When races disappoint (or downright suck)

At 8am Saturday morning, I was supposed to be getting pumped up for the annual 5-mile Club Champs race in Central Park. However, with t-minus 1 hour to go, I was still sitting in my bed, dreading the fact that I had to toe the starting line. I should have been warming up, visualizing a positive and strong race experience, doing strides. Instead this is what was going through my mind…

“I wonder how much a zip car would cost? I could rent it for the day…escape on a solo mini-roadtrip! Maybe I could do a long run in Harriman State Park….or go blueberry picking at a Pick Your Own Farm in New Jersey?”

Yeahhh, not exactly the mindset I was hoping for on race morning….

I just was not excited about this race, I don’t like the 5-mile distance (actually, I don’t like anything less than a 10k….), and I didn’t feel physically or mentally prepared. BUT, as a member of the Central Park Track Team, I knew that this race was about more than getting a PR – it was about spending time with my teammates, wearing the uniform with pride, and prepping for my future focus races.

The thing with running is that, sometimes you have to push yourself to do things you really don’t want to do at that moment, because you know it will serve a greater purpose down the road. I knew deep down that I wasn’t as well-trained as I was last year and a PR wasn’t going to happen. But I also knew that I needed to do a long run, I needed to get in some quality fast miles, and I needed to show support for my team. So, I resisted zipcar research and instead, put on my uniform and warmed-up about 2 miles to the starting line. Hey, at least I had sweet new uniform shorts to wear!

However, when all was said and done, the race was like so many others this year, “meh”.

I finished the 5 mile course in 34:42 (~6:57 pace). Nothing particularly bad happened. I didn’t drop out, I didn’t collapse, I’m not injured or ill. I know this is not a slow time for many people. But yet, I finished the race feeling disappointed and frustrated with myself. “How the hell do I expect to run 13.1 miles at this pace (faster, actually) when I can’t even manage 5 miles?” “Why are you so slow?? You should be stronger, faster, tougher!” I am my own worst enemy. When something doesn’t go as planned, I am harder on myself than any coach could ever be.

The one redeeming factor is that I raced this race. As much as I would have liked to say I was “tempo-ing” this run, that I wasn’t actually “racing”, that would be untrue. I battled against thoughts that told me not to start, I refused to let girls from other teams pass me simply because I was tired. Throughout the entire 34 minute race, I used everything I had to remain focused, to reel in the competitors in front of me, to not give-up.

But all races can’t be PRs and so the only thing I can hope to do in a situation like this, is learn. Today I learned that even if you don’t run “fast”, you can still race honorably. Not giving up when you feel like it most is perhaps better than a PR. It is the crappy races, the ones that leave you frustrated and dejected, that will help you to appreciate the good days that much more. One of my favorite commercials is from Saucony – specifically at the 00:16 second mark when the voiceover asks: “What is strong? Is it your best time? Or your worst day?”

I am a sucker for inspirational commercials like this and yeah they’re a little cheesy, but I think it does ring true. As runners we’re going to have peaks and valleys. We’re going to have days when we can’t wait to run and race, but we’re also going to have days when it’s a struggle to get out the door. Recognizing that you can still have successes and learn things, even on your worst days, helps put it into perspective.

There were some positives about today and now that I’ve got all my whining out of the way, I’m going to focus on the good things.

  • **If nothing else, I have 5 speedy miles under my belt. 12 miles total including cool-down. That is 12 more miles than I would have done if I went blueberry picking…
  • **This was not a focus race for me – much better to feel unmotivated and blah for a race you don’t care about than for one you do care about (I’m talking about you Philly half!).
  • **I was able to spend the majority of the day with teammates and friends. Many of them had similar blah races today (hello August and your humidity – not ideal conditions!) and so I know I’m not alone.
  • **Just 2 years ago, I was too injured to even run 5 miles without pain, let alone race Club Champs. I am thankful to be healthy.
  • **Finally, the best news of the day – I’m going to see AR next weekend at a mutual friend’s wedding. There’s going to be an open bar. How can I be too upset when I have something like THAT to look forward to??

Okay, I hope you’re all having great weekends. Tell me something awesome/fun/exciting that you did – I need some positivity!

