This past weekend I got the chance to race a 1500 at the Michael Johnson Invitational at Baylor. I always have a reason for racing so this week my reason was to get some speed and to get uncomfortable in a fast pace (or at least, fast for me) so that in a steeple, the pace will seem easier and more comfortable even if it goes out a little quick.
The week leading up to the race I was feeling strong. At the beginning of the week, I was very confident in my training and where my body was. That week was also my first week of full track workouts so up until then I had been doing good basework and strength workouts. I was excited to get on the track but also nervous because the track doesn’t lie. On roads and trails there are hills, rough terrain, sometimes inaccurate mile markers (or watches that lie), and workouts like fartleks where I’m just trying to push myself and run fast for a certain time without worrying about how far I’m going each interval. The track, however, is flat, perfectly measured, and how I’ll measure myself every race. So I was feeling strong but a little nervous about how fast I would actually be able to run. On Tuesday before the race, I had some 200s and 400s. I hit the paces I was supposed to, but it was harder than I thought it would be. I felt the lactic acid for sure. I was happy I hit the paces but after that workout, I was more nervous about running a shorter race. Thursday I ran some more 400s and felt a lot more controlled and relaxed so after that workout I was feeling more confident. Talking and communicating with my coach was really good for me too; he always reassures me and he was expecting me to feel how I was feeling. He told me we just got on the track and I have to be patient; it’s all a work in progress and I’ll get faster through the season. This week, he said, was about starting track workouts and getting my legs moving with a quick race. Trust the process. Friday I went out to the track for a shake out. My legs were feeling great and my feet loved feeling fast in spikes. I did a couple of strides Saturday morning before the race and felt like my legs were turning over faster than they had in a while so I was pumped to race in the afternoon.
I got unusually nervous before this race and when I asked myself why I was so nervous, I realized that the thoughts I mentioned earlier were my thoughts about where I was physically before the race. However, I am human so my emotions were also controlling some of my nervousness. Racing at Baylor for me means racing in front of a home crowd so even though I could just be making it up in my head, I felt that people I knew/people who had followed my college career were expecting things from me and I was putting more pressure on myself to perform because of these expectations. Whether I’m making it up or not, I thought, “People expect me to be fast now and to always be at my peak, no matter what part of the season it is.” In my head, spectators only see a race on the track so they don’t always know the reason behind someone racing and they don’t always know where someone is in their training. Especially in races early on in the season, it can be easy for me to get caught up in the idea that I have to prove I’m super fast when really, that’s not where I’m at training wise. I’ll be there when I need to be and I’m getting closer with each workout but I would much rather peak later on in the summer than mid April. All of these thoughts and emotions are just part of my personality; failure is my biggest fear so having someone think that I “failed” by not PRing or winning a race, even if that’s not even my race goal, is something I instinctively avoid at all costs. That’s a pride thing and I realized that I needed to put my pride down and humble myself before the race because I would be able to run faster and more relaxed if I could free myself from the need to meet other people’s expectations (or the imaginary expectations I made up that other people expected from me). Truthfully, I do want people to expect things from me because it shows they believe in me, I do want to prove that I’m fast because I believe in myself, and I do want to run fast, however I don’t want this wanting-to-prove-myself to come from a place of pride. Running is not my identity. I want to run fast and I will always do my best and give 100% in a race but I don’t want or need to run in pride or to prove to other people that I’m worth something. I don’t want my races to be an argument to other people that I’m a cool person or that I can do things they didn’t think I could; I want to run because I love running, I want to see how far I can push myself, I want to inspire and encourage people, and I want to glorify God with a talent he’s given me. I’m learning to put my pride down and race knowing my goal and my reason for racing because that is what is most important for me and how I’ll measure my success in a race. I had my race goal and my focus for this race, so once I let go of the need to perform for other people I could execute the plan. So without further ado…
Thoughts during the race:
Get out! Get out! Get out! Ok don’t get boxed in, just run on the outside for a little bit. You’re fine. Inch your way up. Perfect, not leading but up at the front, stay here. This feels fast (400 split called: “67!”). Yup that’s fast for me. It’s ok, you knew this was going to be a fast race. It’s a good pace, stay with it. Oh man, lactic acid lactic acid. Already? Can I even finish this race? Stop it you’re fine, you’re strong you train for this just stay in it. 800, over halfway there (Girl in first drops out). You’re leading now. Whyyyy are you leading? Because I’m fine, I can do this. Relax. It’s a good pace just keep going. Oh my gosh my legs are screaming. One lap to go. Maggie’s passing, it’s ok stay controlled and latch on. This is hard. You can run one lap…. Thought blackout until 200 to go… ok 200 to go don’t kick too soon. Do I even have a kick? Finish hard, just like the last 200 in practice. I’m getting passed. Oh. My. Gosh. My. Legs. They’re starting to feel wobbly. You only have 100 to go look up you can make it. Stay with them and finish the race. 4:22. Nice, you did what you needed to do. Legs still attached? Sweettt we’re good to go!
So that concludes my thoughts during the race. I was happy that during the race I focused on myself and not other people’s expectations for me because I was able to execute my race plan and run for the goals I set for myself instead. Thoughts outside of myself were mostly about placement and healthy competition. Internally, I was able to acknowledge what was happening in my body, accept it, and counter most of my negative thoughts. I’ve learned that in races I’ll always have some negative thoughts because running fast is hard and it hurts but the better I become at countering those negative thoughts and putting my focus on something else, the better I’ll be able to race. I can take that into normal people life too. Something I can work on is getting into position and relaxing there. Sometimes I make too many moves early on in a race because I don’t relax in a position when my positioning was fine and I could have saved energy for later on. This race helped me practice relaxing in a position and I know I’ll get more practice and become better at running relaxed in a group over time.
All in all, it was a good race. I hope to run faster 1500s later on in the season and I know I will but this race was just what I needed for my first one. It was really fun to race on the Baylor track again and race Maggie (an old teammate and training partner) and see her run really well. After the race, I got to cheer on the Baylor team, catch up with old teammates, and be encouraged by people who came to watch. I didn’t win and I didn’t PR but I reached my goal and achieved my purpose for racing this race, I learned from it, I was encouraged and built up by people who cheered me on, and I got the chance to let go of something that had been a burden for me so now I can get out there and run the world more freely. And now I really get to start running the world! I’m taking everything I have learned and everything I’m working on and headed out to Stanford this weekend to race a fast steeple in a competitive field (race on Sunday covered by Flotrack). Thanks for reading and following along, get out there and run the world! 🙂