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 :).


Clint-Murphy said...

Great Post and very well written.

Congrats on the PR.

Haley Cooper said...

Great job out there Josh. Good to see some locals throw down at the national champs.

Nat said...

You are tough, hard working young man, Josh! It was a privilege to watch you race and set yourself a new 12K PR yesterday. Absolutely amazing! Way to hang with the big dogs :)

Steve said...

Congrats on a great race. You definitely belonged there. Way to go and push your own limits and have such a great experience.

Tiffany said...

Way to go, Hosh Berry! Impressive!!!

Matt said...

solid performance Josh, glad your plan went well and you stuck with it. Lets see if you can get a new PR in May! See ya on the tarmac!

jessithompson said...

Way to rock it Hosh!