Sunday, April 05, 2009

Last Place.

Last place.

I have noticed in years of coaching and racing that everyone has a fear of "last place". For some reason it continues to come up every year, over and over. From all abilities to all workouts and all races. Is it because winning is fun, the adrenaline of being in front, the excitement of doing well, the feeling we get when everything falls into place and just "clicks".

I wonder what is the fear. If you are last in a workout or last at a race or the last in your division, what does that mean? Does it define you? Does it matter?

As a coach it is important to me that my athletes show up and try and follow their plans. If you are last at a race it does not matter, you did more than the person that didn't show up or didn't finish the race. If you WON the race but posted the worst time of your life, did you really win? (possibly, depending on your plan). If you lost and PR'd did you LOSE? Just some thought to think about before the next race, activity or workout comes around and you don't want to go because you are afraid of "being last". Of course there are no right or wrong answers because you could easily answer yes and no to the above questions. It depends on where you are at, where you are headed and what your goals are.

Is it that we are afraid of being judged? I could understand that. With all the Internet results and Googling that happens, yes, it is not fun to be judged. We must remember that EVERYONE races for different reasons and everyone is at different places in their lives at different times. Yes, we all want to sign up with a random name and then change it if we are "happy" with our results...wouldn't that be nice...but why would we do such a thing? Because we are concerned about what others may say?

I had no idea what to expect last year training and racing for my first ironman. If I was healthy I could lay out a pretty good idea of where things could fall, but instead I was not healthy, I struggled daily with colitis and injuries. With amazing doctors and coaches and support team we were all fully prepared that I may have to drop out of the race. I feared doing this so much because I did not want to let anyone down, I didn't want to be judged, I figured I would fail if I didn't finish. I wanted to qualify for Kona and had trained so hard. I had to get reassurance from everyone that it would be okay if race day arrived and I didn't race. What I realized more and more is that I was more concerned about others opinions. I prepared for every case scenario, I prepared to know that I would go to the bathroom 10 plus times on the run, I was prepared to change my clothing if needed, I was prepared to "just finish". I prepared for people to judge me- by expecting me to race a certain time or place a certain number. My friends and family knew what I was going through and were there to support- no matter what case scenario unfolded. In some ways you could say this falls into being "fearful" of the last place or not reaching the goals outlined for myself, but I was prepared for it and it would be okay, because I was attempting to accomplish something I had never accomplished before.

If you raced one day or had a super tough workout one day and then felt super sluggish on your workout the next day, wouldn't that be expected? -you are tired. But is it the judgment of others that concerns you?

Or your friend is killing the workout and you are struggling, you automatically assume you are doing bad? Not necessarily! You both are on different training and work schedules, you have different lives and different plans.

If it truly matters 10 years from now, then YES, be concerned, but if it doesn't then is it worth all the worrying.

If being last is a main concern then I would rest up all week for my track workouts and only my track workouts because YES, I am typically the slowest one in the group of 30+ runners. Many of them are world class runners, they haven't swam or biked all week and then some, they run and run and run and have been doing it their entire lives. Possibly, if I ran 300+ miles a week for the next 10 years I may have run as many steps as them, but that is not where I am at, my body would completely give out on my too, but that is a whole other post.

What matters to me is that I show up, I make an honest effort for me on that given day and time, and three- I am improving.

I can't say I do not have my own struggles with performance, I am letting others know that I need to remind myself frequently, of what MY goals are, where I want to be and remembering that I could still be having the race or workout of my life even if someone else is ahead of me. In high school my 100 fly goal was always to win at the state championships and qualify for senior nationals. I raced the 100 fly a gazillion times in my life, but I always focused on the state meet, being rested there and qualifying there. I had never won the district meet, in fact, I was always about a full second out of first place, so how did I ever think I could win at the state meet, the thing is I did not let these small "losses" distract me because I understood it is all a process, I kept my focus on what needed to happen at the "A" race. I never missed a beat with my workouts, with visualizing, with my focus in order to achieve this goal. I could only control myself. The best thing my coach did was make me visualizing winning and also made me visualize not getting first but getting the senior national time standard (because truly that was winning to me).

You can not control others and you never know what will happen so take each workout, each race, each task and recognize what your goal is for it ahead of time and implement. This is part of the planning.

If you know YOUR plan, you will succeed. Last place means nothing, everything is a process to lead to that fantastic feeling of "winning".

Keep striving!

And HELLO 60 degrees of sunshine in Seattle (no skull cap and no booties on today) !!!


Rebecca Kelley said...

This was a nice post. I go through a lot of those emotions when I train--I'm really hard on myself, and it's tough when racing among people who are better than me and who race at the level I want to be at. Thanks for being so encouraging and inspiring! You help keep me focused on my personal goals and try to block out everything around me. :D

beth said...

Thanks Teresa. You may need to point me to this post several times throughout the season until it is ingrained in my thick head. You are one of the most encouraging people I have ever known. Thank you for being a coach! The sport is better with you participating in it as well as training others.

I remember what you told me last week as I was having a small pity party with myself at track - that not only am I healthy and fit, I am more fit than I was last year and that is what counts.

You remind me of Sally Edwards & Jayne Williams who continuously applaud those who are last over the line. Those who made it out, finished and hopefully had a good time along the way.

Anonymous said...

every workout I visualize out kicking Macca to the to dream big right :)

Nice post!!!

Shawn and Tracy said...

Well stated :-)

Charisa said...

So true - it matters not one bit what anyone else thinks of your training or racing. You should do it for 1 person only and that is yourself. And when we start judging other people nothing good comes from it. So happy you got warm weather! :)

Liz said...

I finally got some time to cath up on the Teresablog. I can only say THANK YOU for you wonderful way of reminding me of what is important. Your wisdom is amazing, at such a young age!!!!! I love it.
Your works will stay with me.