Sunday, September 12, 2010

And the pile of poop goes to...

Proudly displaying my pile of ungulate pooh.
Sadie is loving this thing (PJ too).*
*No pooh was harmed in the making of this picture.
Me! Me! Me!  I couldn't be more thrilled about winning the shellacked pile of ungulate dung mounted on a plaque for winning the Buffalo Stampede 10-mile race this morning here in Sacramento.  What many don't realize is that I have secretly coveted this prize for years, and today I won!  Some of you know that I have a tight relationship with animals in the family Bovinae, having studied these creatures for nearly 15 years.  I've actually published in the peer-reviewed literature on the subject and have even trained cows to follow me into my study plots in the field.  So, this prize will be proudly displayed on my office wall at work.

After the lousy week I had, I was not feeling particularly sassy leading up to this race.  Last year, this race was the pinnacle of my training.  I was crazy mental about running under 1 hour for 10 miles.  In the end, I didn't meet that goal, but I ran a good race.  This year, I did not set a time goal.  Sure, I was thinking it would be nice to PR, and of course, there was the 'W' and that coveted plaque that came with it.  But, winning a race is all about who shows up, and I didn't know who would be showing up.

One of the reasons I was not willing to commit to a race goal for today was because my Impala Racing Team celebrated its 30th year of teamdom at a party in San Francisco last night, and I wanted to be there.  It was a lot of fun but left me driving home late and getting to bed at close to midnight.  On my drive home, I had the morning's race on my mind and decided to listen to a new podcast I had downloaded from iTunes.  It's from  I can't say that I really recommend it mainly because the podcasts are light on substance and heavy on advertising for their other products.  However, I had 2 hours to kill in my car and could listen all the way through.  While these podcasts appear to be mostly geared toward golfers and baseball players, they offered some interesting insight for me.

While I already knew that I had some issues I needed to face in terms of mental toughness in training and races, I had not really known what to do about it.  To be honest, I still don't.  However, these podcasts gave me some new tools to try out.  The first step for me was to figure out my issue and why it exists.  Do I have fear of failure? Check. Is this because I am a perfectionist? Check.  (I can hear the peanut gallery right now saying, "you think?")  Okay, so I know why I do this, but what's the cure.  It appears that, as with most things in life, a quick fix is not available.  But, I decided I needed to start working on this issue starting with the morning's race.  So, my goal was to use this race and subsequent workout to hone my mental running game.  I would do this by:

  • trying to stay in the present as much as possible. 
    • to do this I would stay focused on small chunks of the race like maintaining a hard effort for the current mile and reassessing how I felt at the mile split.  When my mind would panic as I looked down at my Garmin and saw a split that indicated I would not PR or meet some goal that my whacky perfectionist mind had set, I would go back to what I was doing right then and stay in the moment.  
  • defeating negative self talk when it appeared. 
  • replacing the negative talk with something positive.      

I told my coach tonight when I sent my race report that I feel like physically I'm developing well as a runner, but mentally I'm still at an infantile stage.  I really believe that the mental game is limiting me most right now and am committed to doing the work necessary to get better at it.  I'll post more about this later.

Back to the race:  I talked with many fellow Impalas at the party last night who indicated there would be a whole Impala contingent at the race this morning, so I was a bit disappointed when many of those ladies no showed; understandable given the late night.  I found one female that I knew would run fast and that was confirmed in the first mile when she shot past me about a half mile in.  I hit the first mile split at 5:51, and she was ahead of me.  I was fully expecting her to maintain that pace for a while, so I just let her go.  It was faster than I wanted to go.
Eagle Eye John Blue takes this photo hovering from above
 around halfway through the race (I think). 

Half way through mile 2, she came back to me.  I sat on her tail and saw a 6:04 split at the second mile.   The next split was 6:09, and I needed to make a move.  I surged ahead and started drafting off of the next guy up.  This next mile was 5:55.  Then, he started fading so I found my next victim.  The next split was 6:03, and he was fading too.  I passed him and entered no man or woman's land.  The rest of the race I ran alone.  Well, I did have my bicycle escort, who was cheerfully yelling at every runner we passed and surprising some of the folks finishing the slower Buffalo 10-mile Migration by swooping up behind them and yelling.  I also had about 50 people call out to me as I ran along the course, and that felt awesome!

Mile 6 showed a 5:57 split and then I felt my legs become pretty heavy as I kept trying to push.  I was worried that something was wrong with me at that point.  Come to find out, heavy legs when you're pushing hard is normal in a race.  Really, I didn't know this.  I generally slow down when I feel this way because I think I'm pushing too hard.  It seems you're supposed to push through this.  Wow, that reads like I'm a complete idiot, but I'm being honest.

I started practicing my mental game at this point and tried to really focus on staying strong and relaxed through each mile.  It worked okay, I think.  I really needed to focus as I felt that same side stitch that I was afflicted with last year start to stab my gut around mile 8.  I focused on easy breathing at that point and managed to keep it at bay.  My next few splits were 6:07, 6:07, 6:12, and then 6:46!  The 6:46, however, showed 1.09 miles for that split.  My pace was actually 6:11.  I am not complaining about the course being long, guys.  I'm just reporting the data from my Garmin.

