"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit." Old Chinese saying
For those of us lucky enough to live in climates where Spring is in full bloom, or looking like it will get there soon, we need to remember that there are those like northern Wisconsin who "still have three and a half feet of snow on the ground and 20 inches of ice on the lake" as I was told on Weds. Hurry Spring to you, too.
I've written many pieces on how running success and running safety go hand in hand. It's been frequently noted that one of the "arrows in your quiver" is your local running shoe store where, when you talk to the old hands, they've seen and helped runners with just about any running related issue imaginable. I've also been quoted as saying that they know more than many physicians in this realm.
Our local first really big (about 2500 competitors) road race, The Ten Miler, was just run and our runner's expert, Mark Lorenzoni, wrote the following. It's so good, that I've published it in it's entirety. Even if your race isn't one of ten miles, this will benefit you for sure. Running leads to many triathlon injuries so at least a couple of these points are talking to all of us.
Speed Bumps: The Top Ten Mistakes made by Ten Miler Racers
1. Storing too much hay in the barn the weekend prior to the race.
Most experts recommend a day/mile recovery before shifting your engine into high gear. If you want to race feeling fully recovered then run nothing further than seven miles the weekend prior to race day.
2. Not resting your piggie wiggies enough the day before the race.
The smoking gun for "dead legs" on race day can often be directly traced to how much time you spent on your feet the day before. Especially beware of hanging out on concrete-based floors!
3. No race day navigational chart.
One of the most dangerous pre-race phrases is "I'm simply going to run how I feel... I'm just trying to finish." Set your game plan prior to race day and visualize it. A good rule of thumb for those racing their first 10-miler is to cruise at about 20-40 sec/mile faster than what your normal long run base has been. Still would rather "race how you feel"? Well, that's exactly what's going to happen: you'll run fast at the beginning, when you're feeling great, and slow down to a crawl towards the end, when you're feeling dead tired!
4. Not enough high octane in the tank.
Improper hydration, especially if the temp or humidity is unseasonably high, can lead you down a dangerous road. Sip, not gulp, plenty of hydrating fluids the day before and morning of race. If it's warm and/or humid on race morning, make sure to take a few sips (3-5 oz) at every aid station, which are spaced 2 miles apart throughout the course. Don't wait till you're thirsty to have your 1st drink. Drink early and often!
5. Last minute cramming.
Taking a little extra time to pick up your race packet the night before can afford you some quiet time to digest the important info included and avoid the stress of standing in long lines the morning of the race. Packet includes shirt, race #, shoe chip and important race day instructions, which are obviously useless to you if you don't pick them up until a few minutes before the start!
6. Wearing too much to the dance.
Often the C10 lands on one of those much dreaded hot and humid early spring days and because it's often chilly at the start, many novices pile on too much clothing, forgetting the act of running warms you up. Exercise physiologists say expect to feel 15 degrees warmer than actual air temp. If you feel chilled prior to starting, layer lightweight clothes and peel it off along the course.
7. Unveiling the "new you" on race day.
Race morning is NOT the time for experimenting... therefore no new shoes, socks, sports bras, gels, sports drinks, shirts or anything else you're tempted to add to your race experience. Any experimenting should be done during your practice long runs prior to race day!
8. Emulating the hare instead of the tortoise.
No other rule is broken more than this mother of all mistakes and the results are always ugly! Start off your race experience on the right foot by lining up behind your predicted pace group and taking it easy for the first 2 miles. Resist the temptation and make the 1st mile your slowest, you will surely be rewarded with an excellent finish!
9. Not going for "the gold" on the downhills.Most folks moan about the uphills of the 10 Miler course, but few talk about the steep downhills along the way. There's no better way to compliment your own race performance and to make up for the tough uphills then to let yourself go by opening up your stride and leaning into the downhills. Caution: Don't practice this until race day because your knees will rebel!
10. Not knowing when to take a vacation. Most injuries associated with racing the 10 Miler occur in the weeks AFTER the race, when many folks, instead of throwing the engine into low gear, continue to pound the pavement because they're "motivated and feeling so good." Don't run more than 4 miles for a given run in the 2-3 wks after race day. This not only affords your some physical recovery, but also allows for a break in the mental intensity of training for a big race. Spend this special post-race time celebrating your accomplishments. After all, don't you deserve it?!
A corollary to number 10 involves the general category of rest. Yep, rest a four letter word as some will tell you. Many of us who gravitate to running or triathlon are so-called type "A" personalities who'd rather please their log book than do what makes sense over the long haul. "That is so true," notes Virginia based fitness guru Jay Casey . "I see client after client who, despite knee pain, an achy Achilles or no sleep when the baby kept her up all night, pushed through a hard work out anyway. When I ask them if this is logical, they only answer weakly, 'Well, that's what the coach had planned for me.'" And although this particular piece is directed toward running, I'm sure you can see where the take home lessons apply to swimming and biking, triathlon in general.
Casey goes on to encourage athletes to always think big picture, what's their goal for next month if not 6 months from now. "Making the best decision today seems easier when placed in that context," he says.
It might not be a bad idea to print this off, put it in your log book, and maybe remind yourself from time to time of your long term goals and how well you're doing staying on track toward them. Is it the same as doing your best to avoid injury? Maybe. As it says above, who knows, excellence can be habit forming.
Wishing you the best of successes in the 2013 racing season - JP