I ran my second race of the year this weekend, the 7-mile Chuckanut foot race in Bellingham. To be honest, I am a little disappointed in myself. Not because my time was somewhat slower than I hoped, although it was. I had the couple weeks off while my toe healed, the day was warm, and there were a couple big hills I didn’t expect – all valid reasons that it took me a bit longer to cover the distance.
I am disappointed by how much I had to fight mentally just to maintain a “race” effort, especially for the second half. It was a very long couple miles in the middle debating the voices in my head that are so good at pointing out that I’m uncomfortable, that maybe I would like to slow down or walk, or just fixate on how far it is to the finish and how long that’s going to take me.
In retrospect, I think the biggest difference from my first race a couple months ago was the atmosphere. The Rhody Run back in May was a road race on a community festival weekend, and most of the course was lined with people – think less cheering throngs and more neighbors gathering in camp chairs in their yards. The Chuckanut was a runner’s race, almost all on a rail trail, and mostly I just saw the other runners and some volunteers between the start and finish areas. There was far less to distract me from myself.
I really liked the course, but I think I need a much better game plan for dealing with my head if I’m going to run races that involve so much time without distraction. I really think that’s what it is… it’s not that people shouting encouragement are especially motivating, it’s really all about having something to occupy your mind so that you can distract it from the effort. So I guess any illusions I had that running was a physical activity that served as a nice break from my head can be dismissed…