We all have physical potential as athletes. You can physically be in the best shape of your life, but if you can not mentally push yourself to your physical limit, it is really all for nothing. Yes physically you could have the potential to run a 4 min mile, but does it really matter if mentally you can not push yourself to that point? You always hear the saying that there are multiple athletes physically capable of winning the race, but what it comes down to on race day is who can mentally pull it all together. In my training and racing I always try to look where I am weak, and if you want to improve you always have to be working on your weaknesses as an athlete.
I knew one place where I have been weak as an athlete is this idea of competing to your physical potential. This is why I signed up for the Erik Anderson/Runners Soul open (an 8k college cross country race). I did not care what kind of shape I was currently in, I wanted to simply just practice racing and competing. The goal was to cross the line knowing I left everything I had on that day, on the course.
Going into the race I really had no idea what to expect for time, but my goal was to be near the front (I will be honest and say you always want to win races too :)). Weather that was a realistic goal or not, I was about to find out. If you don't believe in your mind that you can hang at the front of a race, you never will. Right before the gun went off all I thought about was leaving everything I had out on the course, and fulfilling that physical potential.
The leaders took off fast and I normally love to start hard at the front of races, but I knew I needed to race smart in order to have a good result. At about a half mile into the race I was in around 20th place, but to my right was David Hickerson and a group of guys that I knew would be the eventual leaders. Knowing this I just sat back, and we slowly picked off the rabbits. It didn't take long for a lead group of about 6 athletes to from. We quickly dropped the main field, and I knew this was exactly where I wanted to be. The goal for the next four miles was to simple hang tough. I knew one of the athletes (Jono Lafler) in this lead pack had run 14:09 (5k) in track this last spring, and that all the athletes in this group were capable of similar times. I wanted to prove to myself that I belonged at the front of these races, and now the opportunity had arrived. The first lap felt relaxed, I just sat in 2nd to 4th place and stayed as relaxed as possible. But as the race went on, the lead pack started the put in more surges. In triathlons you find a steady pace a stick with it, but in running races the pace always changes and you need to be ready to change gears.
Holding onto the lead pack
Starting the second lap I was still with this lead pack, and I had hit the point where normally I would trail off the back. That is the moment I knew I needed to start believing, believing that I was physically capable of being with this group, and that I belonged. Sadly you can't just flip a switch and suddenly toughen up, you have to find motivation, and really focus your mind. It was at this point I thought of a race I recently watched. The elite athlete in this race pushed himself so hard that he needed to be pushed out in a wheelchair. I simply asked myself if I was willing to push this hard? If you want to win a race you have to be willing to hurt more than the athletes next to you. Towards the end of the second lap, I found myself dropping off the back of the lead pack. My legs were loaded with lactic acid, and I was close to my limit. I knew if I let the pack go I would never get back into it. I closed my eyes and surged hard back up to the pack. This happened 2-3 more times in the race, and every time I hoped that was the last surge.
Starting the 3rd lap, I suddenly felt more relaxed. We hit a long straight away and I decided to push to the front of the race. Running into the lead I pushed hard. I did not know how much longer we had in the race, but I knew it couldn’t be (or was hoping) much farther to the finish. It didn’t take long for 2 athletes to pass me back, and I slowly dropped off the back again. At this point I was committed and refused to give up. With about a half a mile to go I ran back into the lead. I pushed knowing I don’t have a strong kick. With 600 to go the leaders all strung out and put in one last final surge. This surge was one I could not hang with. The leaders slowly pulled away, but David Hickerson was only about 10 yards ahead of me. David ran for my dad and is a 3:50 1500m athlete. If anyone could kick it would be him. With 200 to go I simply focused everything I could on moving my legs as fast as I could, passing Hickerson right before the line. The second I crossed the line I knew I had left everything on the course. In my mind I knew I left it all out on the course, and the pain in my legs also confirmed this. At this point I could not help but smile. I had hung with the lead pack for most of the race, and set an 8k PR by over a minute. I had accomplished what I wanted to and in a matter of 25 minutes gained mountains of confidence in my ability to run.
Trying to out kick Hickerson to the line
Grand Columbian Olympic Triathlon
The weekend before the Erick anderson/Runners soul open I raced an Olympic triathlon. My goal for the race was just to have fun. I have been racing a lot of half iron distance races this year and wanted to try an Olympic. There really isn't much to say about the race other than that I had a blast and got to hang out with a great group of people. I will just leave some pictures and a video link from the race.
Getting ready with some tri-fusion team mates
I love my Helix
Some fellow club members cleaned up the age group awards
You didn't race hard enough if you hair is not messed up at the finish :)
Thanks to Dave Erickson for making some sweet videos of the race. This is the last video of 5 you can check out his blog here to watch the rest of them.