Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind
Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?
-Five Man Electrical Band
More dangerous than texting and driving is the irresistible compulsion to look for signs of race readiness as the big day approaches. I have done it and I am sure you have too. Regardless of how many miles and quality sessions you have compiled over the preceding months we want a sign from our bodies and the ghosts of Lydiard and Bowerman, if not God himself that we are fit and ready for something great.
Can we not all learn from Icarus? If you recall the story he ignored his father’s warning not to fly too close to the sun with his wings of feathers and wax. The headiness of being able to fly was too great a temptation to stay low and escape captivity on Crete. We do the same thing. When we are fit and race sharp and ready to “strike fear into the hearts of mediocre talent everywhere,” it is a very difficult thing not to show off, not for anyone else, necessarily, but to ourselves. Confidence can be a very fleeting thing for a runner. After a good day it soars and after a bad day all is lost and we might as well take up lawn darts.
Frank Shorter says there are two kinds of workouts. Those that make us fit and those that demonstrate fitness. If these get out of balance we are likely to become the fittest spectator on the course. This is about as happy of a place to be as Crete being guarded by Minotaur. Just because a “goal pace” run at 20 seconds a mile faster than you can dream of running will look awesome in your training log does not mean it is a good idea. Now is the time to clearly understand the workout purpose and stick to it. Let your coach tell you how lean and mean you are and how sure you are to blow away any PR you possess than melt your wax too close to race day looking for a sign..