Wachusett Mountain Race Re-cap: What happens when you check your ego at the start line
Sometimes it's a few days after a race when the lesson comes to me-when I figure out what exactly I learned from the experience. As I was cooling down after my tempo run on Monday I reflected on The Wachusett Mountain Race this weekend. Going into the race I had several clear goals, but an somewhat unclear race plan.
My goals were to:
Stay in the moment.
Give each stride my best effort.
Dig deep in the last mile.
My tentative plan was to start comfortable and somewhat reigned-in (like I did at Sleepy Hollow) and the increase my effort in mile two and three. My coach brought more specificity to my plan and helped me break the race down into three chunks based on the ascents up the mountain. I went into the race feeling confident that if I stuck with the plan, I'd run my best race.
Last summer I got away from the "start slow, finish fast" racing strategy which I had always adhered to. For the latter part of the year I went out hard from the start of many of my races, focusing on what place I wanted to snag instead of racing within myself. In a few races it served me well and I started to let the expectation that I was either going to win the race or place in the top, guide my pacing.
But the truth is that if my pacing and race strategy is driven by my ego, I will inevitably crash and burn in the middle of the race and feel like I don't have enough in the tank to make it to the finish.
That's how I felt in some of my road races last fall, after having success in the summer and spring, I started going out too fast trying to
things happen. My expectations for each race were driven by my ego and the pressure I placed on myself for the outcome. It's not a healthy approach to racing and can set you up for some serious disappointment.
My approach on Saturday was to forget who was around me and focus just on my effort and not worry about what place I was in off the line.
I wanted to stay within myself and run in a way that would set me up for a strong finish.
[Tweet "Check your ego at the start line. #running"]
I ran comfortably for the first mile and a quarter, repeating to myself "easy breezy" when I felt tempted to increase my effort to catch up with the women ahead of me. As I came into mile two I increased my effort as planned and started passing people. I felt strong and my legs felt responsive and comfortable on the climb. During that second mile I tried to stay focused on each step, keeping the outcome and my place out of my mind as much as possible. As we climbed into mile three the incline of the mountain at it's steepest grade, I switched my focus to pushing hard and trying to close the gap on whoever was in front of me.
With a half mile to go I was working really hard, trying to dig deep and give every ounce of effort I had. Even though my pace slowed when the grade increased I was able to finish strong and snag a top 10 finish-which was the outcome I hoped for, but hadn't focused on.
It is easy to get caught up in outcome based goals when your improved fitness produces desirable performances.
At the beginning of the year I was ready to
make things happen
with my running. But as the year has progressed I feel like I'm learning to shift my focus from the outcome to my effort in the moment. Working with my coach, Chris Dunn has helped with this shift. I've come to a place where I feel I can trust that if in each moment I'm giving my best effort that the desired outcomes are bound to follow.
Do your expectations keep you from running your best race? What does it feel like when you run "within yourself?"
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