Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pre-Race Neurosis

A friend recently sent me an article from a triathlon website about pre-race neurosis. Here it is:

The only one that I have on that particular list is packing clothing for every possible weather contingency. But that's to be expected in Germany, where the weather changes every five minutes. If I lived in a place like San Diego, which has one type of weather, I wouldn't have to pack so much. My race bag is packed with: my wallet, my keys, a bottle of diluted Gatorade, a Power Bar or two for after the race, sandals (if the race is long), a spare pair of shoes and socks, a dry Jogbra for after the race, a long-sleeved shirt, a short-sleeved shirt/singlet or two, tights, and a pair of capris. I usually wear tights with shorts underneath to the race as well as the shirt that I plan to wear in the race with a long-sleeved shirt over it. If rain is in the forecast, I'll also pack my rain suit to wear after the race. It looks like I'm going away for a week instead of for just a few hours!

But I have other race-related rituals that border on obsessive compulsive behavior to a non-runner. Some of them include:

When I race I must wear something black, which is a color that's perceived (by me at least) as "tough." It started with my first half-marathon in 1991, where I wore a black t-shirt. It gave me the extra mental toughness that I needed for the race. Over the years I've worn black shirts, shorts, tights, Jogbras, and even hair scrunchies. I own several pairs of black shorts so that I'll always have a clean pair for race day. My capris (good for fall races when it's too warm for tights but too cold for shorts) are also black. All of my tights, except for one pair, are black.

I have certain music that I listen to on the way to a race when I drive. When I had a tape player in my car, I listened to an Antonello Venditti tape. He was a popular singer in Italy in the 1970s and 1980s. Continuing the Italian music theme, I listen to Eros Ramazotti's "9" CD in the car while driving to a race. I've been listening to that CD before races for the past five years or so. When a friend drives, I either don't listen to any music or listen to whatever my friend has on the radio, CD player, or iPod.

Before races I have a nervous bladder. When I use a Porta-Potty at the race site, I get back into the potty line right after "taking care of business." I'll do this until about 15-20 minutes before the race starts. That gives me enough time to do my pre-race stretches and get into a racing frame of mind. German races tend not to have Porta-Potties along the route. The only German race where I saw a couple of Porta-Potties on the course was the Munich Marathon.

Early arrival at the race site is very important to me. I need to ensure that I have plenty of time to get my number, use the toilet, warm up, and get mentally prepared. I tend to go into my own world at a race and use my pre-race rituals to get me in the right frame of mind. I usually don't like to talk to other people before the race because I want to get myself focused on the task at hand.

Like a lot of other runners, I have pre-race nightmares. The themes usually involve: getting lost on the race course, being dead last by a lot, not making it to the starting line on time, not knowing where the race is, or wearing inappropriate clothing. When I have those nightmares, I know that I'll do well.

I'll be running the Muenchener Stadtlauf (Munich City Run) half-marathon on 27 June and will do all of the above rituals. Hopefully they'll lead to a successful performance.

Monday, May 24, 2010

New Toy

I recently got a new toy from a friend of mine. It's a Garmin 205 Forerunner GPS watch. My friend got a more recent model and wanted to give her old one a good home. I'm not really a "got to have the latest gadget" person when it comes to running. My most complex piece of technology that I run with is my iPod Nano. Even that isn't very new--it's 3 years old. My running watch is a cheap Timex Ironman model that has a stopwatch, countdown timer, and split times. I use a water carrier that's about 15 years old, but it's perfect for my needs and better than the newer water belts. 

The jury is still out on whether I really like the GPS watch or not. It has some positive and negative aspects. 

The Positives:
1.  It tells me my pace. I've spent most of the last 18 years running just for time and not for distance. In the places where I run, there are no kilometer markers. I have been curious about my training pace and how close I was to my estimated pace.
2. The display is large. Since I'm farsighted and need reading glasses for any close work, this is a nice feature. 
3. I always wondered how far I was really running. I have been guessing my distances based on how fast I thought I was running. Now I have a more accurate measure. For the courses that I run where there are no trees, and therefore easy access to the satellites, my estimated distance was very close to the actual distance. 
4. The Auto Pause feature. When I stop for a drink, the timer automatically stops. I don't have to worry about remembering to stop the timer. It also automatically resumes when I start running again. 

The Negatives:
1. I have a feeling that the timer stops every time the watch tries to locate the satellites. My times when I wear the GPS watch versus the Timex are much faster. While it is nice to think that I knocked almost a minute off of a 5 km course time, that sounds way too good to be true. We all know that if something is too good to be true, it usually is. If I was a beginning runner, that would be another story. When I was a beginner, I made some dramatic improvements in my pace. But I have been running for over 20 years. I could see a 10-second improvement in a personal course record, but 45 to 70 seconds seems to be a bit much. I know that my Timex is accurate because my watch times where chips are used are within hundredths of a second of my chip time. 
2. Even though the ad for this watch says that it's not affected by trees or tall buildings, I believe that it is. My estimated distances for courses with trees are way off from my estimates. In the past I never used a GPS watch because they were no good in the woods, where I ran most often. 
3. This is a minor thing, but the band doesn't fit just right. My Timex has a Velcro band, which I can adjust to fit my wrist exactly. The Garmin has a band with holes. With the hole that I use, the watch tends to slide around just enough to be annoying on a long run. But when I put it on the next tighter one, it's too tight. 
4. The watch chirps a lot. I think that's when it's trying to locate the satellites. That's something that I'll have to get used to. 
5. It revived my old obsession with my pace. The good thing about running for time rather than for distance is that it's harder to obsess about pace. When I see a certain pace on the watch, I start speeding up because it shows that I'm going "too slowly." I'm slowly training myself to only look at the Garmin at the same points where I would ordinarily check my Timex. That should reduce the obsession with my pace. 

I'll continue to use my Timex most of the time and the GPS when I do a new route or am curious about my pace. 

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Sound of Music

Several people have asked about my old blog on Yahoo 360. After thinking about starting a new one, I finally got around to doing it. I hope that those who decide to follow this one will enjoy it as much as my old Yahoo 360 blog.

I've been running for 20 years. It's hard to believe that all those years ago my walking progressed to slow running, then to faster running. I still remember the thrill of finishing my first 5K race and the excitement of finishing my first 10K, half-marathon, and marathon. Now I'm a veteran of over 50 races, including 4 marathons. My favorite race distances are in the 5K to half-marathon range.

Throughout all of my years of running, music has played an important role. I've always seemed to have a song, or at least a song byte in my head while running and racing. Music helps to set the mood of the run and also to take my mind off of any soreness. It also alleviates some of the boredom of having to run on a treadmill. When I had to run on the treadmill, I had a whole repetoire of songs that I'd sing, including the soundtrack to "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Fortunately for those around me, I sang to myself and not out loud. When MP3 players came out, I got myself a Rio Sport player and loaded it with a variety of songs. It was state of the art for its time and held a whopping 128 megabytes of music, or about two hours worth. Now I have an iPod Nano that holds about 1000 songs, which is plenty of music for those long runs. I always have the iPod with me when I train, though I leave it at home for races.

When I race, I let myself be surprised by the songs or song bytes that pop into my head. That's one of the fun things about racing. I never know what the DJ in my brain will decide to play. In fact, I associate many of my races with certain songs because they were the dominant ones that played in my head during them. Here are the ones that I remember:

"Eleonara" (Antonelli Venditti). When I hear this song, I think about going over the Coronado Bridge in San Diego (from Coronado) during the 1991 Lifespan 10K, which was my first 10K race. That song also played in my head during the 2003 Hohenfels Turkey Trot 5K.

"Dimelo Tu Cos'e" (Antonello Venditti). This one goes with the 1991 San Diego Half-Marathon, which was my first half-marathon. I flash to the last uphill section around Mile 10 when I hear this song.

"Do Ya Wanna Dance" (Beach Boys). The 1998 and 2003 Amberg Half-Marathons. When I ran this race for the second time in 2003, at the start I wondered which song would play in my  head for the race. I found it kind of fun that I heard the same song both times.

"Brown-Eyed Girl" (Van Morrison). The 2001 Regensburg Half-Marathon. It was mostly the intro to that song which I heard during the race. I think a more fitting song would have been Chris Rea's "The Road To Hell" because it was so hot during that race--it was the half-marathon from Hell with the heat and humidity. But Van was what the internal DJ played.

"Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress)" (the Hollies) and "Shut Down" (Beach Boys). The 2005 Neumarkt City Run 10.5 km race. Those songs alternated during that race. Whenever I hear "Long Cool Woman" I think about the stretch between the 4 and 5 km points in Neumarkt. "Shut Down" seemed to pop up when I was about to pass someone. "Tach it up, tach it up, buddy gonna shut you down" seemed appropriate as I passed other runners, especially toward the end. My competitive streak really came through with that one. I also ran the 10.5 km race in 2003 and 2004, plus the half-marathon in 2002; but no songs stood out from those times.

"I Saw Her Standing There" (the Beatles) and "Out of the Dark" (Falco). The 2007 Munich City Run Half-Marathon. For most of the race it was the first song. But when I came out of the shade of the English Garden into the sunnier part of downtown Munich, it switched to the second. I also did this run in 2008, but there were no dominant songs.

"Under Pressure" (Queen with David Bowie). The 2003 Hohenfels Box Run 10K. We had 6 runners on our team and the top 5 times would count for the team title. I felt like I was really under the gun to do well because our team captain was a real competitor and really wanted us to win the team title. I knew that I would be one of the top 5 on our team (I was the 4th finisher on the team) because our 6th member was a slower runner who was doing the race more for fun and personal acheivement than to be competitive.

"Authority Song" (John Mellencamp). The 2006 Box Run 10K. It was mostly the second verse which played in my head throughout the race. It was obviously a good song to have in my head because I set my personal course record. I took 45 seconds off of my previous PCR. I also the 3rd woman overall for the second time at that race.

"Rudie Can't Fail" (the Clash). The 2008 Eibsee Herbstlauf (fall run). That one really helped on all of the

"Carry My Picture" (the Connells). The 2007 Munich Marathon. This one was obvious. I pinned a photo of my late running partner Bill to my shirt above my race number. The first line of the chorus, "So write my name and carry my picture..." was a perfect tribute to a person who taught me so much about distance running.  To have Bill with me during the marathon was an experience that is hard to put into words. Bill was the first person that I called when I got home from running my first marathon (Munich 1993), so it was only fitting that he'd be with me for my best marathon. I set a new personal marathon record, breaking my old one by 5 minutes.