The race didn’t go very well, but that wasn’t a surprise. I still felt sick Monday, though the fever was gone, and that, coupled with my lack of fitness, made me hurt a lot in the second half of the 5k. I ran 14:21 which a lot of people have told me, all things considered, is really good.
I’m not sure if I want to go that route. I’m not hard on myself -- it was a hard, slow race, time to move on -- but I don’t want to deal with excuses or outs. I think it weakens you psychologically, to think in this way.
A common out is the “I didn’t give it my all” out. So many of us are so obsessed with time goals that the idea of giving it everything you’ve got is frightening. If you do that, then you’re faced with the reality of your current fitness; this can be a huge blow to the ego when you don’t meet your goals. Better to miss your goal but think (know?) that you could have gone faster. This mindset is destructive, as it detrains your ability to push it in a race -- and isn’t that what it’s all about?
It’s so easy to grasp at something like lack of sleep, illness, jetlag, the wrong meal, the rabbit’s pacing ability...as an excuse for your performance. In reality, none of these should ever matter. Yes, some are more valid than others -- I know that my fever impacted my ability to run to my potential -- but I’m not dwelling on it. You never know in what condition you’ll be at the important races in the season and you have to prepare yourself to be ready for anything that’s thrown at you. Looking back at my race on Monday, I ask myself: did I give it my all? That’s the only thing that matters.
I can’t distance myself entirely from the obsession with time. Obviously, that’s one of the great motivators to continue competing in this sport. Thus, I was certainly disappointed, though it appears I am continuing to run with low expectations: last week I thought breaking 25 would be great, this weekend, before getting sick, I thought I was in no better shape than 14:20.
While racing, I thought for the last couple laps that perhaps I wasn’t giving it my all, that I was giving up because I was sick, and I had an out. Was that really the case? You have to keep in mind that success is highly relative. Outkicking a bunch of people who are in worse shape than you might make you feel good and bring in the accolades, but it is likely you didn’t actually run to your potential. What if you run that exact same race -- same splits, same time -- but against better competition, and get run down in the final 100 meters? You’ll feel awful about yourself. During my race on Monday, I was getting dropped by people I thought were worse than me. I was hard on myself, thinking about dropping out, kicking myself for not trying harder. But could I really have done anything? On that day, the guys who beat me were better than me. I crossed the line with my head feeling like it was going to explode, my arms feeling like they would fall off. I lay down and hyperventilated a few yards off the track for a long time, long enough that the track was clear by the time I got up. Can I say I gave it my all? Yes. Does that mean I succeeded? Yes, and no; I’m not going to be pleased with a 1421 and finishing who-knows-how-many places back. But I am pleased with the effort I gave, for, in the end, it’s all about the process. This race was preparation of sorts, as well. Each time you give it your all in a race, the easier it is to dig deep the next time. And when the training and fitness all line up at the end of the season, along with the correct mentality, you’ll be hard to beat.