All hope for a good race is gone, or so it seems. After months of hard work you are finally getting close to race day, the weather is beginning to cooperate more often, and you are feeling fit. Then you run a race or one of your few remaining long runs and it's a disaster. Before you crossed the finish line or ended the long run the big questions storm through your mind. What was I thinking when I signed up for this race? Why do I do this to myself? What is the meaning of life?
You have invested a significant amount of precious time and energy, let alone heart and soul into your training. You have tried to temper your expectations, but things were going so well until today. You might even start thinking about pushing your race back to a later date. You need more training, Yes, that is it, you just need more training.
Let's get back to reality. It was just a bad day. If you have done the training, run the miles, the long runs, some quality from time to time and you have had many days that tell you that your fitness is there, you are ready to race. Don't let one day derail you.
Here's what I've figured out. Get ready, more quantum mechanics from the coach. A great race or training day tells us you are in great shape. There is no such thing as lucky in running. Maybe the variables aligned to make it extra special and it was an A+ day, but it was your body and your mind that ran the time. A good day means you are in good shape and should expect a good race. A bad day means, well, that you had a bad day. Nothing more or less. Do you best to figure it out and avoid whatever cocktail of circumstances led to your pride swallowing performance. And then move on to more good days.
One of my favorite stories to tell my runners after a bad race or training day at a critical time is about one of my former training partners, Rob Seymour. Years ago we used to do a point to point from 146th Street and Meridian to Eagle Creek Park, 22 miles away. We would transport the runners to the start and their car was waiting a few hours away at the finish line. This particular year this was the last long run before his goal marathon. To make sure people did not get lost on their way back I would drive back and forth on the course checking on them. I came across Rob with about 2 miles to go and to say the least he was hating life. I don't remember the exact exchange but when I offered him a ride because he was clearly done for the day, I think he said he hated himself, hating running, and probably hated me. He managed to hike his way back to the finish. Fast forward two weeks and Rob toed the line of his marathon with a half marathon PR of something in the low 1:30's and a marathon PR of several minutes over 3 hours. Rob set many personal records that day. He ran just a little under 1:30 for his first half (Half marathon PR!), he ran low 1:29 for the second half (Half marathon PR #2!) and finished in 2:59:01 (marathon PR!). Amazing what he would have missed had he given up all hope for a good day after one bad day.