I have been thinking a lot about what separates a good race from a bad race. A great running day from a terrible one. Sometimes there are answers and sometimes I have to dig really deep to figure out what differentiates THOSE days.
My WORST race ever was the Potomac River Half Marathon last November. The course was not what I anticipated (description said flat and fast – reality was gravel), I was burnt out, and I did not fuel properly for the race. Thankfully I went to the race with some AWESOME friends, which made it A-OK, but if it weren’t for my wonderful friend Dora, aka Run Dominican, I think I might have walked the last three miles. I finished with a half marathon PR, but it was a tough battle to get there and one I would rather not go through again.
You see, 2014 was full of PRs and amazing times (for me) and a TON of races (22 to be exact), but by the end of the year I was burned out and felt terrible. So… I decided at the end of last year that I was not going to race in 2015.
My BEST race ever was just last weekend – the Potomac River Running for the Love of it 10k. It was not my fastest or the most beautiful day. The course was kind of hard and it was VERY cold. But, as my friend Deb Runs shared on her blog, it was just one of those races that was SO MUCH FUN. 20+ women came out in sparkle and birthday decals to celebrate running. I had a wonderful time and was so grateful to be out there, running and smiling!
When I first started running, and when I picked it back up, my only concern was finishing the allotted miles or race or whatever I had set out to do. That remained true when I came back to running in 2012 and lasted for about a year. But as I got stronger and started running with my MRTT group, I found that there were definite patterns to my good days and bad days. This is what makes my running stronger…
1. Dress for the weather. Know what works for you and make sure you have the right gear. This starts with our “foundation” garments and goes all the way to our accessories – hats, sunglasses, etc.
2. CROSS TRAIN!!! My running is so much stronger when I am also doing yoga, another cardio set, weight training, and stretching. It sometimes feels like a waste, but for me — it’s critical.
3. Eat and Hydrate. This matters before, during and after a run. I am not a perfect eater and have not yet given up processed food. I will admit to the occasional fast food purchase and am not 100% opposed to food that comes in a box. I get better every day, but I am not as clean of an eater as some of my friends. I KNOW it makes a difference and try to pay attention to what I’m putting into my body.
4. Run with friends. For me — it’s been a game changer to find like minded people to run with. Everyone is different and it’s 100% ok. My MRTT friends keep me accountable and give me a group to look forward to meeting. They are “my people” and I am so grateful for them.
5. Get enough rest. I get up most days between 4:30 and 5 to exercise or work. I’ve found that a 9pm bedtime is critical – so much so that I am often in bed before my 4 1/2 year old. It works for me, so I keep doing it!
The trick is finding what works for you to be a happy, healthy, forever runner!