The Fine Art of Managing Race Expectations

First and foremost, thanks for all the reads and shares of the Galveston post. Didn’t expect all that, and know I really appreciate the kind words. It is my intent that you get something positive out of all this. Now on to the next one.

After last weekend, the notion of managing expectations both in preparation for and during a race. Let me be the first to say that besides last weekend, I am the worst at it. I have for the past decade gone out too hard in all but possibly 4 races. I have maintained a level of fitness for the past few years that is just below the level in which I try to race, and at the least have blown up in 50 races. That’s a fantastic record of failure. In fact, if I were that unsuccessful in anything else, I’d have quit long ago. Alas, I am a glutton for punishment.

So how and why did I pop almost every race. First, if it is a triathlon, my strengths are swim then bike then run. I have led until mile 2 of a sprint and still lost many times. Racing from the front is hard. You feel like you have got to put in all the time you can and get out as far as possible to hold on to the run. Since I have never won a race, suffice to say this tactic has never worked. Inevitably, I blow up. Sometimes to the point of walking 9 miles.

Luckily, I have a running career as well. It is nearly as dismal, but luckily I am not fast enough to even worry about winning anything, so I can languish in my “almost fast” state in peace.

So why do we do this? As adult athletes, most of us are fairly capable of setting sufficient goals that push us outside of our comfort zones. In most cases what I think happens is we start to have a little success and then our eyes get wider. We start to see just outside of our current abilities, begin to see our potential and then push our goals out farther. For me what happened is I mentally jumped two or three levels of “potential” and then did what most do. I assumed I could get there, but didn’t plan or train correctly to get there. This is the crux of the problem for a lot of people. They say “I want to run a 24 min 5k,” but when asked, they usually can’t even tell you what pace that is. In addition, they don’t do any specific workouts at or faster than their race pace and on race day they go 24:19 and wonder why.

Unrealistic expectations are sure to be fulfilled. Go ahead an quote me on that one.

There is a pretty easy way to combat this, that when you read it will likely make you cringe in stupidity and bafflement. Wait for it….wait….A PLAN!!!

Here is a 3 step plan (I love 3 step plans btw) to get you to your next race mentally and physically prepared to meet and exceed your goals.

1. Set a time goal and calculate all your paces per mile. This is the biggest mistake I have made. In my first 70.3 race I got to the run and had to run a 2 hour half marathon to go 5 hours. Too bad I didn’t figure out that that was 9 min pace as I ran 4 sub 7:30 miles and walked ran the remaining 9 miles in 2:06…
2. PLAN-Follow a training plan and mimic the above paces at the correct effort levels. If you want to run 6:30 miles off the bike, then you sure as shit better have run 6:30 miles off the bike in your training. Have a mental plan, have a nutrition plan, have a “What to do when I decide to quit plan.” And then plan a little more.
3. ROLL WITH IT ON RACE DAY AND STICK TO YOUR PLAN. Shit happens, your plan can go awry, it can be windy, you can get a blister on your taint, you can get kicked in the face and numerous other things can happen to bust your groove. After something goes awry, it is easy to try and make up that time lost immediately. Instead, slow down, think about your plan and stick to it.
D. Yes I said I like 3 step plans, but this one is muy importante. Don’t go out to fast. There is no better feeling in the world then running your last mile fastest. I have done this once and it was like I was smart for one mile in my life. No race is won in mile one, but 100’s are lost (you can also quote that one on fb).

So maybe the title for this post is a little off, but it felt right and since it’s my blog, I’m sticking with it.

Go ahead and start setting those goals and get your plan rolling, it’s race season.

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