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May/June 2012 - Level Renner

May/June 2012 - Level Renner

Lane 3: Commentary E

Lane 3: Commentary E xcuses. Everyone's got them. What's yours? Miss a day of training? Couldn't finish a workout? Didn't run the time you were hoping for in a race? Hit me with your best excuse - I guarantee I've used it before. When it comes to runners explaining away their inadequacies, failures, deficiencies, and lapses of motivation, I can honestly say I've been on both sides of the conversation. I've heard some lame ones, I've heard some legit ones, I've come up with some solid ones, and I've sold some lemons. I see no end in sight for this silly game we play in our own minds, so the only question left to answer is: why? Why does running and making excuses go hand-in-hand? Since running is such an individual sport, almost all of an athlete's successes and failures can be attributed to how well or how poorly he prepares himself before a race. I understand that. That's what I signed up for way back in the day when I got my first pair of Etonics. I was lucky enough to have a good coach in high school. He taught me what it takes to get to the starting line healthy and properly trained so I could go out there and race up to my own potential. The next lesson I learned was that when the gun goes off and the clock starts ticking, those two statistics that show up next to my name in the results – place and time – were going to be directly correlated to my physical effort and mental toughness. In a perfect world, that is running at its essence – taking your well-trained body to the limit by running as far and as fast as you possibly can. Unfortunately, when the going gets tough, you might notice that devious little caricature sitting on your shoulder, whispering negative thoughts in your ear and supplying you with all the excuses that you'll ever need to take the easy way out. Coming up with ex- Blah, blah, cuses for race per- blah... formances are the easiest, and therefore lamest, excuses to make. “The course was too hilly,” “I should have gone with that pack,” “I got boxed in,” or “a spectator jumped out of the crowd and punched me in the face.” Hello?! These are all variables that were 100% under your control before you signed up for the competition. There was nobody preventing you from going the The Art of The Excuse By Alan Bernier extra mile and preparing yourself for anything that the course or the competition could throw at you. When the going gets tough, the tough get in position and cover the surge. When a situation presents itself in a race where you can either accept the challenge or shy away from it, think about whether you want to stand around with your friends afterward, either saying you gave it your best effort or blabbing about how the planets aligned to prevent you from running just more than a bit outside of your comfort zone for a couple miles earlier this morning. Sometimes I hear people complaining about injuries or missed training. This type of post-race excuse baffles me as well. You don't see Desi Davila telling a press conference of reporters that she fell off the pack because she had a strained hamstring in training two weeks earlier. Don't get me wrong – I admire someone who signs up for a race and still goes the distance, even if they experience some setbacks in training along the way. But why bother lamenting these setbacks when the race is over? Are you looking for pity? Do you want a badge of heroism? Are you trying to impress people with how fast you theoretically would have run without said injury or illness? The proper postrace synopsis should always be, “I performed up to my expectations.” Not the most impressive or newsworthy answer in the world, but nonetheless honorable in my book. Finally, the most interesting and inexplicable excuses to me are the ones that we make to ourselves about training or race preparation. Have you ever heard that guy talking about how he didn't get much sleep for the last few nights before the race? Or the old, “I would have run a minute faster if I didn't get wasted at the bar last night.” Or how about, “I'm tired and I haven't missed a day all week – I deserve a day off.” These are the folks that keep psychologists in business, and I've gotta admit that these excuses are my guilty pleasures. Why do people sabotage their own performances? So many runners put an extraordinary amount of effort into their training - often for weeks or months leading up to a goal race. Why is it so easy to lose focus in those last few days before the race? Eating poorly, not hydrating properly, lack of sleep, ex- cessive alcohol consumption, extra days off (often filed under that evil term “tapering”), forgetfulness, trying new shoes or energy supplements on race day, etc, etc... Personally, the only two explanations I can provide for these types of excuses are laziness and fear of failure. Believe it or not, some people are terrified of reaching their own absolute potential in competition. Some people just can't get motivated for a new training cycle without being able to look back at the last one and say, “What if...” It’s a confidence thing, and in my opinion, the most nefarious type of excuse of them all. These are the times when it helps to have a coach that can keep you focused and motivated, but not many of us have that luxury. Another way around this is to surround yourself with friends, family, and no nonsense training partners that you respect – people that will hold you more accountable than you hold yourself. Kind of like AA for runners, right? In the end, excuses will always be all too easy to make and undoubtedly what separate a few of us from those professional runners with sponsorship contracts and perfect strides. The next time you look in a mirror, ask yourself if you are satisfied with the amount of effort you put into your training and racing. If the answer is no, that person you see in the glass is the only one you have to blame. If the answer is yes, go have a few beers and take tomorrow off – “everything in moderation” has a nice ring to it! This is Al Bernier’s debut column in The Level. As you can tell, he’s not one for pulling punches, and that’s what we like about him. He runs for the Central Mass Striders. Rumor Has It Psstt! Want to conceive a baby girl? Rumor has it that men running 35+ miles per week are two times as likely to engender a female. Now, get movin’ Daddy! 26

