Immediately upon completion of the Drumstick Dash 5K I ran Thanksgiving morning, the thing I found myself most thankful for was the end of race season for the year.
Don’t get me wrong: I like racing. And as someone who never ran competitively or played sports competitively in high school or anything, I’m extremely glad I started doing it. For me, racing means you’re not just working out for nothing, or simply in the name of “your fitness.” No, it’s where you get to put your training to the test. There’s adrenaline and a feel of competition — not only against others, but against yourself.
Not only do I like racing, but I improved my race times over what I did in 2012. I’m definitely thankful my continued training has been paying off. However, as I stood there huffing and puffing following my final push through that Drumstick Dash finish line, all I could think about was how progressively burned out I felt down the stretch of the year.
(Allow me to clarify: this applies more to running than to stair climbing.)
The Drumstick Dash proved to be my slowest race of the year. I finished in 21:49, which is actually two seconds slower than my time at last year’s Drumstick Dash. Relative to the competition, my time fared slightly better than last year. Where last year I finished 66th out of 2,501, my slower time this year placed me 57th out of 2,478, which is technically three-tenths of a percentile better.
Sure, in that respect, it’s an improvement, but the time wasn’t as good as last year, and the time certainly wasn’t as good as I’d done earlier this year. But I felt burned out enough toward racing that it didn’t really even bother me like such a result may have in the past.
I’ve realized two things that contributed to my burned-out feeling, which I may want to adjust my race schedule next year because of: 1. I hate running in cold temperatures, and 2. It’s hard to stay mentally prepared to race when you’re constantly racing.
My slowest runs came in temperatures of 22 degrees, 11 degrees (wind chill zero), and 23 degrees. And I hated every second of those runs. They were way more physically and mentally draining than even a bad ideal-condition run.
New rule: NO MORE COLD WEATHER RACES.
Sure, the weather doesn’t stop a lot of long-distance and otherwise hardcore runners from getting out there and pounding the pavement. At this stage in my young life as a runner, though, I’m not quite there.
As for the spacing of my races (excluding stair climbs), I ran one in March, two in June, and then five between mid-September and Thanksgiving. If you include stair climbs, that’s one more race in March, but then two more in that already-crowded, late-year, two-and-a-half month span.
New rule: SPREAD OUT THE RACE SCHEDULE.
Again, this sort of crowded race schedule doesn’t really affect a lot of hardcore athletes. It’s just what they do. For instance, I discovered there was 49-year-old woman who did a Spartan obstacle race in Milwaukee the day before competing in the SkyRise Chicago stair climb. Her SkyRise finish time was the exact same as mine. And not only am I 16 years her junior, but I rested the day before.
I’m sure it takes some time to build up the ability to stay constantly “race-ready,” energy-wise, but, again: I’m not quite there yet.
So, for now, I think if I can apply those “new rules” starting next season, I can improve on what I did this year, and not be burned out at the end of next year.