by Bree Lambert
It’s always easy to think about running your own race, but much harder to do when you are in the middle of it. It’s exciting to see the energy of athletes as they gather around the starting line, ready to run full speed ahead out of the gate. You can feel the adrenaline rush through your veins as the race begins. The next thing you know you are being swept up in the excitement of being with others who get a thrill out of the notion that you are going to push yourself harder than ever before because it’s crazy fun!
In my early days of racing triathlon I remember standing alongside the water’s edge of the lake or ocean I was about to submerge myself in. Thinking… in just a few minutes I will fling myself into icy water to get through the swim portion. I will then come out of the water feeling like I had been transformed into an ice berg, then WILL myself to quickly thaw as I make my way to the bike transition where with frozen fingers I’ll peel off my suit, throw on my shoes and hustle out to begin the ride. Once I was done with my ride I would pop off my bike , unstrap my helmet , find my way back to my transition and place my bike in its corral. From there I would throw on my shoes (sometimes with socks, most of the time without), grab my hat and glasses (GU in hand) and head out for the run.
Let me tell you something, transitioning from the swim to bike to run is very challenging and will teach you very quickly the importance of running your own race. In the sport of triathlon there are many things that can go wrong which could quickly derail your event. You can lose your goggles in the water while swimming. You can get a flat tire, snap a frame, or drop a chain on the bike. You can cramp up or completely bonk on the run, forcing you to walk humbly to the finish line as other athletes pass you by.
In the sport of ultramarathon, there isn’t a body of water to swim or a bike to ride. There isn’t a transition to set up or come back to. It’s all about YOU, a good pair of shoes and perhaps a crew or pacer to help guide you through the mental and physical highs and lows throughout the day. The need to run your own race becomes even more necessary with an ultra because the reality is if you don’t manage your fuel, hydration, pace and mindset…you won’t make it to the finish line. So you see, if you train yourself to run within your capabilities and not allow the adrenaline rush of others to guide you, the chances of you completing your race and feeling satisfied is high.
So how do you do it? How does one run their own race?
Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Be confident that you have done the training necessary to complete the distance.
- Go out conservatively and build your race. Break the race down using aid stations or mile markers.
- Let the faster runners speed past you unless you know you can keep up.
- Don’t forget to fuel consistently and use what works for you. (This isn’t the time to try pickle juice because you see the elites drinking it. Use what your stomach can handle.)
- Pace smart and know the course. Review the course profile ahead of time. If possible take advantage of organized training runs.
- Visualize your race. This will help you prepare for the highs and lows you may experience throughout your event.
- Above all and most importantly, enjoy the journey. Remember why you are out there. What was it that encouraged you to sign up?
I think the best races are run when you make it your own. Not every race will be run the same or possibly won the same. But if you take every opportunity to prepare and then run with an expectation that is yours, you could have the race of your life.
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