Sunday, February 14, 2010

Risk Vs. Reward US national cross country championships

Thank you eve nelson for this photo

Where there is risk, also lies reward. The higher the risk, the higher the chance of reward. As athletes we take a risk every time we compete. I was reminded of this as I sat at home watching the winter Olympic games. Watching the womens mogul competition I watched as a young Canadian athlete standing at the top of her run, in front of her home crowd had a choice. She could ski it "safe" and probably walk away with a silver or bronze meddle. Or she could go after the course with everything she had in hopes of capturing the gold, doing so risking walking away with nothing. The first half of her run, flawless! Her hopes of gold came down to the last jump, and as her ski's left the snow perfection rested on this one moment. With her nation watching, failure suddenly struck. she smacked the ground hard and was thrown like a rag doll down the moguls.

As athletes this is our risk, our fear. One word Failure. Not just failure, but failing for everyone to see. In school when you fail a test you often tuck it quickly into your binder so that no one else can see it. But in sports and athletics there is no place to hide. You are testing yourself in front of your family, friends, home town, and for some even their nation or the world. If you fail everyone will know. I don't think Nerves come because we are afraid of the task we are about to complete, or the distance of the race. Those butterflies in your stomach, that knot in your throat, the anxiety before the gun goes off. We feel these thoughts for the most part because we fear failure, and not reaching our goals. I never really get nervous performing in practice. But performing the same activity in front of others I find sometimes that my nerves are on edge. Never the less if you want big rewards you have to take great risks, and not be afraid of what others think.

This weekend I decided to race in the USA Cross Country national championships. The reason I decided to run? I guess I could not pass up the opportunity to race against Olympic athletes such as Dathan Ritzenhein, in my home town. The race was a 12k cross country race which I knew would be long and tough. As I looked at the race course that I would be competing on I realized something. The race was divided into 6 very short laps, and with the competition I was racing, and not knowing where my fitness was there was a good chance(in my mind) of getting lapped. That thought of failure was looming over my shoulder. But I decided it does not matter. Failure is part of the game, and if you always avoid it (never take risks) you will never have great results.

My plan for the race was to try something new. I decided to start my race slow and build from my starting pace. I knew this would be hard for me since I love to get sucked up in the pack and run fast from the start. After the gun went off I had to tell myself to let everyone go. I just kept a smooth relaxed stride and watched as the lead pack slowly pulled away. About 700 meters into the race I turned around and noticed that there were only about 10 athletes behind me! This was something new for me. I could see the back end of the race! At that point I wanted to put in a monster surge and run my way back up to the pack, but I knew that would not be apart of my plan. As I passed the first mile the race volunteer yelled 5:40! Ok I now need to pick it up! This pace was no where near my planned race pace. The next two laps I just worked on moving through the crowd. Slowly picking people off, and gaining positions. I would be lying if I said the race was not tough. Running on grass, and for sections marshy muddy grass. Your legs quickly become fatigued. It is a very different feeling from running on the road. The last two laps I found myself hanging onto athletes that were slowly going by me, trying to stick with their pace. I had no idea what to expect for a finishing time, and as I came to the finish I saw 39:08.

It was at this moment that I was very happy I did not let the fear of the race keep me from competing. In all reality my fears of being lapped were something I had created in my head.
I had averaged 5:14's for a 12k (Bloomsday distance), placed 48th at the US National cross country championships, and set a new PR for the 12k distance. I think the thing that was most amazing about this race was having it in my home town. I have never had a race quite like this one. There was no point on the course where I didn't feel like I had someone cheering for me. I am super thankful for everyone that cheered or yelled my name out there, and I really do appreciate your support. By the way if you were wondering what kind of field this was racing. a pace of 5:49 for the 12k got you a place of 6th from last in the 100 man field.

So for now my training focus will change a little. I feel like I have lots of fitness still to gain in my running before this summers triathlon season, but it is time to get focused on my bike. I will keep doing what I am doing for my run training, but now I will gradually add more and more cycling to the weekly schedule. The 2010 triathlon season will be here before you know it and there is not time to waste :).

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

First race of 2010

Man it feels good to be back out racing. All it takes is one race and my motivation almost doubles. This sunday I competed in the BRRC partners in pain 5k. My plan for the race was to just run hard. The gun went off and I ran as hard as i could for as long as I could (kind of an elementary school of thought). The first mile was 4:48 and shortly after the mile Chad Portwood took over and took charge of the race. Surprisingly the race felt very smooth and relaxed. My time was 15:35. I am very happy with that time, especially since it is still the off season. Last year I ran 16:00 at this same race, so to be 25 seconds faster gave confidence in my training a major boost.

Up next is the is the USA XC National championships. This Saturday Spokane is hosting the USA National cross country championships. I honestly could not pass up the opportunity to race top level athletes in my home town. I should probably rephrase that and say race on the same course as the top US athletes. Since the race is a 12k cross country race, my goal for the day is to pace myself taking the first portion easy and build the rest of the race. So if you are in Spokane this coming weekend (2/13/2010) come out to Plantes Ferry and check the race out.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Going through the valley, and goals for 2010

For the most part winter training has been going great. I am still chipping away at my swimming, and starting to feel much stronger in my strokes. The goal, the last couple months has been to drag myself to the pool at least 5 days a week. I set this in my mind to be a burden(hence I used the word Drag) but in reality it has become something I enjoy. January has been good and I have averaged over 17,000 yards a week for the month.

While swimming has been going great. My running has been a little rough. After two hard spills on my Mt bike that were only a day apart, I started to notice some small aches and pains. These grew to larger aches a pains, and after a short while running was painful. I realized something at this moment. No one else truly cares that you are hurt (Just putting it in a blunt sense). Injuries are part of competition and you can either do something about it, or you can not. I decided that I was not going to give up at this point. I still kept my 40 miles a week of running going, and If I am honest I hated almost every second of it. With school and work I found myself running through the night at 10,11, sometimes even 12pm. There is a road that parallels a river by my house, and you run elevated way above the river. At night this river casts off fog and you find yourself running in a somewhat surreal state. The river and road twist and turn together traveling south and just when you feel like you are running in a strange dream the headlights of a lone car over take you, temporarily blinding you to the night. It was on one of these nights that I realized I am in a valley, and I have hit the bottom. Pain at the moment was demotivating me beyond belief, and I just wanted to stop! Thoughts(recurring ones) create beliefs, and beliefs can turn to life patterns. If you begin to stop on runs, it becomes easier the next time, and you soon find yourself giving up as the normal habit. In short I hate to stop on my runs. and if it wasn't for the engraning of this thought into my mind, I would have been walking through the dark. Lucky for me my Being stubborn and continuing to run has not created any further injuries, and after 3 long weeks I finally feel back! At the moment I feel very glad I ran through the pain because I feel stronger than ever in my running. Will I actually be faster, we will just have to wait for the first race and see ( I really don't know).

What lies ahead for 2010? My race schedule this year will look very similar to last years. I will be racing Ironman Boise and Ironman Lake stevens again, and hopefully(with some hard work) be improving on my times. Many already know this but I have decided that my goal is to aim towards a pro card. Why do I want it? To me it isn't about holding a card, If the card is the only thing I am after then I am only lying to myself. The pursuit of a pro card is mainly to push myself as an athlete. I have found in competition that I rise to the level at which I am around. If I know I am about to go up against great athletes who will quite easily put me to shame, I will still put my best foot forward. I am not afraid to go all out, and completely fail. This has always been my weakness as a runner. You could line me up against the worlds greatest, and in the back of my mind I would believe that somehow if I give it my all, I can take him. In reality there is no chance, but I would still give it a go and try to push that athlete as long as I could (even if it was only for 100 meters). I have quite literally done this at countless races. I know I should stop doing it, but it is an urge I can't resist. I guess you could call it a competitive habit :). But with a chance of making myself look like a fool I have decided to go for it. I could care less about racking up 1st places at races. I care about being a better athlete. 20th and a faster time sounds a whole lot greater to me than 1st and a slower time. So if Luck lands right( I will need it) I will be chasing this dream whole heartedly. All and all I am excited. I can not wait for racing to start!