When goal races go bad

Not all runners run races. I don’t need to race in order to enjoy my “training”. I enjoy running hard in order to feel good and to generally stay fit and fast. But every now and then I like to measure my efforts with a race, and sometimes I need to have a goal to help motivate me and keep me honest in working hard. I also like testing myself and putting it all on the line in a big performance. I love racing when I feel well prepared and fit and ready to go. I don’t feel the need to do this too often (because it is hard and stressful) but usually once or twice a year I’ll train for a big “goal race”.

This fall I decided it was time. For about eight weeks I ran weekend long runs with pace specific work, Wednesday morning interval workouts where I tried to get faster and fitter each week, did running specific strength training with core work included and daily runs to hit my mileage targets. I was doing all this to get ready to run a fast half marathon. I was getting excited to get out there and see what I had.

But then I got sick. I was still hopeful that I’d recover right up until the night before. But as I lay under the covers with the chills and body aches I knew I wouldn’t be able to race a decent race, so I decided not to go.

sometimes this ...

sometimes this …

... takes the place of this.

… takes the place of this.

Big goal races are like that. Of all my current network of runner friends, I would say that for big goal races for this fall they were about 60/40 for being happy with their races vs. not. And in the ‘not’ category are those who got injured, sick, or just had a bad race below expectations. It is really hard to put a perfect training block together and have everything come together perfectly for race day. The odds, although slightly on your side, are not great. It’s anything but a sure thing. We’re up against work stress, family circumstances, physical injury, poor weather, cold and flu viruses, poor nutrition choices (ok, that last one might be within our control). To add to this, training plans are not sure fire recipes for success and adapting perfectly to a training plan without over or under-doing it, taking all your other stressors into account, is a fine art which I think has a lot of luck written in.

This is not to say we should give up and stop trying. It is just a reminder not to beat ourselves up when we land in the 40% who didn’t reach their goal. I’m finally there. I’ve been doing this for long enough that I don’t feel mad or upset that I didn’t race. There will be more, and I will enjoy training towards a goal, and if it all comes together I will realize what a special thing it is and celebrate with all my heart. And then I’ll go out and buy a lottery ticket.

Like having the perfect goal race.

Like having the perfect goal race.