This year is already flying by. I feel like I blinked at it’s already spring time here in Boulder, Colorado and before I know it, summer, and my bigger races will be here. Many of us have already put on a bib this year, and if you haven’t yet, I’m sure you are busy planning long runs, training blocks or wondering how on earth you’re going to be ready for your race season ahead (or maybe that’s just me).
But before we get too ahead of ourselves in thought, I want to ask a question. Why are you running these races in the first place? This isn’t meant as an imperious question, rather one of curiosity. Why did you chose these specific races, locations and courses to train and prepare for? From the distance, to the time of year, to the particular location of the race itself? There can be so many different reasons to chose a race, so I’m asking you if you know your reason and how it might fit into the bigger picture?
Personally, this simple question brings about a complex answer and, in it, the key to executing a successful race. If I know the bigger picture and the reason for racing herein lies my devotion to my chosen goal. Even if it’s as simple as conquering a new challenge, knowing why I’m racing, running and pushing myself to my limits is how I gain motivation and focus to train, day-in and day-out.
The reasons don’t have to be complicated either. Maybe you are using a race to build up to a longer distance race, maybe you are working on speed, maybe the terrain, or elevation gain is something you’re looking to improve upon, or maybe it’s your favorite place to run in the world and your season wouldn’t be complete without it. The reasons don’t have to be complicated, but without these reasons to keep up the daily grind, I find myself lost, uninspired and meandering. Knowing my bigger picture and why I’m racing can make all the difference on race day itself.
Take my recent race at Gorge Waterfalls 100km. This race was not my ‘A’ race. I put it on the calendar with my coach, discussing its purpose as a training race – an opportunity to run far in the early season on less-technical terrain, to practice my racing fuel plan and to support the running community. Of course, there were competitive goals too, but those where extra – if I were to have a good day, coming into the race on tired legs. I saw the bigger picture. So when my race started to fall apart about 20 miles in, when I realized I didn’t have ‘it’ mentally or physically that day, I still stayed the course. I didn’t retire the race due to a little suffering or a bad day, instead, I found a way to swallow my pride and problem solve my way to the finish line. It wasn’t pretty. It was one of the hardest races I’ve had to stay mentally focused and not throw in the towel, but crossing that finish line after 42 miles of battling with my mind, was one of the most gratifying feelings. I knew I had achieved my goal and understood how it fell into the bigger picture.
So if you have your bigger picture filled with smaller picture races, keep those motivations in mind this season. But if you still haven’t found it, I encourage you to paint that bigger picture for yourself, so that you enjoy your training more, and so you can find those bigger reasons on race day to get the most out of yourself.