Sunday, January 20, 2013

Failure during training: it's OK

As a runner, you're one of two people. Either you've successfully run the race you're training for (or longer) already. Or, you're a total novice to running, not entirely sure what it feels like to run more than a mile at a time.

One thing we all are is human (although I'm suspicious of a couple of know who you are).

As humans we're essentially guaranteed to do a few things often. Failure is one of those "things."

This is ok. What's that line? If you're not failing, you're not trying. 

It's true!

I have failed at more things than I care to recall, and that was just this week. It pains me to think about all the stuff that either hasn't worked correctly or that I haven't completed during my graduate training, and I've only been at it for five months! Ugh!

But, I'm trying. Dammit, I get up every day, I go in there, I sling some pipettes, count some flies and pretend to intently study research papers while enjoying my mocha latte at 10:00 and 2:00. (Just kidding about that mocha thing, I'm an espresso guy.) (I'm also kidding about the 10:00 and 2:00 thing. I'm pretty bitter right now while working on an article about how the whole "scientists live in an ivory tower" mindset makes scientists [me!] feel.) (I use parentheticals a lot, deal with it.)

And you know what? Every once in a while, something works! I get a piece of data (I may not understand it, but I get it). I get a paper published. My boss throws me a "good job." Or a lab-mate says, "Hey, that makes sense."

Success—or modicums of success, really—are thrilling!

Where the hell am I going with this? This is not meant to be a woe-is-me post about school. It's about running. And, well, the same attitude applies to running. 

Look, running a race isn't hard. Getting ready to run a race is a total pain in the ass. The race is the most relaxing part of the whole thing.

During training there are calendars, clocks, scales, deadlines, goals, friends, spreadsheets, books, glossy magazines, and idols. All of which are putting pressure on you (us) to feel the need to constantly succeed.

Thing is, that's not the point and it's destructive because you're bound to fail at something. 

Look, the point is to get most of your training right. Not to get ALL of your training right. If you think you need to do everything perfect during training then you're on the fast-track to disappointment. 

It's okay to fail during training. Just make sure you get the overall training right.

Miss a run during the week? Fuhgeddaboudit!

Did a long run at 10:15/mi when you were shooting for 10:00/mi? Nice run!

Don't let these things weigh on you. Just move on. Your goal isn't to check every box off your training plan. Your goal is to run a good race when you need to. Don't let the little bumps along the way keep you from doing that.

You'll meet people who either claim to adhere perfectly to their training plan or claim to be making training their little witch.
Me: Hey Overachiever Oliver, how's training for Hospital Hill going?
Overachiever Oliver: Oh man, it's great. I got in six runs today all three minutes under my goal pace! I've dropped 732 pounds and my resting HR is now 2! But I'm a little worried about the race man. I might not be able to finish. I gotta train harder. How's your training going?
Me: I managed to eat two cookies instead of three yesterday. I'm pretty happy with myself.  
Don't let people like that impact your training. Just do what you need to do. My bet is you'll see ol' Oliver there bouncin' around in the porta-potty line at mile six because he had eight too many protein shakes before the race.

As a runner, I've failed numerous times. I've finished two 100-milers, but I've started six. You do the math on that but don't tell me the answer. I peaced out at mile 120 of a 200-miler, which a friend of mine flew all the way (on his own dime) to Vermont to help me run. I've never broken the mile time I want. Came in late as a pacer (the first time I paced!!!). Didn't start races because I knew I wasn't ready. I've let fellow runners down. I haven't shown up for morning runs. Et cetra. And all sorts of other failures that at the time seemed monumental.

I'm ok though. It happens. You learn and somehow you are better in the long run for it. That's the other thing we're all good at as humans: learning from past experience. It's a wonderful gift. (Except for Congress—a new neuronal synapse hasn't been formed in that building for some time now.)

On the training front it was a good week. I got in about 20 miles which included a longer-ish run on Saturday. It was so freaking beautiful in KC on Saturday that I almost stopped caring about those Polar Bears.

I'm kidding. I love Polar Bears.


Erica7135 said...

That was the best blog I've read in a long time. And I read a lot of blogs. I replaced the typical running protocol for a 100k training with just reading all the race reports ever written for it. It actually worked like a charm. Miss your face Danny - I told Wael last night that I blamed him for my misery and hated him and if he was in reach I would punch him in the face. You missed the love.

Rick said...

Great post, Danny! Sometimes it's hard to keep the right perspective and this is a great reminder!