Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What A Poor Performance Teaches About Long Term Development

While I will be specifically discussing my most recent half marathon, I will try to generalize this because it does apply to things like a career or our relationships. So... a 1:14:20 half marathon on a flat course after a light week is not encouraging. That's over 150 second slower than I was last year over almost the same course. One of the biggest, or best, indicators of development year to year is performance in the same race every year. For example, if a person is 50th at the conference cross country race one year and 25th the next year, that is great development. If a person runs a 5:10 mile one year and at the same race the next year runs 4:50, something is being done right.

However, progression is not linear. Some days, 2:14 marathoners run slower than 8:00 minute miles.

Speaking directly about my race, I have not had the mileage or the workouts that I had last year in the two months leading up to this race. Plus, I have been training around this ankle-shin-calf pain so I have been avoiding the quality work. Perhaps, given the work that I have put in, I had a good race. Also, we ran about 200 meters longer than we ran last year. Instead of one 100 meter out and back at mile 12, we ran one just before mile 12 and one after mile 12. Take a right turn, take a U turn, take another right turn. Not a great way to run fast for a minute. Now do that twice within a mile.

Complaining and sulking aside, the result is worse than the prior year. How does this help me progress toward my goals? First, experience is cumulative. It does not go away unless one has dementia. I do not think I could have gone out and run a 1:14 half marathon on heritage trail this weekend alone. It is a great training stimulus. After all, everything is training that is not the goal. Look at Lasse Viren in the 72 and 76 Olympics. If he could win one race every four years what would it be? The Olympics. Look at Steve Jobs, one could say that the iPhone and iPad were the only two really significant contributions in a lifetime of product design. Sure he had many successes, and we must not forget Apple's vertical closed-system integration, but he had failures too, at least as measured by sales.

Experience teaches us how we went wrong. Trying to train though a rather minor injury, which ends up keeping me from doing workouts I need, is counterproductive. I knew that, but this reminds and reinforces me.

When a young person asks an older more experienced person a question the older person will often pause, hesitate or sigh before giving an answer. Rest assured in that time multiple incidents from the past are going through the old person's head. The answer to a question is not always the same.

Plus, despite the cumulative result being unsatisfactory, there were some bright spots. After two miles the Kenyans marathoners were not pulling away so I ran up to them and passed them. I've never passed the lead pack of Kenyans before. Sure they ran twice as far as I, still two miles in they were only doing mid 5:30s. I felt as though I belonged. Like I had done the work to be up there too. Often an endeavor is more mental than physical.

In conclusion, I am more fit now than I was a week ago. I worked on my ankle so hard last night I could barely walk this morning. Strangely that is one way to know massage is effective. This injury will heal. I was able to celebrate the weekend with a number of friends both new and not as new. I realize my poor preparation contributed to my poor performance and I will do what I can in the future to avoid a similar result.

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