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“Dispatch” is an online column from Triathlete Editor-at-Large Holly Bennett that features pro updates, industry news, happenings afield and otherwise random reports related to multi-sport. Look for “Dispatch” every Thursday on Triathlete.com.
Something verging on philosophical occurred to me after running the Snowman Stampede 5-Miler in Littleton, Colo. last Saturday: While one can’t claim glory at every race, one can certainly claim a lesson from every race experience. And that, more than anything, is what I call winning.
Those of you that keep up with this column know that I’ve set a goal for myself this year called The Baker’s Dozen, in which I’ll race 13 races in 2013 (one per month, plus one). The Snowman Stampede was race number two, and I picked it for nostalgic reasons; I also raced there the first year I moved to Boulder, taking home a stylish Snowman-motif travel coffee mug for my third place podium finish in the 10-miler. I mean what’s not to love about a travel mug–especially one that doesn’t leak?
I was eager to return to the race, albeit in worse shape than in 2010, so I opted for the shorter distance, convinced a friend to join me and off we went. Well, almost. I’d like to think that I headed happily toward the race on the horizon. But truth be told, I was a tight ball of stress by Saturday. I spent the prior week home-hunting with a vengeance, having learned that my landlord intended to sell his house. I was excited at the prospect of new digs, but daunted and depressed by the Boulder housing market. As a touchy sleeper to begin with, that meant one thing for me: insomnia. I felt more like the walking dead than anything resembling a runner by week’s end. On Friday (the day before the race), I made up for a lackluster week of fitness by running, lifting weights and swimming a Masters session. And in an attempt to chillax that evening, I joined a friend for a comfort-driven dinner of wine and pizza–hardly my normal pre-race meal.
And so I learned that being imperfectly prepared is sometimes good. Despite the stress (and delicious cheesy pizza) that pervaded my race week, I actually ran all right. I didn’t break any land speed records, but I did significantly improve my pace-per-mile over my first Baker’s Dozen performance one month ago–and on a slightly longer course. Not only did my pace progress, I felt far better running, a measure of improvement that is oh-so-important, yet often overlooked. All-in-all I was pleased–and utterly surprised.
I learned something else on my way to the Snowman Stampede, too. I learned that friends don’t let friends bail out–whether they know it or not. For one, my race-day companion was a pivotal part of getting me to that start line. All she did was agree to go, yet had it not been for her company (and her offer to drive) I surely would have stayed in bed. And added motivation came from the announcement on Friday that I was a newly appointed member of the SOAS Racing ambassador team. Within moments of the team roster going public, a flurry of excited emails ensued among the women selected. My inbox burst like fireworks with spirit and support. Heck, I could have run a marathon off of that energy alone!
So next time you feel ill-prepared, simply let that feeling go. Racing off the cuff can be as rewarding a venture as any. And next time your motivation falters, find a friend–or a team full of them. Inspiration is contagious, and lively friends (or a locked-in commitment to carpool) can easily lead to racing success. Perfect training plans and tempered taper weeks are at times overrated–just grab the moment and go! And remember–while not every win earns a Snowman mug, every lesson learned is surely a win.
RELATED – Dispatch: The Baker’s Dozen – Race #1