Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Art of Pacing: Timing is Everything

I have been staring at this screen each night for the past few nights trying to express in words what I'm thinking. And each night I write a few sentences, delete them and continue staring at a blank screen. Most of my time is spent refilling my mug with tea and staring..staring a blank screen. A constant and glaring reminder that I have writers block. I thought a run would inspire me. It has worked in the past, but no matter how long I run, I come back and no gems of wisdom pour from my fingertips. Tea is the only thing being poured here.

Today, day four of this, I somewhat snapped. Which is ironic, considering that I am hoping to write about timing, pacing and patience. Something that at the present eludes me. I want nothing more than to get how I am feeling down in words and I want to do it now. Actually, I wanted to do it four days ago.

It all started at the last cross country meet. I was attempting (more like stumbling over my words) to explain to my team the idea behind pacing yourself during a race. I feel as though I did a horrible job of explaining it. It is a bit of an obscure subject due to it's intangible nature. So, I want a do over. Maybe I can do a little better the second time around:

The Art of Pacing: Timing is Everything

ME: Many of you have just started racing this year, so I'm going to share some wisdom. I am the coach which means I'm always right and extremely insightful, so put the phones away, stop tweeting and listen up. It has come to my attention that some of you take off like a rocket for the first few minutes only to suffer gravely for it shortly thereafter. Others kick like a twelve gauge shotgun in the last 200 meters. Yes, at the start it is fine to start out fast to ensure that you get ahead of the pack. But the key is to not get swept up in the moment and the crowd. You need to find you own pace and rhythm. Don't run someone else's race. Have patience. The race is not won in the first 400 meters. There are still more miles to go and hills to climb. Too much too soon is the plight of any runner. Find your pace. Don't be intimidated by the reputations of the people in front of or behind you.

ME: Now, I can't forget to talk about the next few miles. The middle is where the drama is. It's where reality sets in. Or rather, fatigue. Here, it is easy to become complacent and settle into a slower pace. Keep your wits about you. Indeed, your legs might feel a twinge lethargic, but thats normal. Accept that it is going to happen and move on. If you are feeling good, roll with it, its likely to change. If you are feeling bad, again- just roll with it, that feeling, too, will pass. Don't look back, ever. You cannot control whats going on back there. Keep your eyes ahead of you, but don't fret about how much further you have to go. Take each moment as it comes. Plan for the future, but don't flip out when your plans change. And they will.

Athlete 1: Hey, Coach? Are you still talking about racing?
Me: Of course I am [Athlete 1's name]. What else would I possibly be eluding to? And how dare you interrupt my fictitious monolog. Now, don't ask anymore stupid questions. Back to what I was saying..

[Athletes grumble, make comments that no questions are stupid...]

Me: Where were we? See what I did there? I said 'we' rather than 'I' so I sound mildly selfless and more like a team player. Oh yes yes.. The middle. So far you have gone through the excitement of the start. Flawlessly settled into your pace where you have kept your head on straight, stayed true to course and if you have timed it right, you've scored some negative splits. Now let's pretend you are through the second mile. Here, don't get bored or dismayed by what you are feeling. Timing is key at this point. Some people will start to pick up their pace greatly, others wait till the last hundred meters. Go with what feels natural to you. If you think you can pick up your pace and sustain it, go with it. If you want to wait a bit longer, do that. Just have patience- you'll know when the time is right. The end of a race- that's where you lay it all on the line. If you finish and are so exhausted that someone with more upper body strength than me has to scrape you up off of the ground, thats fine. Just leave the race with no regrets, knowing that you tried your hardest. If you do that, you ran the race well.

And actually, the whole concept of pacing is something that you acquire through experience. You find out through trial and error how to run a race. Maybe the first time you ran this course, you totally blew the hell up after you split a 5:04 the first mile and a 8:57 second mile. Learn from that. Next time, curb your enthusiasm. Or maybe you got to mile 2.98, realized that you had been lollygagging and suddenly took off at mach speed. It's a learning process. You can't have a good race without having some really..confusing.. races. Just learn from your mistakes, give it your all, have fun and above all- love what you do.. Because you'd never race again if you didn't love doing it. Or if I didn't force you..

Athlete 2: Love... racing?
Me: Of course...and Jesus, are you taking pictures of your food on Instagram again? THISISMYLIFE!!

Yes, that is how all of my cross country discussions sound....in my head.

"It is always what I have already said: always the wish that you may find patience enough in yourself to endure, and simplicity enough to believe; that you may acquire more and more confidence in that which is difficult, and in your solitude among others. And for the rest, let life happen to you. Believe me: life is right, in any case." Rilke

1 comment:

  1. There are no "stupid" questions... only questions stupid students ask.