was just like another workout. I set my sights on 3:10 at Grandma’s Marathon which would be 4 minutes off my prior PR and was able to safely run 3:08.
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