Friday, October 8, 2010

This running thing is really just a mental game.

I love it when a plan comes together! - John 'Hannibal' Smith
Are we success junkies? I used to work in management – a long time ago. When I had to fill a position there was always a length interview process and all of that stuff. But most of the time it came down to the person. You can teach most anyone a skill set. It is much harder (near impossible) to try and change someone’s basic philosophy. Are they a ‘go getter’? Do they take pride in their accomplishments? Do they attribute their failures to external factors? I was late again because of the traffic, I did not get the report done because … we it doesn’t matter – the bottom line is you did not complete the task.

Anyway, I digress. I think most of us in this same blog-o-sphere like to succeed. We put ourselves in positions so that we reach our goals. And I am not talking about little easy goals like getting out of bed or holding down a job. We set goals that are out of our reach – goals that would have been impossible weeks, months, or years ago. But we plan them out and we achieve them. We do this because we like to succeed. And, as we know, success breeds more success. You meet you goal for a 5k and the next thing you know you want to go faster. Now you want to go further and faster!

On Thursday night I failed. I had planned on running home from work – about 6 miles (funny, I say about six miles but I know exactly how far it is – it is like someone asking you what your PR is for whatever – Oh yeah, my ironman was something like 11:18:14 – something like that – I can tell you the splits - lol). I set myself up for failure. I put this workout at the end of the day when I know I am statistically less likely to be successful. On top of running late in the day, after two prior exercise sessions, this would be a demanding workout – I wanted to run home and I wanted to run fast.

I ended up skipping the workout – failure. I was given an opportunity to get home and I took it.
This affected me Thursday evening. I mean, I was not devastated but I was disappointed in myself. I needed a victory. Instead of Adult Swim this morning I put the run back on the docket. I was going to run into work and I was going to run fast. Oh, wait a minute – this was going to be a hard workout and what if I failed? I need to ensure success but it still had to have some meat to it – it could not be a walk in the park. Well, I did a quick evaluation. Tuesday night (yes night – after work) I had some success. I ran 6 miles and 4 of them were fast – miles 2, 3, 4 (that was the success – 3 consecutively fast miles) and mile 6 (6:30 minute per mile is fast for me right now). This was a hard workout for me. I decided to call up the ole virtual nemesis on the GPS but I was going to be successful – I need 5 consecutive ‘pretty’ fast miles. I plugged in the numbers for 5 miles at – wait for it – 6:45 pace. What? Slowing it down? I think it would have been difficult to my ego to fail on this run. I don’t do this often but sometimes success is more important than breakthrough runs.

Anyway I started out and very little warm up and me and the nemesis were neck and neck. I started to put some distance between us. I was running comfortably hard but I was not overdoing it. I was cruising along. The gap between us widened some and then he started to fall back a little bit. I never looked at my pace but I knew that I was a little faster than 6:45. I was able to keep the pace for the entire 5 miles. This was a solid victory. I was back on track. I had almost guaranteed success. I need a win.

After the run into work I looked at my pace for the 5 miles. Well, they were all faster than 6:45 and many were faster than 6:30 – I ran the 5 miles at an average pace of 6:31. This was huge. This was a very solid run at a very solid pace. Now, I have to ask myself, “What would have been the results if I had needed to run 6:30 for success?”

I needed a W in the win column and I got it!

Sometimes you have to alter the goals – remember it is the big picture that we are after and these are just the day to day steps to get there.  This running thing really is just a mental game.

Are you a success junkie?


Matty O said...

I find it funny that you do that. Not because you just have to have a win. But that is how I get my wins sometimes haha. I will gauge something down a bit to get that feeling of accomplishment and success from a workout instead of knowing that I am getting a failure.

I agree it is mainly mental. I think that is why a lot of people are good runners, mentally they are strong and determined.

I have set two goals for this weekend, one so I can have that feeling of success. The other, so I can gloat and ride the owner of my real goal I emailed you. It is out of my reach right now, but who knows what will happen race day.

Great post. I like that you put this out there because a lot of people think good runners are 100% consistent with their workouts.

Nice work. Perfect average pace too!

misszippy said...

Big sigh. Yes, I am a success junkie. Sometimes it's not a good thing! Like when I'm supposed to run 8 miles at MP in the midst of a 22-miler and I just have to make that 15 seconds faster/mile than MP. Stupid!

Patrick Mahoney said...

No doubt. And sometimes it's to my detriment. Should I push it? No. Do I push it? Yes. Do I feel it after? Sometimes too much.

Jeff - DangleTheCarrot said...

This is a very true post James. Not only a success junkie but a data junkie here. These two junkies sometimes duke it out with eachother. Knowing the data sometimes makes the success that much harder mentally. IE - sometimes a 5mile RECOVERY run is a success. But Mr. Data Junkie doesn't think so because 2 weeks ago on the same run you averaged :15 secs/mi faster. The internal battle continues ...

Happy Feet 26.2 said...

I constantly "set myself up for success", my success, whatever is doable at any point in the training. If I feel I can't manage my tempo pace on hills, maybe I move it to the flat trail to ensure that I hit my splits. For me, as I move through the training, being successful in day to day training, sets me up for a good day on the "goal race day."

I think it's a smart thing to do, but I'm sure there are times when I should not alter the plan, and push through to the original goal.

Jason said...

There is no doubt that I am a success junkie and have been known to use that exact phrase (success breeds more success) in a meeting or interview. It just makes to much sense to not be useful.

While I do set myself up for success I don't view failure as a way to stop as others might. I view failure as a way to gauge my next goal for success. If I didn't do it this time, I WILL do it next time and thus I have a new goal and something that is attainable and also rewarding.

Nothing like finishing a training session with a smile on your face because you achieved success no matter how small.

Happy Feet 26.2 said...

After reading your post earlier today, I thought it was very interesting (and cool) that i read this blog this evening. See we are on the right path, even the pros do it. :)

Iron Mike said...

Hey James, I've been checking out your blog here and there for a few weeks. You always have a good message and tell an interesting story, which is cool. But you've cemented your place in my reader with that A-Team quote, nice.
Last night, I was proofreading several of my little brother's college entrance essays, where he kept noting how much he enjoys success. Along with the revisions, I shot him back a note that I actually enjoy failing just as much, maybe more. If I succeed, I keep the status quo. Fail? Then, I evolve.
Nice pace on that 5-miler, way to smoke your nemesis.

Caratunk Girl said...

Yup, I like to succeed in the goals I set for myself for sure! I always love your posts. Way to kick butt on that 5 miler!

Julie said...

Yes, I tend to be a success junkie! It was very hard on me in the middle of the summer when my PRs started to dwindle and my heatlth became an issue. Anyone who is a true competitor can relate to this post:)

Nice job on your five miles...holy cow, you are a speedy one:)