  • Dad

    You’re amazing! Am very proud of you! You learned, and share, a very valuable life lesson today; one learned only through experience, perseverence, and dedication. Hang in there and keep up the good work, you’ll get through this “dog dayz” slump. You’re the BEST!!!

  • You forgot to add that it was humid this am!

    Your thoughts = my thoughts, maybe because we have close to the same name – ha! This am, when I woke up, I was like “today would be a much better day for a leisurely jog with a friend.” I had to talk myself into the idea of racing and I did although my pace (7:54/mile) is the same as what my tempo intervals were on Tues so now I’m confused – I’m doing one of them wrong, apparently.

    I think had the grand idea to walk – FOREVER. 5 miles. It was beautiful, but now my legs hate me.

    Great running into you! And, I am gonna get thsoe racing flats!

  • AR

    Well well said. I ran particularly shitty today and was thinking about how to deal with it and I guess you just gotta suck it up and deal. ;p

    YAY SO EXCITED

  • Jennie

    Something awesome, fun and exciting happened to me this weekend- I bought a freakin’ house!  As a single 30-year-old, that’s a huge and exciting accomplishment and I don’t think I’ve ever been happier.  Anything is possible and you’re only a failure when you stop trying. 🙂

  • Corey @ runner’s cookie

    Great post, Megan. This is the reality of racing and running in general. Sometimes the mentality isn’t there, sometimes it is but your legs or stomach don’t cooperate. I’m (slowly) starting to learn that it really is all about how you look at it, and what you can take away from these kinds of races. I’ve realized I could be disappointed in myself, blow something off and forget about it, or I could do what I can and even if it’s sucky, I can still do my best on that given day and learn something from it. Honestly, I have plenty of runs at my marathon pace that feel SO much harder than I think they should, and in that moment it can put so much doubt in my head that I all of my confidence goes out the window for the moment. But the reality is, I know I need to be able to just bounce back from those runs and know that my goal is still achievable.
    I’ve been loving running in Maine SO much…it’s making me so thankful just to be outside looking at so many beautiful things. (Not being at work helps a little too 🙂 ). I hope you have a great Sunday!

  • I’ve said my share on this, but to recap: most people had a lousy day. You were tired. You weren’t tapering/peaking. And you’ll be fine.

  • OH AND WE WUV YOU

  • Matt

    I’m so glad I read this post, it was like a mirror image to my day yesterday. I woke up at 5:30 in the morning and all I could think about was how I didn’t feel like racing. After driving in from Jersey and parking, I though maybe I would just do an easy run in the park and drive home….but I decide I might as well get the miles in. A
    At the two mile marker, I was *this* close to dropping out…..but I slogged along and finished. My time was almost 3 minutes slower than my last 5 miler (!). Driving home, though, I was thinking how I was still glad I came and raced, I definitely was just as proud of myself for sticking it out as I would have been if I PR’D.

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  • Julierunsnyc

    This is such a thoughtful, well articulated post! It really hits home. All runners have to deal with the reality that our chosen sport is just as mentally challenging as it is physically challenging. It’s this mental challenge that makes runners strong people – in every sense of the word! Other people with less willpower might have ended up not even going, and even if they went, not giving it their all. Everyone has down days, and its tough not to be hard on yourself, but in running- just like in life- you have to take the good times with the bad! Congratulations on a great race! Yes, it really was a great race and you still have every reason to be proud of yourself!!

    This weekend one of my best friends joined me for a yoga class in Central Park. Afterwards we ended up getting smoothies and laying on a rock like complete bums, for a couple of hours. It was the highlight of my weekend.

  • peter_bbt

    I know exactly how that feels – I had a 10k in March where I missed a PB, but the post-race analysis I did and subsequent adjustments led me at the end of May to getting what I really wanted – a sub-90 minute half marathon.
    So for me it’s a combination of positives found with lessons to be learned from what went “wrong”. It’s through running that I’ve been able to do this in life.
    As a Canadian may I also say that I like the leaf on the team uniform!