Around mile 9.5.
Photo: Pete Zinzli
I didn't see the next closest female again after the 3rd mile and handily won the race and the ungulate poop plaque running 1:01:17.  I did not have the opportunity to stick around and receive this award in person as I had a small matter of 12 additional miles to get in to total 24 for the day.  I was so happy to have Sprinkles there to watch me race and cheer me on.  I got to run-escort her to her house and then turn around and run to my house to top off my 24 miler for the day.  I felt so much better this year adding on the extra miles than I remember feeling last year.  I think last year, I actually limped home and stopped about every 2 miles or so to stretch out a sore calf muscle.

My hip/butt/hamstring issue was not an issue at all today, which is HUGE.  I was really starting to sweat this thing this week and was feeling tightness in almost every run.  I have been doing all of my maintenance work, but it is persistent.  I don't think it's completely gone, but I am always happy when I can run a super hard effort like today and not have any pain.  I also like comparing the photo above with the one in the sidebar taken at last year's race.  It confirms that my dietary dedication and strength training are paying off with a leaner me.  My upper body is getting leaner while my legs are getting beefier.  These are good changes.

Reflecting on the day, I just completed my hardest workout of this training cycle: 24 miles including 10 miles at tempo pace with NO WATER BREAKS.  That's almost a Ryan Hall style workout;)  And, I get to wrap all of that up with an 85-mile-week bow.

I leave you with a favorite dung quote carefully culled from this wonderful collection of beloved dung quotes:

"A fool looks for dung where the cow never browsed."  ~Ethiopian Proverb
Late Night Edition:

I decided to follow through with the body metamorphosis theme by posting these photos from my last 4 Buffalo Stampede races (2007, 2008, 2009 and this year).  Wowza, I almost look like a runner now!


  1. "Then, he started fading so I found my next victim".

    Cool, pretty sure that would be me. :-)

    Congrats on a fine race & win. Nice blog, best of luck in your pursuit of OT's.

    Cheers, Will G. (20th)

  2. Not sure I actually drafted off of you, Will, but I remember seeing you out there! Nice race today!

  3. Well I had the chatty bike-escort girl right next to me from just after mile 1 through just before M4, so that must've been for you. ;-)

    Watched you roll next guy around M5 (who I also eventually passed), then kept the 1min gap between us from the turnaround.

    Again, great stuff, you looked smooth/strong throughout...impressive.

    Cheers, Will G.

  4. That beats a medal or garland any day! Glad it was shellacked, and hopefully "old". They have an award like that for the Gruen Transfer, but it's bronzed and dog.

    You had a fine race - well paced. One day they'll invent a dead-accurate Garmin and put split signs out of business for good.

  5. That's some shit "J" congratulations. You are getting better looking with age too "J" while Ewen and I, are not ;)

  6. Congrats on a great race! You look fantastic girl, and you are so ready to rock it at Chicago!!!! SO happy for you!

  7. Great race and pacing; you're truly ready for Chicago! Your mental running game clearly also worked great. Good job.

  8. as i said before, nice effort yesterday at the race. and i am here to confirm for you officially that yes, there is definetely some major suffering involved during races most of the time! i think prefontaine was quoted as saying something like he knew he would win races because he was willing to suffer more then anyone else. and there's something to that. i mean, once in awhile you'll have a magical day where everything just feels easy and you don't have to deal with the suffer fest... but most of the time it does come down to mental toughness and determination as you push through the major discomfort. everyone feels the lactic acid build up in their legs and arms, everyone gets a side cramp now and then, etc. the people who win are the ones who don't let that stuff stop them. although i will admit... sometimes i watch these world class people run track or long distance races and they honestly don't look like it is phasing them at all. and then when they finish they aren't even out of breath. not sure what to make of that except that maybe they are just rare specimens and that's why they're world class. a different level of talent. and maybe they train so damned much that their bodies are machines that just don't break down like the rest of us. but to get to that point, i'm sure they all had to do some major suffering in training.

  9. Great race, Jaymee! Sorry, but you don't know poop like you think. Abe Underwood collects it from the buffalo ranch along US 50 near Eldorado Hills. He guarantees that it is authentically buffalo. (I asked if there were any cows in the same field and he laughed and gave me an emphatic "no.")
    John Blue

  10. Scott, at least I'm looking better with age ;)

  11. Ewen, Ick. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want that award. I agree with you that we're all looking better with age;)

    Thanks, Scott. It is a shitty prize;) I appreciate the kind words, too.

    Ariana, thanks for the support! I feel ready for the windy city now.

    Mark, I feel I have a long way to go with the mental game, but I had to start somewhere. Just think, we get to really taper soon!

    Thanks, tmeat. It is crazy to think that all this time I've been running, I never quite picked up on the fact that suffering in a race is the norm. I've always trained for the opposite. This is what has to change for me to take my running to the next level. I'll be posting about that soon. It's been on my mind a lot lately.

    John, you are a star! Thanks for properly identifying the poop for me. I have made the requisite changes throughout the post to reflect the correct origin. Thanks for your work on the race and for taking the great pics too!