So here’s the funny thing about perfectionists: There are layers upon layers of perfectionist before you get to the pure, peaceful, accepting non-lunatic within.
On Friday, I wrote about my goal for the Marine Corps Marathon 10K: to approach the race with the grace and the humility of a beginner, and to not be afraid to have my all-out, hardest effort right now yield 8:45-minute miles, or 9-minute miles, or whatever. The point was to really try, and not let my inner perfectionist blow off treating races like RACES until I’m “back.”
What I didn’t mention on Friday: the fact that my race plan for Sunday morning involved waking up at 5 a.m. on Saturday to make it to an all-day ski-patrol medical training session at Whitetail; spending the day at said training session; getting back to Silver Spring at 7 p.m.; proceeding directly to a friend’s Halloween party; consuming more candy corn than an adult stomach is made to handle; and going to bed around 11:30 p.m., only to wake up early again on race day. If you’re a reasonable human being, you’ll see that this plan was nutso, doomed to fail. If you’re a fellow perfectionist, you’ll probably recognize yourself in my mistaken belief that I could do all of that, and probably aren’t surprised that I initially wanted to have a Halloween party yesterday afternoon, too.
It didn’t take long on Sunday morning for my legs to let me know they wouldn’t be showing up for the race, and it didn’t even take a full mile for me to adjust my expectations and downshift to a pained jog. But I still made the experience a meditation in crushing my inner running-perfectionist. Here’s how:
1. I didn’t dwell on the fact that I was slower than last year (which seemed painfully slow at the time). When I ran the full Marine Corps Marathon in 2009, I wasted a lot of time mourning the loss of my goal pace once things started falling apart. On Sunday, I didn’t judge myself for being slower than I’d hoped—a sure formula for ruining a race—but instead just kept moving forward and encouraging myself.
2. I didn’t totally let myself off the hook. The guy who took me through my physical-therapy workouts used to be an Olympic running coach in Guyana, and he once told me he coached his 10K runners to push the pace, then pull back, then push the pace again, then pull back. There were certain parts of the race when I felt a little spring in my step, and I challenged myself to push the pace during those moments—a real departure from my usual routine, which is to see my race results in black and white—either I’ve achieved my goal pace, or I might as well stop and walk.
3. I really thought about race strategy. I’ve written before about how the 10K has stumped me as a racing distance. The last one I really “raced” was the Capitol Hill Classic 10K last year, and I still finished in 50 minutes and change—considerably slower than pace calculators suggest I’m capable of, considering my other race times. On Sunday, though my overall strategy was just to get through the darn thing without collapsing, I was at least *thinking* about how to coax the most out of my tired legs, focusing on the push/pull back strategy, and really trying to turn up the heat in the fourth and fifth mile (even though yesterday, “turning up the heat” meant “not slowing down”).
4. I didn’t dwell on the bad stuff. My usual M.O. after a slow and/or disappointing race is to spend the day telling everyone how slow I was, and how terribly I did—and to be even harder on myself in my head. On Sunday, I didn’t even look up my official finish time—my Garmin suggests I did roughly 9-minute miles, but it’s totally beside the point. When people asked, I just told them it was a rough run, but that I had a blast—and I did.
5. I congratulated myself heartily for the good stuff—all of the above, plus the fact that a training run of 6.2 miles at 9-minute-mile pace sets myself up nicely to start training for the Hot Chocolate 15K in December. Realistically, I’m pretty sure I’ll be training to cover the distance … but right now, the idea of being able to cover a 15K is pretty darn exciting!
We stayed after the 10K to cheer on the marathon runners, and spotted several of our friends at miles 25 and 22. If you ran the 26.2 yesterday, congratulations—your finish is such an inspiration to me, and to everyone else on the sidelines! We also spotted some brilliant signs, like the one this kid is holding: