Warning: Before reading this post, know that I’ll be frank and open with some personal issues that factor into my running. If reading about feminine health bother you, I’d say skip this post. Or just scroll down. It’s not my intention to be too TMI but this is how this race went and I intend to share all the bits and pieces that factor into this run. Thanks!
I am fiercely competitive. I’m also greatly superstitious. And if you ask any other athlete, I bet each and every one of them would say they, too, are fiercely competitive and greatly superstitious. If they say they aren’t, well then they are in denial and I’m not talking about the river in Egypt.
Every runner has their routine. And routine is another word for what is really an order of events to achieve the optimal physical readiness for a run and a few little odd things that will ensure the best mojo for their race.
Some people won’t wear their race shirts before they cross the finish line. Others must have the shirt they got in their packet on them as they race. Some people wear the same pair of socks in every race or they have to have a special playlist of songs ready to go.
I’m one of these racers. Because I’m so competitive (and right now my competition is with myself more than the other runners) there are things I must do or have with me pre-race and on race day. As I’ve taken on each race before this, I’ve honed my pre-race performance to an art form. My eating, my stretching, my workout routine, my sleep ritual and even down to what I’m wearing.
I have my race jacket and my race pants. My Android phone and my Skullcandy headphones, my little athletic armband for my phone and my running app with my running playlist. I don’t wear the shirt given from the race until after I cross that finish line. I have to earn it. And I wear my hair up in a tight ponytail.
Oh and my gum. I must have gum.
So automatically, race #6 started off on the wrong foot when I couldn’t find my race pants. I’ve yet to run a race without them and the day before, I couldn’t find them. They had been washed and hung up to dry but where they disappeared to after that, I have no clue.
I tore apart my room looking for them, these special running pants from Lululemon that I treated myself to after losing 17 lbs last year. They fit well, don’t chafe and are snug so that I’m not pulling at them or fidgeting while I run. I don’t mind spending a little extra dough on some nice performance clothing if it means one less distraction on the course.
Unable to find them and in a terrible mood, I packed up whatever pants I could find and crossed my fingers I hadn’t jinxed myself.
Once a superstitious person thinks that they may have jinxed themselves, you can bet your sweet ass that everything will go wrong from there on out. And it did.
I left my trail shoes and had to drive at 5:30am to get them. For the first time all year my monthly feminine issues were early and I would have to run with it. When that happens, I get very tired very easily and my skin can get irritated from the gear we women put up with every month. And unfortunately I have a sensitive system that is prone to painful cramping so I’m able to only wear external protection. No tampons for me.
And then, to top it off, I was wrapping up my long curls pre-race and SNAP! My little rubber band broke. And it happened to be the only one I had with me. I did find another one luckily and was able to get everything on my head up and out of my face.
But by this time I was moody and cranky (probably due to the monthly hormonal changes along with the bad mojo I had created) and my warm up was less than perfect.
The crowd and my son’s whining to do something other than stand around was grating on my every available nerve. I felt raw and unable to get centered and prepared. By the time the race buzzer went off I was glad to be started so that I could finish this damn race.
Unfortunately, the last straw of bad mojo hit when I turned the corner to hit the trail and my shoe lace came untied and I had to stop to tie it. By then I knew to expect the worst.
I didn’t end up finishing the race. Well, I did but not officially. What happened was this, I started off in a bad state of mind. I got into my pace and was enjoying the course. By the time I hit two miles, my time was 21:25 (a personal best) and I had a mile to go. When I got to the water station after mile 2, there was a fork in the road: go right or go left.
I was so in the zone and the trail was not mark clearly enough that I just followed the person in front of me and made a left. Ooops….
Yeah, a left meant I was headed back to the start/finish line and I was short a whole mile!!! When I came around the bend and looked up, I was confused. I looked at the crowd and found my guys, shrugging at them in utter disbelief.
Where was I? How did I miss this? Was I done? No, I couldn’t be!!! I looked up at the official timer that showed a race time of 25 minutes then I looked down at my armband and saw I had run only 2.1 miles.
I didn’t know it at the time but the last mile was off to the right of the entrance to the trails so that you went in and to the right of the path then came back around to that same point. Then you had to make a right, run the loop there and then make your way back to the same starting point.
Confusing? Yes at the time it was. And it was infuriating. My competitive side came out and I swear I was about to blow. I even got out of line for the finish check point because I was raging mad at my lack of a complete 5k but was asked to get back into line so they could scan my ticket number and clock me out. When I explained I didn’t complete the course and I was short a mile, they gave me an “Ooooh, so you are one of those runners.”
It seems they had prepared for this which made me more upset. While I think it’s great that they took into consideration all the possible issues with their course, I think they should have spent more time avoiding this problem. Like a HUGE SIGN that point one direction for mile 3 and the other direction for the finish line. All the little signs marking the path looked exactly the same either way.
When I reached the official time desk, they took the tab off the bottom of my race number and swapped it for a white tab from a huge stack (they really prepared for people to screw up) of invalid barcode tabs.
Heh….if I was pissed before, being told “Here, take this invalid time slip and HAVE A NICE DAY” really pushed me over. I was furious. And I was laughing inside too because the moment I bent down at the beginning of the race to tie my shoe, I said to myself “This isn’t a good sign”.
This would have been my best race. My pace was excellent, my body didn’t hurt or ache in any of the places that usually act up and my breathing was stellar. But all those little puzzle pieces during my pre-race rituals that didn’t quite fit put me into a bad mental spot. I was physically there and in great form by my mind, and heart, weren’t in it.
After my race, I changed my clothes and all my personal feminine items so that I could avoid any irritation to my sensitive system and was greeted by my grandmother and my dad. They had come over to watch my son run his very own little 1k and I was glad to see them.
He did great, although his inherited competitive streak from me mixed with his primal urge to win got to him and he wanted to quit when a handful of other kids pulled ahead of him. I saw it happening from the side line and decided to finish the race with him. So I jumped the course and ran along side him, holding his hand and smiling. I was so proud, he finished the race running and got his little medal.
The question I have left is should I count this race towards my goal of 12 races this year? My competitive side says no. I didn’t officially run a 5k and I earned an invalid time slot for this race. That would make it null and void.
But the human in me knows I learned a lot from this race. I learned that if mother nature throws me a curve ball and my monthly feminine issues come a little early, I can still run well with a little extra preparation and special attention for my health.
I also learned I’m a creature of habit and if I break from my rituals and routines, I break my mojo. And I can’t half-ass it. I must do everything I know will settle my mind and my heart before a race and running around at the last minute trying to find things I feel I need to have to compete will only make me off-centered.
So go ahead, call me superstitious. If having my little pre-race quirks is what keeps me focused and in race-mode, then so be it.