Even coaches suffer from demotivation, especially coaches who like bright, sunny mornings. I used to think seasonal affective disorder was a bunch of bologna until I spent an autumn in Chicago. September was great, the first half of October was pretty good. The last four weeks I spent in a deep blue funk, praying for sunshine that never seemed to come. So I guess that's one of the reasons I sat, grumbling, over a cup of coffee and a slice of toast with Nutella the other morning. Was I ready to go out and run with my wife and a couple of our friends? Not necessarily. The gray skies had me wishing for a pot of coffee and a thick book of mindless reading.
On top of this, my mood was not helped by the gentle, persistent ache in my ankles and feet. I raced a 10K the previous day. I commented about the previous day's exertions, saying something like "a tale of two 5Ks, one good and one bad." I ran the first half at my desired 10K pace, then realized my (5K) fitness did not transfer well to the (10K) distance. Rather than risk regression, or worse, reinjury, I shut down the effort on the return trip, adjusting the pace to a minute slower per mile.
Most "hobby joggers" (as some would judge by my performance) would be pleased with a 46-minute 10K. Most people (still) recovering from injuries would call it a good day. However, the ghost of race performances past can trouble the aging and rehabilitating runner. Really, I should be happy to be out on the roads and still running, right?
How many times do runners use a variety of excuses - some lame, others less so - to justify a performance that did not quite meet up to their expectations?
Some of the better excuses I like to hear sound a lot like these:
"I wore the wrong shoes." - In my humble opinion, one of the best and most valid. This excuse is more common with guys who keep half-a-dozen pair of running shoes, in varying states of life, around the house. I've put my singlet, extra socks, race belt, dry post-race clothes, and so on, in my bag the night before, left the house on the morning of the race with all my gear in my bag, but forgot the shoes in which I was going to race. So, I had to wear the pair of retired "kick-around" shoes which had no cushioning left. That's one of those 5Ks I wanted to get over with quickly; one that felt like it would take forever.
The only situation worse than to show up to the race with the wrong shoes is to show with no shoes.
"I wore too much clothing." - This is particularly true for less-experienced runners taking on longer-distance events. I've stood at marathon finish lines, five (or more) hours after the start, with temperatures twenty degrees above the optimum race day temperature. It scares me to see participants layered in tights and warm-up suits staggering toward the chute.
Less often heard is the converse; very few runners under-dress for the conditions. I'm one of those crazy persons who will race in a singlet, high-cut racing shorts, and a hat or gloves. This last weekend I used a pair of arm-warmers and felt good until the end...a little on the warm side because of the knit cap, though. And, strangely enough, there were at least two guys out shirtless in the 40-degree weather.
"It was too (hot/cold/windy/humid)." - Weather conditions happen. And in many cases, unless you're talking marathons, the entire field contends with identical factors. There's not much a runner can do, except train when and where the weather dictates. And don't forget to take advantage of tactics which involve the climate. There's no law that says you have to not draft behind a runner when you're traveling into the wind, right?
"I didn't hydrate/eat properly." In many ways runners are like charcoal grills. You can pile fuel for the burning and light a match, but sometimes, in order to burn fuel you have to have some tinder or an accelerant. Some runners can eat as little as a candy bar before a race; others have to hit the buffet table.
Then comes the issue of hydration, which can be screwed up in quantity or quality. Ask any runner who's had a "barley-based liquid dinner" the night before a race how they performed. Most - after a couple of aspirin - will tell you they would like to have had the previous evening as a "do-over." Beer has fewer carbohydrates than most of us care to admit.
"The course was too long/short." - I measure courses, so I hear this one more often than I care to admit. The fallacy behind this complaint lies in a couple of factors: First, the length discrepancy is most often described in terms of time, rather than in distance. Second, the persons who complain in terms of distance usually gauge it based upon a consumer-grade GPS receiver.
If I hear 'the course was (number) seconds long,' my hearing shuts off. If I hear 'my GPS said the course was...' I patiently explain to them the limitations of consumer-grade GPS receivers, the exact distance of the race course, and the protocols (often) used to measure. For thirty seconds. At which point their hearing shuts off.
"This was a training run." - This is not necessarily a bad excuse, in my opinion. At least, if you're a top-shelf runner in training for a big race somewhere down the line.
If you are in a situation where you pin a bib number on your shirt/top, or attach it to your race number belt, it's a race. I've always been of the opinion that one should not race unless one is race-ready.
Which is probably why I shouldn't have raced the other weekend. But sometimes we have to get out among our fellow runners and blow the carbon out of the exhaust pipes. Maybe the best thing we can do is be honest with ourselves and say, 'I'm out running, and whatever happens, happens.'
Certainly sounds a lot better than all the unsavory alternatives of not running, right?