I feel like since it’s a month out from my terrible, no good, really bad race (Big Cottonwood Marathon now demoted in name to COTTONTAIL), I have a little bit better perspective on everything. Guys! Having a bad race that you poured your heart and soul into and sacrificed so much for all summer is the equivalent of studying for the bar and taking it, only to have your computer erase everything minutes before having to submit it. Devastating. (Thank God that never happened to me. That would have pushed me over the edge, I’m sure.)
Here's the shot of me coming in at Cottontail while facing the reality of a time that was seriously off the mark (I should have thrown my Garmin away - all it did was taunt me after the 5000 ft descent):
So how do you deal with a bad race?
1. Learn from it- There has to be SOME learning lesson from a bad race. Was it that you weren’t prepared for that course? That you didn’t fuel right? That this wasn’t the right course profile for you? That your goal and your training were incompatible? That you undertrained and overcarbed? Figure out whatever it is that you need to learn from your bad race. Just like in life, the hard times should be one of our greatest sources of learning and growing. It’s not a bad race if it gives you the know how to make your next one a great one. What did I learn from Cottontail? Course profile is everything. Don’t pick a death descent course- that isn’t what my body does well on.
2. Realize it is not EVERYTHING- While it feels like it is, it isn’t. It’s as simple as that. Running is awesome- but you’re not out there curing cancer or ebola. The fate of the world does not rest on you. And isn’t that good to know- we’re just doing this for fun. No pressure.
3. Talk to your friends- They will help you put it into perspective. They will remind you that even though you may have had a bad race- that it’s not the end of the world. There are so many more things to you than just being a runner or an athlete. If that’s the only thing you’re focusing on- a bad race is devastating. Realizing that you are more one-dimensional than that can help you move past the emotional wreckage quicker. Being open with family and friends with how hard you may be taking a race may be the best way to get over it. They can give you real perspective and talk you off the ledge. SO thankful for good people in my life like that.
4. Realize that everyone has a bad race- Whether it is Mo Farah at his first marathon this year where he said his legs just felt "heavier and heavier and heavier," or Shalane at Boston that gave everything she had but it wasn’t enough to get the win, you are not alone. And if you run enough, you will have an off race. That is no reason to give up.
5. Take some time (and pressure) off yourself- Giving yourself a break both physically and mentally after a race can help to take the edge off and you’ll be more excited to come back to running than if you tried to push through without a break after a bad race. This is the number one reason why I didn’t go back out and try to do California International Marathon this December- I need a break in order to really get the most out of myself come Boston. I’m not a work horse and I’m not trying to run myself into the ground (pun completely intended)- if I want to compromise my potential, then I won’t take those breaks to refresh my mind and body between races.
6. Know that you will get the opportunity to prove yourself- A bad race means that your goal for the race probably wasn’t reached. (Or if it was and you are calling it a bad race still, you are seriously disturbed.) Not reaching a big goal is the running equivalent of unrequited love. This can be heartbreaking. SERIOUSLY. But unless this was the Olympics – you’ll get your chance to go out there and prove yourself again soon. Sadly with the marathon, it will probably take a full training cycle before you can go prove yourself- but it will happen.
7. A bad race does not define you- You are not your bad race. And a bad race does not define how your next race will go- or speak to your potential as a runner. Letting this bad race have an impact in your headspace of how you are as a runner can affect future races in a negative way. Don’t sabotage races before they even happen. Pull a Taylor Swift and SHAKE IT OFF!!!
8. REBOUND!!!- Something to take the edge off of the despair is to get excited for your next race and goal. Pick a shorter distance race in the near future that you can get excited for, train hard for, and ultimately PR in. In the long run, it’ll help you go back and hit that big goal if you get quicker in the short distances. And it will be an ego boost after the sucker punch you took to your self-esteem.
I think everyone has been there with disappointment. My best coping mechanism is staying positive and trying to find the humor in an annoying and frustrating situation. Races haven’t devastated me to the core yet- but I had a moment after I took my LSAT yearssss ago when I didn’t get the score I wanted (something to get me into a Top 20 law school) because I was so nervous the night before the test that I didn’t sleep at all. When I got my score, I literally laid in bed and wished I could just die. (I wish I was even halfway exaggerating. So dramatic.) Luckily I remembered that Abraham Lincoln had many failures on the road to his big success in being elected President and going on to be considered one of the most influential Presidents/people of all time. That got me out of bed and back to my computer to register to take the LSAT again. (Happy ending: I retook LSAT, got a great score, and got into an amazing top 20 school. Don’t give up!) This definitely taught me how to handle devastating situations better. A bad result isn't the end of the story.
If my worst problem is coming in a couple minutes off a goal time, then my life is pretty perfect. It’s always a blessing to get to do something you love and to rob yourself of the joy of what you’re doing because of a missed goal would be tragic. Here’s to great races and even better humor to deal with the bad ones.
So this wedding weekend was INCREDIBLE. So incredible that there wasn’t a spare moment to get a run in (well without compromising on already scarce sleep) so I just accepted the fact that I wouldn’t get to run this Saturday and Sunday and enjoyed myself instead of miserably 1. forcing something to happen that there was no time for or 2. sleeping on the treadmill and calling it a run. In my defense, I got more than my share of cardio in. Before the wedding we went to four locations to do wedding photos, including a cornfield where I walked around barefoot and compounded the distress that my feet were already/always are in. And then after the wedding there was the most aggressive dancing- especially to the Assyrian music. We were out on the dance floor WORKING. Ha.
Best/worst moment of the weekend: In the gorgeous bathrooms at the theater where Jess got married, Linds suggested we do a jumping photo while taking a picture of us doing the jump in the mirror (this was not well thought out). I’m a sucker for a jumping photo- I said yes. We jumped while she was taking the picture (how did we even think this would turn out) and I threw my hand into a chandelier and basically ripped my nail off. There was blood and a lot of pain- but I kept the party going- ran to the bar, got masking tape, wrapped my finger up, and kept on dancing. I’m in the airport now and my finger is swollen and still taped up in masking tape. No more jumping near chandeliers- see, ya learn something new everyday.
Congratulations to my bestie on an amazing wedding. She scheduled her bachelorette party around Cottontail so she really gets/supports my running addiction. Such an amazing friend.
Have a great day and hope you run your heart out today. My run today will be overdue and much needed.