Graduation Weekend and Races

June 1, 2012

Last weekend Joe’s little brother Jason and his fiancee Ali graduated from college at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota. Both Joe, his older sister Amber and her husband Jake graduated from Bethel, and I spent my freshman year of college up there. It was crazy to think that the last of the Hofmeyer siblings have now graduated from Bethel (and that I’m the only one of them who didn’t graduate from Bethel!) Jason and Ali are getting married in July, too, so it’s a pretty crazy, exciting time for them.

Amber and I also had a training run on the schedule for the weekend, so instead of doing the 9-miler we had planned, we ran a 10-mile race that Amber found in St. Paul. It was only $10 (I had no idea $10 races existed these days), so I’m not sure how we could have said no. Planned route, water stops and other runners to run with? Count us in! Joe has also been such a sport while I’ve been training for the half marathon. He’s run every single training run with me, from track workouts to weeknight runs to long double digit runs on the weekends. And tomorrow we’re running a 20k race (12.4 miles) in Des Moines called the Dam to Dam. If that doesn’t earn him “Husband of the Year” I don’t know what will!

I’m not going to lie, races are tough for me. Although I’ve felt strong and fast(er) during my training runs at home with Joe, when I get to a race, things change. This past weekend, Joe witnessed it first hand. I’ve been running somewhere between 9:00 and 9:20 minute miles, which has been a big change from last year’s 10:00 minute miles. My runs have felt strong and comfortable, and on shorter distances I’ve been able to push the pace to somewhere in the 8:40 to 8:50 time. But when I get to a race, I really struggle to maintain that same 9:00-9:20 minute pace. Last week, around mile 4 1/2, I got a crazy side stitch and really struggled mentally around mile 7 1/2.

Since I don’t believe that it’s a matter of being in shape of well-trained (in fact, it’s quite the opposite), I’ve been doing a little thinking about what the cause might be. I think that something about the racing atmosphere really phychs me out. There’s a pressure that I put on myself to perform well and compete with others runners. It makes my heart beat faster and my body tense up, which may be what makes races seem more difficult? Although I’m not going any faster (I had my Garmin with me to be sure), it feels like I’m going at a faster pace.

Do any other runners have a similar experience? Or do any of you seasoned runners have advice? I’m hoping to make this weekend’s run more about fun and less about trying to achieve a certain time or maintain a specific pace. Hopefully by keeping the pressure low, I’ll end up feeling great at the end of the race!

Happy Weekend!

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  • Your race experience sounds a lot like how I used to get when I first started running. For me, it was totally a mental thing. I had all these previous thoughts of “I’m not a runner, and I never will be” swirling around my head, and it took a while for me to break through that.

    Now, though, I feel the exact opposite in a race setting. While my practice runs might start to drag on (and on and on and on…), the excitement and adrenaline of the race usually makes the whole thing go by quicker. It also helps that I’m usually running by myself when I’m training (my husband is unfortunately NOT a runner ha), so I get excited when I can finally run with someone. It might help you if, instead of thinking you’re under pressure when you race, just trying to soak up the excitement of the event. Everyone is in such a great mood, and there are endorphins aplenty to keep everyone’s spirits up šŸ˜‰

    I wish I still lived in Des Moines because you an I run at the exact same speed!

    • Madison Mayberry

      Justine, I would love it if we could be running buddies! It’s so hard to find people who run and train at the same pace. Right now I’ve just been relying on my husband to slow down his pace and run with me. Everyone’s tips were so helpful and yesterday’s race was a huge success. I finished in 1:54! Thanks again for the tips. šŸ™‚

  • Emily Holland

    I am going up there tonight to run the 5k part of the Dam to Dam tomorrow. I’m nervous about it since it will be my first race ever, and I’m not the best runner anyways. I’ve had a lot of friends tell me I will do fine, and one told me the adrenaline will get me through it.

    • Madison Mayberry

      Emily, how did the race go? I was thinking about you as we got to the point where the 5k race was supposed to merge with the 20K racers. I think we were done before the 5k started, but I would love to hear how your first race went!

  • TaraMDesmond

    I think you nailed the problem: it’s all in your head. I know a thing or two about that with running! Sometimes when I get jammed up in my own mind, I leave the watch at home, create a new playlist and just go out and run the distance, paying little/no attention to time. Might also help to read some inspiring stories to remember when you start to get tense. Stories that help you stay focused on how lucky you are to part of the pack of runners, not silently competing against it. (Flip through Runners World or skim Follow This Mother posts on Another Mother Runner.com.) Finally, during a race, if you’re too much in your head, turn your attention to spectators and people cheering. Smile at them, give them a high five. Their energy will renew yours. Also, try falling in step with a fellow runner stranger and just try a quick exchange. Nothing too conversational, just “doing ok?” or “looking good” or something that engages the person right next to you and makes you realize you and he/she are in the same boat. Have fun and know these mental hang-ups are totally normal!

    • Madison Mayberry

      Tara, you have no idea how helpful your tips were. Yesterday when we were racing I kept all your advice in mind and used it to get me through the mentally tough miles (6 to 8). Thanks again!

  • My mind starts playing tricks on me before a race. I begin to imagine every possible scenario for why I might not be able to finish the run–my ITBS might kick in, or my stomach might get upset, I might go out too hard at the beginning, etc., etc. I’ve come up with a few ways to combat these nerves:

    1) I take it easy the night before, eating an easily-digestible dinner of pasta w/o any creamy sauces or meats that might upset my tummy the next morning. (And no wine!)
    2) On race day, I don’t do (or eat!) anything I wouldn’t eat before a normal run.
    3) During the run, I only allow myself positive self-talk. I picture myself crossing the finish line, getting my medal, and being greeted by my proud husband. I’ve even been known to talk out loud to myself: “You can do this, Katie!” or “Just five more miles!”
    4) Also during the run, I listen to an audiobook and use MapMyRun, just like I do on my training runs. Even though I miss a lot of the story because I’m busy watching the crowds and runners, it’s comforting to have created the same environment that gave me success on my training runs.

    I’m doing a half-marathon in the morning, and have been anxious about it all day–thanks for giving me an opportunity to consciously reflect on these strategies myself!

    • Madison Mayberry

      Katie –

      Thank you so much for taking the time to share with me your tips about running races and staying in the game mentally. It’s amazing now much of a mind game racing is, isn’t it? I took all your advice to heart yesterday during the race and everything went really well! I hope your race went just as well! šŸ™‚

  • Heather

    I gotta know what the name of the race in the Cities was!

    • Madison Mayberry

      The race was called the Mississippi 10 Miler and was put on by the Minnesota Distance Running Association. We found it on the site Raceberry Jam!

  • Kristen

    I’ve been reading your blog for a little while now but just had to comment this time – two of my cousins did Dam to Dam this weekend! I hope it went well for you.