Monday, July 5, 2010

Morning Races - Mental and Physical Preparation

If I have a preference for the time of day to run, it is definitely late afternoon to early evening.  If there is a time of day that most races are held, it is the opposite... early mornings.  This means that I have to get up earlier than normal and also have to be ready mentally and physically with all pistons firing before I would normally start my workday.

The mental part is not that hard.  If anything, there are less distractions from a full workday to cloud your focus.  If you mentally prepared yourself the night before, you are going to wake up with the race in your mind.  Your running gear is laid out near your bed and maybe the breakfast is already prepped on the counter.  These visual cues help get your day started.  These cues say that you are prepared and your mind fires off into visualizing driving to the race course or in this particular instance riding my bike to the race.  While you are riding, you are thinking about actually running.  When you get to the course, you can see how many people are arriving.  You check out the scene to see the starting line.  Your blood pressure is starting to rise a little and your heart starts to tick up a notch faster.  You see how far back from the start you are and then anticipate getting into a good position.

I have found over the years that most runners don't know themselves and don't run for time other than the current race they are running and have no clue what their pace will be.  Not even a clue.  Unfortunately, I was honest again and put myself in the 8 minute pace group at the starting line.  This means that all of the 9 minute pace runners will be next to and in front of me.  I get to wait for them to weed themselves out as they can't keep their starting pace.  Good job newbies.  This was considered a fun run, but it still annoys me that people just want to line up near the front with a complete disregard for others.  If you aren't fast enough to be in the first row of runners, your time and place aren't really going to matter other than your own personal satisfaction.  So line up in the proper pen.  If you run 9 minute miles when you are working out every day, then you aren't going to bust out a 7:30 pace in a race.  It's not going to happen.  You might do a 8:45.  Maybe even 8:30.  Wrong pen.

I find myself using my arms to help others navigate their way away from me more and more these days.  When an inexperienced runner decides to cut me off without checking their mirrors, they are getting a stiff arm.  It's not personal, because they didn't use their peripheral vision.  I'm just protecting my space, so I don't get tripped or have to adjust my gate base on someone else.  The sad part is that these newbies usually weave in one direction and find out that the hole they wanted to get into only gave them a few feet advantage and they burned up more energy moving side to side instead of waiting a few more seconds and then being able to move between a couple runners directly in front of them.

I probably should have just given in and run up on the grass and dodged bushes and spectators and photographers and burned up my energy zigzagging, but I just didn't want to go through the hassle.  I ran a 7:55 first mile.  I was hoping to run around 8 minutes, but with the amount of energy I had, I could easily have run 7:30 that morning if I had open sailing to open up my stride a little more.  It's funny to look back at photos from the race and to find that the proof is there.  I was constantly looking for a hole to no avail and looking down at the ground so I wouldn't literally run on someone's heels.

Back to the theme, the other part of running in the morning is being prepared physically.  This is the part that I have a hard time with as I am getting older.  I used to be able to jump out of bed, put on my shorts and shoes and hit the road.  I didn't prefer to do this, but there weren't any repurcussions.  A few years ago, I learned a valuable lesson about heart and circulatory function.  I have heard that platelets are still doing their work early in the morning.  They are clogging up holes that need fixing while we are sleeping.  Well, when the alarm clock tells you to get up, your platelets may still be working like they have time.  Anyway, I went for this run a few years back and after about a mile, my chest hurt really bad.  It was an ache near my heart like nothing I have felt before.  Instead of using my head and stop, I kept running and finished my planned run for the morning.  That pain in my chest didn't go away until the next day after a good night's rest.  I jumped right up before that day's run and I will never do that again... unless my home is on fire.  There's always an exception to a rule.  From now on, I am giving my body time to rise.  That's one thing.

The other thing in the morning that needs time is bowel evacuation.  I like that term.  Evacuation.  That's a clear visual of what I needed Sunday morning before my run.  The lesson here is that I did have an evacuation that morning.  The problem is that I needed to have another evacuation after mile marker 1.  I kept telling myself that it was just a little gas, so I'd let a little out.  No problem.  A quarter mile more and let a little more out.  Another tenth of a mile and a little more.  You get the picture.  Around mile marker 2 and feeling decent about my time of 15:35 (7:30 split), it was a different story.  This was no longer just gas.  You can feel the it.  Trust me.  I did.  And I now started to clinch my butt cheeks.  Not too hard, but enough to keep the flood gates closed.  Yeah.  Another tenth of a mile and a little tighter.  By 2.5 miles, I started cramping in my lower right back.  Awesome feeling.  With a quarter mile left, I got a cramp in my left abdomen as well.  I just wanted to give up, but I was close and slowing down was only going to prolong my visit to the port-a-let.

When we rounded the corner, the 3 mile clock was immediately visible and people just started to rush by me. This was usually my time to shine.  I hate getting passed and especially at the sprint.  I was definitely in some pain.  The clock didn't matter anymore.  Just the finish and what awaited.  See my face below.  That's coming up on the finish line.  Everyone else is making their finish count like it's the Olympics.  I have another event in store.

The lesson is to make sure you are prepared in the morning.  To be the runner, you must have everything in place and go to bed early.  Don't eat too late in the evening the night prior to a race.  Get up early and make sure you are prepared physically as well as mentally.  Now you know why.

Watermelon 5k - Mead Garden - Winter Park, FL - 24:36 (-5 second from start = 24:31 unofficial)

1 comment:

Evolving Through Running said...

Sounds like a 'challenging' race for several reasons. At least you made it through the race without any evacuation issues. I've read a lot of posts where folks didn't quite make it.
Fortunately I'm a morning-running person, although I definitely agree it takes a lot longer to get all systems functional in the morning than it did when I was younger.