A few weeks ago I started using Daily Mile, are you on there? If you are, find me and friend me (for a short-cut just click on that orange icon to the right of this post). If you aren’t you should seriously get on there, your Facebook (FB) friends, and real-life friends, may not want to hear about your training runs and races in extreme detail, but your Daily Mile (DM) friends do! There are a lot of examples of how social media can reinforce or set the occasion for different behaviors but here’s just one:
See, total validation for weaknesses, some pats on the back for the ol’ ego, and also encouragement to persevere. All at once, and all from seriously accomplished athletes. I got to share my new 10-mile PR with people who get it (you’re FB friends will just say “wow, I don’t even like to DRIVE ten miles, harharhar!”), and I also got to admit where I’m struggling to people who get that, too (you’re FB friends will just say “You run so much you can eat ANYTHING!” – fellow runner’s know better).
That particular DM post was from Saturday’s race, race number 3 of my 4 races serial-racing accidental experiment that’s now underway (race 3 is tomorrow, and race 4 is 9 days after that).
I’d been toggling all week between thinking I’d be able to follow an aggressive pacing plan (because, seriously, I should be able to run 10mi at a faster pace than I’ve run a half-marathon), and thinking I should not even go because I was undeniably wallowing in the depths of over-entitled self-pity over the iliac-psoas “injury slash-“complete GI/Immune system malfunction”-slash-chronic weird rib pain-slash-“oh now I appear to be bloated enough to float down that Ganges” thing that’s been happening.
But go I did with my trusty training and travel-to-races (sometimes really crazy ones) buddy Meredith.
Truth be told I really did feel like crap. I was having all kinds of GI issue’s that even I don’t feel like discussing, I was tired from a night of mild fever and general discomfort, my stomach was all sloshy, and I wasn’t exactly feeling fleet of foot. So all stirrings of race strategy went away and I tried to just enjoy seeing friends and meeting a couple new ones in our little start corral.
Whilst chatting with said run-buds I noticed that Peter Sagal was standing right in front of me, I confirmed with Erica that it was indeed him and then got way too awkward to say hello. Then he popped into the first corral, and I had my race plan.
I would try to catch up with, and then beat, Peter Sagal.
I made a few assumptions based on what I know from his Runner’s World pieces, the fact that he schooled me at the F^3 Half Marathon in January, and that knowledge that he’s blown away my own marathon time with a not-dissimilar training strategy. I then decided he’s probably just a touch faster than me and considered that he’d have a 2min head start with the corral separation, but that would push me to keep plugging away, so I was game.
Yes, it was a totally one-sided, likely unfair, and probably creepy, competition scenario to set up.
(Read this article about how the muse of this post took his marathon PR from a 3:20 to a 3:09, still one of my favorite RW articles, and you all know how opinionated I can be on this subject.)
It turned out to be a great strategy, having a target to look for got me thru miles 2-7 when the undeniable little jolt of excitement you feel at a race start wore off. I finally caught sight of him just past mile 7 and it took me until about the mile 8 marker to get within passing distance.
Obviously I’m not so annoying and socially clueless as to say “Hi, Mr. Sagal, I’m a huge fan, blah-blah-blah…” mid-race. He’s a witty intellectual, who’s also a celebrity, so I’m sure he’d have been gracious, or subtly insulting enough that I’d have totally missed the point, but still, I’d want to punch me in the throat, so I refrained and trotted along.
I finished with a time of 1:09:37 which is a PR by over 5 minutes, and was good enough to place 3rd overall (female)!
So there you go, a new, totally legit, tried and true race strategy. I hear by coin the “Sagal Strategy”, which I predict will become as embedded in the runner’s lexicon as the infamous “Yasso’s”.
After I’d caught my breath and gotten some water, I turned and saw Mr. Sagal finish. In my metabolically altered, post-race mental state I practically pantomimed a mugging in sidling up to him to say “Mr. Sagal! My goal was to beat you and I did!” or some such poorly executed, expertly idiotic, expression of admiration and gratitude. It was all rather rude and embarrassing but I’m operating on the assumption that people randomly approach and say weird shit to this guy on a regular basis. But I did feel stupid as we drove home, so of course, I turned to twitter.
Really, my point, because I do have one, I just like to take the long road, is that often an element of success, whether it’s in running a PR, learning a new skill, or developing yourself professionally, is to aim for a target you know you can reach, if you focus, filtering out sometimes even signals from your body and brain (sloshing stomach, general grumpitude).
The next few weeks of training involve some weird scheduling conflicts (e.g. yet another race on Monday night, traveling to Texas next week, etc.), but hopefully I can tick off everything listed.
There you have it. Hope you had a good week!