Thursday, April 25, 2013

Pain and Race Goals

Today I had a talk with my coach.  Initially, it was to discuss a foot issue that is giving me some difficulty.  Basically, I think it was from running with my laces too tight on the weekend, but it hasn't gone away yet and has been causing me some pain.  (Another post will come on that, but I think that's going to turn out alright.)

This week, we had a couple of challenging workouts.  (At least they were for most of the group. Those of us tapering for races this coming weekend got to go easy on the bike/run intervals Angie gave us yesterday.)  She mentioned that she thought everybody would hate them, but the feedback was all very positive.

To this, I theorized that triathletes are masochists.  It certainly isn't the first painful swim or spin any of us have been to, and it's not likely to be the last.  We pay to be made to feel this way.

The other main topic of conversation was race goals.  Angie asked me what I needed to feel like it was a successful race.  "I need to run the whole thing" I told her.  "I need to stay strong at the end."

"What do you need to do to make that happen?"

It reminded me of theatre classes.  Not happy with the simple straight forward, safe, answer.  I have to actually think.  I talked about nutrition.  That is one of the keys for me.  I talked about pacing.  Very important.  And I tried to find the words to describe the mental battle.

Running the whole thing isn't what really matters.  If I drop a gel and have to turn back, if there's an icy spot I feel safer walking over, even if I need to stop at a porta potty, none of those things will change how I feel about my success for the day.  I've even allowed for the likelihood of walking up weaselhead (a fairly brutal hill that I know will spike my heart rate regardless of how I approach it.)

What matters is that I need to beat this course rather then letting it beat me.  What does that mean anyways?  That sounds like philosophical meanderings rather then a true action plan...

What do I need to do to make that happen?  Isn't there a saying about goals without plans being only wishes?  Or am I mixing up my sayings?

We talked about the last 5k.  It will be a difficult 5k.  Not only is the last 5k of any half marathon tough, but this particular one is mostly uphill for those final kilometers.  It will be the same 5k that I fell to pieces in the last time I did this race.

Except that it won't be the same.  Because this time, I'll be ready for it, and I won't fall to pieces.

We talked about the hurt.  Not the "if", but the "when".  Because, if it doesn't hurt, I haven't pushed hard enough.  I haven't given everything I've got.

I don't think all of these things quite clicked with me during the conversation.  I needed a bit of time to think on it to come to some of these realizations.  The thing is, I don't feel satisfied with a safe race.  Running the whole thing was a goal for my first 5K and my first 10K.  Now, just running it isn't enough.  I need to leave it all out on the course.

If it doesn't hurt, I have more to give.

And, this is when I realized that triathletes don't crave pain.  We're not masochists.  We crave what comes on the other side of pain.  We crave it because it's an obstacle to overcome.  Because, we know, pushing through that pain is what makes us grow.  It's what brings us results.  We want to leave it all out there.  We want to know that we gave it everything we have.  That is why we like the workouts and the races that hurt.  Because it means we gave it everything we could.

So, my race day goals for this Sunday?

1. Race smart - nail the fuelling and pacing
2. Race hard - give it everything I've got
3. Beat the little voice that tells me to slow down when it hurts towards the end.


  1. Good luck this weekend! Hopefully see you there :)

  2. Have a great race, and yes, the hardest thing for me to do at a race, is to run my race, and not get caught up!

  3. That little voice is a killer! Sounds like a great set of goals, much better than some artificial time goal. Hope to be at S Glenmore park, cheering people on.
    I agree that we don't crave pain, no normal person does. We use pain as a tool to help us achieve our goals. Like any other tool it has to be used with due care and attention.