Saturday, May 8, 2010

My run of excuses is over (I hope)

Too hot, too hilly, too crowded -- you'll hear that a lot when people talk about the popular Right Moves for Youth Twilight 5K, the annual Friday-evening uptown race held right smack in the middle of springtime in Charlotte.

And because of the heat, the hills and the crowds, runners love to hedge bets before this race and make excuses afterward.

Myself included. Heat: I don't run well in it, and when the gun went off Friday on Tryon Street, temps were still north of 80 degrees. Hills: Putting three -- like the one on Cedar and the one on Fourth and the one on Stonewall -- in the second half of a hot 5K is cruel; that contributed to my running the third mile 21 seconds slower than the first. Crowds: I got boxed in by a glut of runners at the turn off Morehead onto Cedar, and I rolled my ankle as I hopped up on the curb momentarily. Oh, and I'm a morning runner not an evening runner.

Anyway ... I could pretty easily gather all of these excuses together in a big pile, take them and believe what a few people told me after I PR'd by one second in 20:37: "Great job, man. On a flat course when it's not so hot you would have gone sub-20 for sure." I mean, it's a nice thought, that I put forth an effort that under ideal conditions would have yielded a better result.

What I've learned, though, in just a year and a half of racing, is that ideal conditions don't come along very often. There's always going to be something: Too hot, too cold, too wet, too windy, too hilly, too many turns, too much camber in the road, too crowded at the water stops, too early in the day, too late in the day, too many slow runners lined up up front, too infinity and beyond.

Now look, I'm realistic. I understand that on some level making excuses and pointing out factors that might slow us down/did slow us down -- it's simply something we runners do to shoot the breeze pre- and post-race. (It's not much different from when you get on the elevator with someone and work and make a lame joke about the weather.) I also understand that the way to improve your race times is to analyze what went right and what went wrong during a race.

But the fact is my 5K times are not improving. In my last three, I've gone 20:38, 20:41, and now 20:37. (You could label it consistency; I'm calling it a rut.) And after each race, I've had an excuse. I was struck by this realization -- that I've been making too many lately -- as I jogged back to my car Friday night after Twilight.

Excuses won't get me under 20 minutes in a 5K, or down to 3:33 in a marathon, or to any other goal I'm eyeing. More focus, more efficient (and faster) workouts, and better execution of better-thought-out race strategies will.

Of course, if it's 100 degrees or hailing at my next race, I'll be coming back and deleting this blog entry.

Photo courtesy of Bryan Paschal
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Top Twilight finishers: Alice Rogers was the No. 1 woman in 18:20, followed by Danielle Walther (18:32) and Stacy Mercer (19:18). On the men's side, Jordan Kinley was the fastest finisher in 15:30, with Ryan Bender (15:41) and Chris Bailey (15:48) coming in right on his heels. There were 1,844 official finishers Friday night.


Tokyo Nak said...

i love the little kid right behind you!

Tokyo Nak said...

oh and a dude with a racing stroller

Anonymous said...

Theoden - great blog story. It was too hot last night.

Oh, by the way, the runner to your right in the photo - Lily Anderson - is in 7th grade and runs on Carmel's Track Team under Reggie McAfee - 5:34 mile.

Emily said...

Yes I saw that girl compete at the League meet on Tuesday, she's good! In my book a PR is a PR by 10 minutes, 1 minute or 1 second. So congrats again :)

Virtuous said...

Luv this reality post. You are right...there will never be an ideal race environment...sigh

But I must say if I EVER see 20:something during a 5K I will crown myself superwoman for the rest of my life LOL

You have only been running for a year and a half?!?! You are doing GREAT! And would care it you PR'd by a millisecond.

Virtuous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bjorn said...

lets go do some medium distance runs followed by some sprint one of these weekends. You WILL get sub 20 so keep your motivation up!

Amy said...

I agree... as much as I'm about to complain below, I could've made up the time lost in the beginning at the end, and it's no excuse for my bad time.

Still, I may be preaching to the choir here, but if you are a walker you should not be in the middle of the pack. As a slower runner trying to get back to my faster days, I was hoping to break 30. But for the first mile... maybe even 2 miles... I found myself tripping over the walkers. Race organizers did a great job of having sections (competitive runners, runners/walkers, and walkers), so why were people in front of me walking from the very beginning?

Once again, not a rant for the organizers... RFYL put on a great event as usual... but I just wish people would be more realistic with their times. I didn't go up front with the competitive runners because, well, I'm only competitive in my own mind and would rather not get trampled. So why were there walkers in the runners/walkers section?

End of rant.

trdutch said...

Theoden,I feel your pain.I too was worked up on my race times until I started trail running.Half the time we don't even know the mileage we are running,so it is all relative to who you are running against.I think you had a good race cause you beat me and I ran a 20:13 at the Skyline,(perfect conditions)I follow other runners like yourself and see how I ran against them.This is how I know How I did.Try it sometime.Take two different races and 5 or 10 runners,and check their race times.It will be obvious who had a good race,a bad race or one to forget.A PR is only good on THAT course as far as I'm concerned.

:) hAppy 10nnis Pozzer said...

Oh- That's my sister: she literaly runs 2 hours a day, and she's in honors: pretty dedicated, unlike me.Reggie says she will lower her time to 5:15 by the end of summer(Her mile time)