Sunday, September 18, 2011

Winning and Losing

I will start off by saying that I had more than two dozen replies via texts, emails, and phone calls regarding my last post on pacing. To clarify the intentions of that post I will simply say that I believe that each of us should set our own paces at whatever activity we are pursuing based on our own abilities and goals without being influenced by other people who do not chase similar goals or who do not have similar abilities. Finding that pace is the difficult part. It took years to develop the method for determining my pace and the paces of many athletes I have been fortunate enough to work with.

If a person simply wishes to be healthy and does not care to line up for races, that is fine with me. I just ask that person to respect that others have the ability and have chosen to go faster.

Finding the correct pacing and establishing a training plan around that pacing should result in personal best performances, or PRs. The more talented front-runner (FR) athletes will use their maximized abilities to compete for wins while the diverse group of middle of pack (MOP) and happy to finish (HTF) athletes will accomplish their goals.

No matter where an athlete's name appears on the final results of a race, no matter how fast or slow a workout is completed, no matter how health or weather has contributed to the day, an athlete must evaluate a set of realistic goals based on the training pace leading up to that day and decide if the day is a win or a loss.

Some athletes set too slow or too fast a pace in training. The slow trainer may set too low a goal or simply not achieve the expected goal. The fast trainer will eventually fail to recover and will succumb to fatigue, injury, or illness. It is not easy finding the right training goal, but several working methods are out there to be tried over and over again until that proper pacing is found.

That said, I will flatly state that I expect to win every day I train or race. My trophies are the fitness, health, and happiness I gain from these victories!

Each win and each loss must be evaluated from several viewpoints. Did the prior training go well? Did the recovery go well? Did I eat right? Did I set the right goal in the first place? Did I shave my legs? (Just kidding!) Was I having fun!!

Of course, some people want to race for trophies. They will wear those trophies like they are the latest fashion craze. They will hoist them for all to see. They might even create their own trophies in the form of tattoos. That is fine with me even though I have a decades long habit of rarely accepting awards that need to be displayed and dusted. I get enough satisfaction from achieving my 5K goal time or simply finishing a half marathon. I will admit, though, that the finishers' buckles awarded at many ultras should be prized! If you call that last statement inconsistent, then you probably haven't attempted an ultra.

Furthermore, I find the habit of handing out too many trophies a major flaw in our "everyone is a winner" society. When a high school cross country meet hands out 40-50 ribbons in a race made up of less than 100 competitors, the dilution factor reaches the level of embarrassment. (Ten medals, please!) I consider that to be the equivalent of handing out awards for everybody who happened to breath during the event. Or maybe it would be like awarding those who didn't fall down in an ultra - wait that one might be a goal worth seeking for some individuals.

Having recently regained daily control of my legs after a summer of significantly greater than normal training, I have settled into training paces that will allow me to run a fall race at the half marathon distance. I have yet to enter one but I am looking forward to setting a goal and achieving it.

Find your pace or find someone who can help you find it. Then you can accurately identify your wins and losses.

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