It’s been a month since my race season ended and despite the magnitude of it, the moment it ended it was gone. I quickly rolled into pacer training and haven’t looked back. But I remembered that I hadn’t wordified it, so here’s a short reflection.
I’ve always considered myself a soul runner; out there for the sheer joy the sport brings me. Racing wasn’t the point, just part of it. Over the past few years, external meaning and competition have been added to my racing and, despite enjoying the distances and race atmosphere, I haven’t loved toeing the line all that much.
This March, when the Coffee Club asked me to join their team for The Speed Project at the last minute, I was happy to. It wasn’t my race or goals (until we started running); I’d be there to help them accomplish theirs. Minimal pressure, maximum fun & adventure.
TSP was the best I’ve felt about racing in a very long time and it made me realize my relationship with racing was not healthy and I was spiraling.
So I threw a wrench in my perfectly planned & trained-for-season to try to figure it out.
That is to say, my 3 planned races grew to 7, continued into the heat of June, included 2 at my least favorite distance (10k), and featured back-to-back-to-back race weekends. Plus, despite my long-held intimidation by them, I attempted an FKT on a couple days’ whim. I figured if I was going to make myself uncomfortable, might as well go all in.
Boy was it a suck. I missed my normal training and trail adventures with friends, I got overheated at *all* of the races (DNF’ing at one because I was close to heat exhaustion), and by the end I was TIRED.
But…by the time I hit my 4th race, the intense pre-race build-up of nerves I had grown accustomed to was no longer all-consuming. By the last race, I glowed. I wondered if it was because I didn’t care but I did – it was just different. I’d refocused on myself and my own goals. I made it personal again.
Sometimes you get so comfortable with how things are, good or bad, that you don’t even realize you can or should make a change. You just power through, coping with your reality. I had decided that was just how racing felt; dismissed it as pre-race jitters (even though sometimes those jitters stayed well beyond the start). I was lucky to recognize I needed to change things and even luckier that the unnerving task of breaking through it all didn’t deter me.
Racing didn’t need to be about proving myself worthy (I know I am a good runner), beating other people (there are tons of great runners & tons better than me), besting my past times (every race is different, especially on trails), and it definitely didn’t need to be about living up to other people’s expectations for me (I really don’t need to care about whether you think I can win a race).
Redirecting my season’s goals from PRs & placing was the best thing I could have done.
I refocused on having fun, avoiding injury, staying physically strong through a ridiculous race/taper/recover/race/taper/recover pattern, and building mental fortitude when external challenges like heat threatened to get me down. It was hard and truly nonstop work for 3 months but was magical. I loved these challenges.
I have a nice race plan for the fall, something like what I had initially planned for the spring. Can I continue to maintain a healthy relationship with racing?
I have the tools to.