I had a pretty aggressive race calendar this year. I raced more than I have since high school, 12 races to date and one more scheduled in November. The distances spanned 5k – 25k, and took place on blacktop, cross-country courses, technical trails and in the mountains. I have learned a lot about myself as a runner and a competitor through it all: a lot of good, some bad, and some straight up ugly! There is a list at the bottom of this post that summarizes my experiential take-aways, but I want to write in more depth about the meaningful and fun aspect of all of this racing.
Sometimes the pressure I put on myself (it’s almost always self-induced isn’t it?) and the ninja-like skills it often takes to work out the logistics of balancing a heavy race schedule with our family schedule had me questioning why I was even standing on a starting line. One of the biggest challenges was the shuttling of kids to my parents, or leaving my sleeping family to head out to a race by myself, and foregoing easy-breezy Saturday mornings with my littles in order to brave a whole slew of crazy race-day conditions (temps in the teens, 8 inches of snow and ice, mud and rain, oh my). The stats weigh against me like an anvil sometimes: I’m 32 years old, I work full time and have two young kids – so much responsibility, so why do I care so much about racing and (gulp) winning?
But then I remember that a large part of why I run is for them. So they know that strength and grace can take many forms, and that setting goals is worthwhile; that the best learning moments and opportunities for growth can happen when you fall short; that we are more than our careers or jobs and that we can build strong communities around shared interests. It is even sweeter when these interests collide with honoring our bodies, health, well-being, and come with a dose of fresh air. I run to be a better mom for them, because running and training brings out the best in me. I work hard, I sweat, sometimes I cry, and often I bake delicious sweet treats that we all get to eat because, damnit, I just ran ten miles in the pouring rain! I’m more level headed and present if I have run, and I just feel better about myself. Some of my best and clearest thinking happens while I’m logging miles. This all translates into more patience and focused attention when I walk back in the door. A win-win.
The OM factor I get from running is vital, but the fun comes from daring to be the best at something that I can be. It is fun to throw other people’s expectations to the wind and attempt to fly, with messy hair and no make-up and the idea that I’m going to splurge on a burger and a few beers when the race is over. It is in the amazing race swag and prizes that our small mountain town bestows upon it’s runners (bottles of wine, growlers of beer, running shoes, weekend getaways, the list goes on!) because we are building an amazing and inclusive community of people that want to get out there and move. It is the high fives and amazing post-race fuel shared with familiar faces at the end of a race. It is sharing these moments, and the ups and downs in between, with the husband, who happens to be my best friend and biggest supporter. These are the things I try to focus on when I feel tense or overly nervous about a race, because these things are the fun and make it really worthwhile.
Without further ado, here is my list of awesomeness and pain that has come from double digit races this year.
- Amazing technical race shirts (and socks and jackets!) mean I don’t have to spend as much on running gear. Making that race entry budget go the extra mile!
- Accountability. It’s hard to ease up on training when you know you have a race in a few weeks. This was especially key for me in the winter months and the hot hot days of summer.
- Having a strategy for approaching all of those races allowed me to PR at multiple distances throughout the year.
- I had off days, and race-day adrenaline didn’t always make up for everything life threw my way. But I learned that it’s okay not to kill it at every race. It made the great performances seem that much greater.
- I often felt like I didn’t have the luxury of tapering and properly recovering. Granted, I struggle with these things normally, but I know they are vital. Often I’d finish a race and jump right into a more fine tuned approach to training for the next race distance a week afterward, but I probably should have given recovery more attention at times.
- Since I mixed up so many distances and types of races, I felt undertrained for certain races. This resulted in some painful falling on trails and getting banged up, and also in missing a 5k time goal by one second.
- My shoes are feeling it. In the past I’ve stretched out shoes longer than I probably should, but your feet feel it when you race a lot.
- The laundry, ugh, the laundry.
- Races do not care if you or your kids have the flu, or a cold, or if your two year old was getting his two-year molars and didn’t want you to sleep because he couldn’t either.
So here is to getting out there and putting that training to the test. I’d love to hear about what you learn from racing!