Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What you Can Control to Win

As my mind wandered during a recent training run, as it often does, I thought about all the variables that come into play (I assume) to win a race, having never actually won one.  It's like the stars have to align perfectly to accomplish this feat of podium worthy perfection.  As I continued to run I went on to ponder about how many of these things are beyond my control.  Then I went on to breakdown those things in my head into two categories.  I thought briefly that there must be some formula to quantify all these variables, and there may be, but that's for greater minds than I.  I did find an easy to use simple online weight and performance calculator which I have linked below.

Beyond our control
Lets get the list of variables that are not within our control out of the way.  They are listed below in no particular order.
  1. Weather (temperature, humidity, wind).
  2. Course (elevation, elevation changes, turns, surface, visibility, time of day (day or night)).
  3. Competition.  Competition could be paired with race choice.  In other words, choose a race where one's fitness and ability will put you out in front.  For most of us that would not be the Peachtree Road Race 10K.  However, a smaller race with fewer top tier runners might be just enough to put one on top.
  4. Age.  This needs no explanation.  
  5. Physique.  Physique is probably the greatest inhibitor or enabler to winning, where running is concerned.  Do you have the body to run let alone to win?   
  6. Injury.  One might include injuries in this list of things beyond our control, but typically injuries occur as a result of doing something that is well within our control.  
Within our Control
The second half of the list, those variables that are within our control.  They are listed below in no particular order.

  1. Fitness.  Fitness can be achieved as a result of proper exercise including; stretching, sleep, nutrition, hydration, and recovery.  Train well, stick to a plan, and take the time to prepare your body.
  2. Weight.  Reduce your weight if at all possible including; body and equipment.  Every pound you have to haul down the street reduces your chances of winning.
  3. Equipment.  Success depends a great deal on our equipment.  It must be comfortable and light.   Train and race equipment may be different.  I train in heavy but comfortable shoes with big fluffy socks.  My race shoes are light and so are my socks.  Every ounce matters!  Before a race, if it's cold, I bundle-up as I stretch, etc. until just before the race starts when I strip down to reduce weight.  If it is raining I may wear a trash bag over my body and grocery bags over my shoes to stay warm and dry.  A cheap pair of cotton gloves are a favorite among runners to keep fingers warm before and during a race.  If the gloves get to be too hot they can easily be discarded at the next water stop.  Items jettisoned during a race will usually get collected by volunteers with other items and somehow most of them do make it back to the finish to be returned to their owners.
  4. Motivation.  Whatever the motivation, it always feels good to achieve a goal so, set goals for yourself.  The goal could be to finish a race or to win.  The higher the goal the more likely one will better prepare.
All these variables can be addressed with appropriate training and a suitable plan.  Of course one can't change the race course but one can train for the features found on most courses.  Most courses nowadays can be easily mapped and charted for elevation online.  Time should be spent on those things that are within our control.   I will continue to work on my fitness and weight, my two greatest inhibitors to winning.  I will not focus on my age because I'm old, I can't control it, and nobody wants to be reminded of that.

I've got 11 more weeks until my big race - the Lake Spivey Road Race 15K.  In the past 9 weeks I've improved my 5K race (minutes per mile) pace from 7:19 at the Run the Rails 5K on June 21st to 6:43 at the Run Now for Autism Speaks 5K on August 23rd.  That's an improvement of over 8%.  I have a 15K training plan and an optimum body weight in mind.  I'm working toward being at peak fitness on November 8th.  Fingers Crossed!  If my improvement continues and I can reduce my pace by another 8% in the next 11 weeks my pace will be 6:10.  That's calculates to a 5K finish time of 19:10 and a 15K time of 57:29.  It's not likely that I would be able to maintain a 5K pace for a 15K but, it's fun to dream!  Interestingly, a finish time of 57:29 would only put me in second place if the LSRR 2013 race results are any indication of the competition I can expect.

When it comes down to it, who knows what will happen on race day.

Free Training plans can be found at Cool Running, and Active.

Weight and Performance calculator - Link

Thanks for reading.