  • Good job at least getting some speedy miles in. That is sort of how I am looking at yesterdays racing experience for me. Not a great day for me either but at least  I am able to run and not injured and improving. So much better than the position I was in at this time last year. Definitely something to be thankful for. Also your goal race is still a ways away. I am sure when the time comes you will totally conquer that race!

  • i’m glad you can see positives 🙂 even without a pb from this race you totally gutted it out and in the end that’s strong racing. at least to me.

  • You are speedy, my friend! It’s just that doubt you need to get rid of. I know how you feel though, sometimes disappointing races eat away at me more than they should. But your training is going great so far and you pretty much kick ass, so think about that 🙂 

    I ate a lot of desserts this weekend, which was very positive 🙂 

  • Christine

    I LOVE that saucony commercial! ahhh so so true! thanks for sharing and congrats on having a good race and getting in those 12 miles!

    xo christine
    http://www.thesehappymiles.com

  • I’m sorry you had such an awful race! I can totally feel your frustration, BUT…this is an awesome post. I found myself nodding along with everything you said. I think those “meh”/disappointing races can either crush our confidence, or make us stronger as runners. I love all the positives you’ve taken away from this, and that you raced and didn’t give up…even when you really weren’t all that into it. This is exactly how I felt during my 10 mile race a couple weeks ago. I just wasn’t into the race and it took every ounce of willpower to force myself to that starting line – and then to make it all the way to the finish. And while obviously I would’ve rather felt great and been happy with how I did, in the end, I think (hope!!) it at least helped with my mental toughness.

    Anyway, in the end – you are a super speedy, strong runner, it sounds like everyone had a tough day, the weather sucks for running, and you are not at your peak yet. I know you’re going to rock that half marathon when the time comes!

  • Gemma C

    Just letting you know that you have fans from all over the globe, I ♥ your blog! The jalapeno and cheddar bread my boyfriend baked for me after a weekend full of running (10K club champs saturday and 18K long run on Sunday) was very positive! I’m confident you will reach your sub 1.30 goal. I had some very valuable advice from my coach this morning ” just be flexible .. and enjoy the running”

  • Gemma C

    and by all over the globe I meant New Zealand 🙂

  • Definitely feeling you on this post. The race was disappointing, and mentally challenging, but I am so happy you still picked out positives from the race. You raced, got in a good effort, and then got to enjoy the social aspect of running via post-race drinking festivities. You were definitely not alone in the ‘meh’ race, and you have bigger goals to set your eyes on now! I still think you can totally rock the Philly Half, and you will!

    Though…renting a car and going blueberry picking still sounds like an excellent idea, for another day 🙂

  • Ugh – have totally been there. Just this morning I could not get out of bed for an easy 5 mile run (not even a race) and totally skipped it and am now pissed that I skipped it. GOOD FOR YOU for getting out there and doing it.
    Hope the rest of your weekend was fun!
    I spent my weekend in San Diego for a wedding. It was amazingly fun. Glad to be home though and to get some sleep in my own bed (maybe that’s why I didn’t get up for my run this morning…)

  • I love your uniforms!  I just had to say it.  

    Moving on.  I used to only run races where I would focus on THAT race and try my best for it, but since moving to NYC and getting conned into signing up for random races, I’ve learned that sometimes it’s fun just be in a race, surrounded by runners, meeting up with friends, and just seeing what I can do without race specific training.  Just being at a race and in that environment will help you prepare for your goal race.

  • Anonymous

    we’re always accepting new members 🙂 the uniform is a sweet perk of being part of the cptc team!

  • Anonymous

    thank you 🙂 and whoa, that jalapeno and cheddar bread sounds awesome. i love spicy jalapeno!

  • Anonymous

    glad you like the maple leaf! they’re quite abundant in Central Park in the fall 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Dad, I always appreciate your comments 🙂

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  • Page

    Some days you’re on, and others you’re off. But the good thing is that you learned to accept it and love running for what it is. I struggle with that too, so this is reassuring in that it’s ok to not PR at every race…just breathe….

  • Bobbiec16

    I needed to read this post today. I am training for my 1st full marathon and I’m feeling really down about my running lately. I’m forcing myself out the door for each and every run and it’s making me question whether or not I can do this! This for the pep talk!

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