By all accounts 2014 was my best year of running ever. I ran more miles than I've ever run, stayed healthy and injury free, and seemed to set PBs on top of PBs throughout the year in every type of race from a road mile, to a cross-country 5K, to the Boston Marathon. I ended my racing year with perhaps my best race ever, in which I lowered my half-marathon PB by nearly three minutes while running in complete control and with full confidence in my abilities (perhaps more to come on this "flow state" in a future post).
That half-marathon was way back on November 2nd, and after some much needed downtime I came into the Robbie Burns 8K this past Sunday with eight weeks of relatively solid Boston Marathon training under my belt. Although, I didn't have a "goal" time, nor was I even particularly excited for this race (8k is an odd distance and it's the middle of winter in Ontario), I did expect to have a decent showing based on my fitness and previous year of PB madness.
It was cold. There was a nasty headwind for a fair portion of the race, and I wanted it all to go away. I was race rusty and mentally checked out from the beginning. Some of it might've had something to do with getting less than four hours sleep the night before thanks to #2 refusing to go so sleep herself, but still, I've trained in nastier conditions and raced marathons on just as little sleep and performed well.
However, the one glaring difference between those marathons and the Robbie Burns 8K was the fact I had no goal whatsoever. No goal for a specific time, or place, or even an effort level, and that is where I went wrong. For me, A and B, and sometimes even C goals are what drive me to stay focused, motivated, and willing to suffer during a race. This isn't profound insight. The same is true for most people, but for some reason I forgot about this universally key component of racing.
In hindsight, based on where I am in my training, I should've been aiming for 1k splits that were a second or two slower than my 10K PB splits from last October. However, having no time goal in mind, or any goal for that matter, I found myself thinking during my warmup that I could just turn the race into a hard tempo run if I wanted. Once I let this thought creep in and marinate in mind for a while my fate was sealed. I had given myself an out if I wanted, and I took it.
I am just a dude. I have no special talent and no abnormally freakish physiology that enables me to race up front. Usually goals present themselves during a race. Like, I'm going to beat that guy, or finish strong. This race was no different, however I chose to ignore all those opportunities. I think I got overtaken by more people than I ever have in any race, including the third overall female, a 62 year old man, and a pear-shaped dude that I couldn't even muster up the will to try and hang with. By that point I had already walked once and given up on really pushing myself. I just wanted to be done so I could start my 15k cool down.
In the end, the day wasn't a total wash. There was a 26k long run that included a hard 8k tempo effort with a couple walk breaks, and I re-learned an important lesson: racing is far different than training, and in order to race effectively I gotta have goals.
And, the race shirt is so hideous I kind of like it and think I'll wear it.