Lane 3: Commentary 1 More Mile my attempt to run one more mile everyday for a month “So, are you going to do the 1 more mile thing again?” Such an innocent question. I’d left my job the day before, and now both me and my wife were unemployed and expecting our first child midway through the following year. “No, of course not,” was my obvious response. It was a seed, though, and I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. Rewind almost 2 years. It’s now January 2010, and I’m attempting to run 1 more mile every day for a full month. In January. In Maine. Running 1 mile on the first, 2 miles on the second, 3 on the third, and so on seems pretty easy at first. And for the first week and a half, it is. But it doesn’t stay that way. By the end of the month, only running the scheduled miles, a runner covers 496 miles. About a 500 mile month…that’s a lot of running, but it’s not unheard of. Plenty of people do that all the time. Of course, most of them don’t run 500 miles in such a way that 349 of them are done in the last 2 weeks. The first time I tried this, I made it 24 days. On the 25 th , bad weather made it unsafe to be outside (I almost took out a mailbox on my own street while driving home). Combine that with a few hours of overtime and an oncoming knee injury and I was convinced that it wasn’t a good idea to continue. I had run 148 miles the previous week, the most I’d ever gone in 7 days by over 20 miles. Of course, most of them don’t run 500 miles in such a way that 349 of them are done in the last 2 weeks. After spending most of the week recovering, a group of 18 of my friends got together at my house for a Fat Ass Run (Editor’s Note: A Fat Ass Run is one with no entry fee, no aid, and no awards. Something that The Level truly endorses.) and I managed to cover the 31 miles on the 31 st . I don’t mind attempting something and failing, but I hate when I have to quit. I had been trying to raise money for Camp Sunshine, and while I raised enough to send one family, I still felt like I was letting them down. It’s now December 2011, and the work excuse no longer holds. Looking at the calendar, I see that March 31 st falls on a Saturday, and after contacting Camp Sunshine I discover that they aren’t opposed to me using their property for a Fat Ass Run at the end to finish off the challenge—if I make it that far. March weather in Maine is not very predictable, but after the mild winter I figured that even if it snowed every day I could By Blaine Moore at least take advantage of running during the daylight hours when there wasn’t much traffic. The month began with a snowstorm, making the streets dangerous enough that we had to cancel the group run I coach in town. After a few hours of shoveling, I turned on my watch and did the minimum 1 required mile before heading back to the house. Over the next 31 days, the snow would disappear, temperatures would reach the 80s, and the wind had trouble deciding if it wanted to take a nap or flail around and try to knock me over. No matter what the weather, the first 2 weeks were pretty straightforward. I knew from experience that the middle of the month is when it really begins getting difficult, and I had the added challenge of travelling halfway across the country for the RRCA National Convention right at that point. Thankfully, by getting up before the sun while I was in Memphis and sometimes finding folks to share some of my miles, I was able to make my way through my daily mileage before getting too busy with con- 8th Annual Memorial Charity Road Race Sunday, June 10, 2012 Cottage Street School, 30 Cottage St., Sharon, MA 5K Race - 5:45 pm Kids’ Race - 5:30 pm For more info visit www.fatherbullockcharityrace.com $50 Bonus for New Course Record Standing Course Records: Male (Mike Don 15:58) Female (Emily Tran 19:20) This Race is the first race in the 2012 Red Fox Run Series; for more information please visit their group on Facebook. 27

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