Thursday, April 09, 2009

Under pressure

Back in high school, especially senior year, I used to get ridiculously nervous before races. My nerves actually caused me to run badly on more than one occasion (case in point: sectionals), or I would run crappily in prelims, barely make it to finals, and then calm down enough to run well because I'd already run a race. Obviously nerves ruining your race can be a big issue in the 100 hurdles, when one screwy step out of the blocks can spell complete disaster. In high school I wanted to be good, I wanted to be the best, I wanted to WIN and I knew I was capable of it, and every race I felt like I had to prove myself. I remember spending study hall every day with my friend Jeff looking up meet results while he looked up stats from his tennis opponents...that and playing texttwist...and we both constantly gave eachother crap about how obsessed we were with our respective sports. In high school I didn't drink, didn't party, didn't really do much besides my sports/activities, and in the sprint, track was IT - all that mattered. School was a joke, dance kind of fell by the wayside, and it was all track, all the time. And so running well was all that mattered.

When I got to college, all of that kind of disappeared for awhile. I was so ecstatic just to be racing that I couldn't have cared less what times I was running. When I eventually switched over from hurdles to distance, my nerves were related more to the fact that I knew the race was going to hurt like hell than actually worrying about running well in it - sure, I wasn't thrilled when I had a bad race, but I didn't really expect to have a great one either. And that's pretty much how its been the past couple years - going into races nervous about the pain, and most of the time coming out with a result I'm moderately happy with.

PRing on Saturday has, apparently, changed all that.

I am 100% FREAKING OUT about my race tomorrow. I honestly haven't felt this way since high school - that sense of nerves and wanting so badly to run well and not knowing whether its possible. I've been checking the heat sheets obsessively, hunting down past races for my competitors, trying to figure out what I should take the first mile out's ridiculous. And the fact that I feel this way about the 5K...well, that's just insane. Yet when I take 2 seconds to stop geeking out about the race itself and try to figure out why exactly I'm so damn nervous about it all of a sudden, its not actually too hard to explain why.

#1 - I have come to terms with the fact that yes, I am, and will be forever, a distance runner.
For the longest time I think I've thought of myself as "hurdler turned distance runner". Distance was like this weird thing that I just kind of did, and hey, if I could be OK at it, that was cool, because I was sick of getting worse at my 'real' events. If I did bad, it was easy enough to just be like "oh, well I'm not really a distance runner anyway". Yeah, that works when you're running the 800. Maybe even the mile. But choosing to run an effing 5K on the track? I can no longer try to tell myself that I'm "not really a distance runner". Because...I am. You don't do that if you're not a distance runner. And I think I've been denying that for awhile, and all of a sudden it's hit me that I am no longer, in any way, a sprinter...I'm all distance, all the way. And I think I'm still kind of in awe of myself for that.

#2 - I'm not used to PRing in the middle of the season. Or the beginning, for that matter.
Part of my deal in college has been switching events when I start to slow down at one. I haven't run the same "main" event 2 years in a row, which in a way is probably stupid but let's not worry about that for now. And in all of these (and cross country too) I PRed in my last or second-last meet of the season. It made sense - I went a little backwards from the end of the year before at the beginning of the season, got better throughout, PRed in a race after the whole season of training, and then it was like "ok, sweet season, peace out." I spent the whole time trying to get back to where I was the year before, and then get slightly better. But now, I PRed in the second damn race of outdoor. I still have 4 more meets to live up to, or hopefully improve upon, that. And that's what scares me - because my times are starting to get sort of legit, and because I actually dropped a TON of time just to start things...I want and need to be able to keep that up. And I think that's a BIG factor in my nerves.

#3 - I didn't start running this race just because I sucked at a different one, and I genuinely love running it.
I totally could be running the steeplechase right now. Maybe even should be. And I never thought that going up to the 5K instead of down to the 1500 would be the best decision I could make this season. I kept switching events because I didn't like getting worse/not improving, or that I wasn't really good at them to begin with, but I switched events this time because I want to and I genuinely think I can be not just mediocre, but at least "good".

So yeah? Pressure much? So anyway. I'm nervous for my race tomorrow. I'm nervous because there are a lot of really good girls in the race, I'm nervous because I don't want to run slower than last week, I'm nervous because Jade is in the race, I'm nervous, nervous, nervous. But I guess the good thing is, in a 5K, nerves can only help you. I'm not going to trip out of the blocks, if anything, I run my first mile 5 seconds fast. Which, if I want to drop time, is probably a good thing anyway. :)

carpe diem. the time is now.

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