You were warned, but you did it anyway – Racing Mistakes
Happy Tuesday all! This week I’m linking up with Patty, Erika, and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run. Hopefully this will be a refreshing alternative to my weekly “the same thing happened this week as last week” routine.
We are writing today about racing mistakes. You know, all those things that runners tell you to do or not to do and then you go ahead and go against that advise anyway? Never did that? Just me then?
I did something even worse actually. I bought trail shoes to give trail running a try. I actually used them once in a 10K race in New Mexico. That race was pretty much uphill all the way for 5K, turn around and then hope you don’t face plant on the way down. Because I was walking half of the time I don’t really consider this as “race” usage. Of course Ron wore his new trail shoes and came in second in his age category, but I digress. Anyway, I didn’t think anything of it when I, months later, signed up for the 20K “Run Forest, Run” trail run not so far from where we live in the Netherlands. The mistake? I put my new orthotics in my race shoes. New orthotics + New Shoes + likely the wrong socks = HUGE blister 7KM into the race. I couldn’t really go back, I had to go forward. But DAMN that hurt. Not only was I in excruciating pain by the end of that race (and for DAYS afterwards), I also came in last, meaning I didn’t even get a damn cup of tea at the end (it was in December and I was frozen to boot). Moral of the story: Don’t wear new “anything” when it comes to your feet in a race. In fact try to avoid new “anything” on the rest of your body either. Chafing from a new bra or shirt SUCKS.
How bad can it be, right? I have a fairly strong stomach and can pretty much handle anything. Or so I thought. My first attempt at the Half Marathon distance CPC Run (City-Pier-City in Den Haag) was pretty much turned upside down when I was using my own gels during the race and then mixed it with an energy drink somewhere around 15KM. I spent the last huge chunk of the race trying to keep my cookies from exploding out of my face. Bananas, raisins, oranges, all fine. But mixing my SIS gel with Powerade drink was a bad, horrible idea. Moral of the story: Check out what brands your race has at the fuelling and water stations and then TRAIN with that brand. If you don’t, be prepared to bring your own and/or just take the water and the fruit. Luckily in Amsterdam they had Isostar protein mini-bars and I had trained with those in the past with no ill-effect. It’s not worth it to take in something not tested because it CAN make you feel very sick.
OK maybe it’s not a standard rule but it’s my rule. And I broke it. Traveling is fun but also can be stressful if you still need to get to the expo and pick up your packet, etc. I know that here in Europe we have more of a luxury of taking more days off (in general I have the impression that in North America you still have less time off than we do here) so I do realise it’s just not always possible. However, this is a rule I absolutely live by and yet, I broke that rule when we went to Lisbon for the Marathon a couple years ago. Let me tell you the stress was INSANE. We were travelling that time with the 4 of us (The Girl and The Boy came along) and we left on Saturday morning very early. You’d think that that would be ok. Well, first of all, we left TOO LATE to get to the airport, so we were seriously rushing. Second, we did not realise that it was the WORST/BUSIEST day to fly as most of the country just started their school fall vacation week. The Boy had a medal in his bag (the World Rocker) to present to his dad at the end of the race, but his bag was pulled out and searched and he had it so hidden that it took forever to get out of the bag. There went that surprise! We literally had to run for the plane once we got out of security. Once we arrived in Lisbon is was the worst storm ever. We thought they might even cancel the race! We still had to get out to the expo to get our stuff, get back to our lodging, get groceries so we could eat dinner later and get all of our stuff ready for an early start the next day. It was just too much. We like to have enough time to relax, study the course, read up on all the info and plan for marathon morning. I felt extremely unprepared for this race. In the end the storm cleared up around 5am and at 6 we were headed out to the starting line. Moral of the story: IF you can, make sure you have one day in between arrival at your race city and the race itself.
In the beginning of my racing days I pretty much signed up for as much as possible! My first real running event was a 12.5K (weird distance, I know) and after that I was HOOKED. So I signed up for all the races. !0K’s, 15K’s, 10Milers, etc. That year I also signed up for a Night Run. Sounded fun! Berg Race By Night! It was not so far from us either so, bonus! What I didn’t do was look into it further. I made a TOTAL NEWBIE mistake of being completely unprepared for the COMPLETE AND UTTER DARKNESS that we were about to run in the boonies. I had no headlamp, no reflection vest, no flash light, nothing. Basically I couldn’t see shit. Also? It was raining. Like, cats and dogs. So I wasn’t even dressed properly. I didn’t follow the weather forecasts back then like I do now. Moral of the story: Know what you are getting into. Check the course and READ the guidelines that are given by the race organisation itself, like DUH – wear a headlamp for night race. Bonus moral? Dress appropriately and bring a change of clothes so you don’t freeze to death.
Speaking of Dressing Appropriately – I know a lot of people like to wear their race kit of a tiny tank top and super short racing shorts but you could really regret this if it’s too cold. If you aren’t elite or even sub-elite, personally I think it’s better to find a race kit that is appropriate for conditions. The HUGE mistake I made in Warsaw was not dressing warm enough. I had arm sleeves but no gloves. I also had no ear warmers. I was wearing shorts. I waited for too long in the cold and never actually got warm. By 8KM my energy reserves were completely spent. On top of that, I was still freezing. At some point I just couldn’t even eat or drink anything anymore so of course it all went tits up from there. Moral of the story: You can ALWAYS remove clothing if you get warm. Dress for the conditions (taking into account that you WILL get a bit warmer) and time your arrival at the start so that you are not hanging around too long in the cold. If you are like me and want to get to the race early for 27 porta-potty visits, then at least do a bit of warming up before you stand in the starting corral feeling your body temperature plunging into the depths of an ice-hell.
Obviously rules are meant to be broken and sort of more like guidelines and, as with everything, your mileage may vary. Maybe you have no issue getting to a race to pick up your start packet a few hours before the start. Maybe you thrive in super cold (or super hot) weather. Maybe you have a stomach of steel and can handle any gels or energy drink that race water stations have to offer. We are all different and we all have different experiences. For me, these are the “rules” that I’ve broken and I’ve certainly learned from my mistakes. At least, I think I have…
What’s one racing rule you broke and lived to tell the tale? What’s one rule you hear all the time and think is utterly ridiculous? Please share in the comments!