Saturday, October 1, 2011

Everything Happens For A Reason

Just before the hill on the McAlpine course

Hey everyone, I hope all is going well for you.
Well yesterday I went and ran my first 5k cross country race.    It was the UNC Charlotte Invitational college meet at McAlpine Park in Charlotte, and I was running as an unattached runner.  This was the first 5k cross country race I had ever run and I was excited.  As I got there I marveled at all the colleges setting up tents for their runners.  How cool is that!
Going into the race I had a game plan and was ready to race.  After I got checked in, I went and jogged the only major hill on the course so I would know how the footing was that day.  I run the course enough to know it can change on a daily basis.  Then I found my assigned box on the starting line and mapped out how best to get out cleanly and work my way over to the main path.    Then I did my warm-up jog on the course and ended it with an up-tempo lap around the lake.  I knew the conditions of the course, I was very fit, and I had a good game plan.  I was ready in every way for this race, or so I thought.
As start time approached I went to the starting line and got my place and got ready to go.  When the gun sounded I took off and followed my plan and gradually made my way over to the main path without a problem.  I didn’t even have to sprint as much as I had thought.    I settled in with the lead pack of college girls and we made our way down the starting straightaway.  Around the 1 kilometer point our group was about 7 runners as far as I could tell and we went through the 1k mark in 3:22, right on pace.  As we went through the woods I worked my way up to 4th in the pack and as we neared the mile point I could hear another runner come up beside me.  We hit the mile in 5:23-5:24, still right on pace as planned.  Right after that we swapped positions some in the pack and made our way towards the second kilometer point.  At the 2nd k I forgot to get my split but I didn’t worry about it, the hill was coming up and I started thinking about not slowing down.  That was the wrong thing to think!  It put me in a defensive frame of mind and I needed to be aggressive going into the hill.  As I turned to go into the hill I was on the outside of the pack and didn’t accelerate into it like I need to in order to attack the hill.  As we got to the top, and began the very steep downhill I started worrying about my footing, as I didn’t feel to confident on it yet.  I was scared to fly down too fast and loose control.  I guess I ran it too conservative because at the bottom I looked up the pack had gapped me by about 20 meters.  As we came out of the woods and started around the lake, I started to dwell on the fact that I should have run that hill sooo much better.   As I passed the 3k point I forgot to get my split again, and just after that a girl had caught me and passed me just around the 2 mile point (11:04).  I was disappointed in that split and instead of getting myself back ito the race I started feeling sorry for myself and starting to get tired.  At the turn to go into the back loop of the course, my dad was there to encourage me to try and get me back into it mentally.  However I didn’t pay attention; I was too busy feeling sorry for myself and mentally took myself out of the race, and we all know that when we are mentally out our physical soon follows.  I went into survival mode and just ran at my LT tempo pace for that back loop as I listen to my mind say “I’m tired … I didn’t run that hill like I had planned … etc.”   With 600 meters to go I got passed again, but I never felt the need to care.  My dad was there, telling me to go with her to get myself back into the race.  But again I ignored him; I was too busy wallowing in self-pity.   As I went around the lake again I could hear the footsteps coming, the college girls were after the high school runner.  One, two, then three runners past me in the last 200 meters, but I didn’t put up much of a fight.  I just wanted to for the race to be over.  I crossed the line and saw my time was 17:30 and again I felt upset and dejected.  Worse yet I realized I wasn’t even all that tired.   17:30 wasn’t the time I was hoping for or what I knew I was in shape to run.  That just wasn’t a good race for me. 
We have noticed that I struggle to deal well with lactate build-up in 5k races and that I end up being inconsistent on my 5k performances.  But I handle things fine in workouts and time trials, so I know I can do it.  To be honest as I went to do my cool-down I was confused and just needed time to think.   As I started to think about it I realized I needed help to process it all.  So I began to pray.  I just talked it all out to God, how I was confused and didn’t understand how I could have raced so well in Virginia Beach and trained so hard in between and then didn’t run what I was capable of today.  How I didn’t know what I should do now, should I stick to longer races or run more shorter races?  I asked God for help, that I needed answers and that more importantly I just needed Him.    As I was talking to Him, something dawned on me, I realized why my race had gone wrong.  I had run selfishly, feeling sorry for myself when things had gone wrong, forgetting about why I race in the first place.  I am not the type of person who is too motivated by places or even necessarily the time I get.  I am motivated by knowing I gave it 100% my best effort, and left it all out there so that I could praise God for giving me this wonderful ability to run fast.  That is why even though people were congratulating me and telling me what an awesome time I had run, I was disappointed in myself, because I know I didn’t give it 100% and that I wasn’t a good steward of my gift out there today.   Instead I got caught up in me and how cool it would be to beat college girls and set records, and so when things started going wrong I had no strong motivation.  I wasn’t being true to who I was and why I race, like I was in Virginia Beach.  At Virginia beach I thought alot about God and how I love Him and was racing to show Him how much I appreciate the gift and opportunities He has given me.    But here in the cross country race, I had just thought of myself and didn’t even think of Him once. 
Well everything in life happens for a reason.  I believe now that this race happened so that I could remember the true reason why I race and love running – to praise God.  And now that I look back, I know what was missing at the beginning of the race as I was standing on the starting line, I didn’t bring my spiritual life.   Lesson learned.