Fast forward 10 minutes...
Uh oh! Low fuel tank! I hope this car can run on fumes and get me to the race. Just my luck. I think I'm suppose to turn here...wait, no, I missed my exit! I'm going to be late.
20 minutes later...
No warm-up, nothing but a mere swig of Gatorade in my system, and I'm standing at the starting line. What am I doing here?! Just to make things worse, my stopwatch's battery is dead. Oh, I better double-knot these shoelaces! What was my goal for this race again?
We've all probably heard the saying, "When it rains, it pours." Why does everything seem to go wrong at once? Is it karmic retribution? Maybe a bad "omen?" Or even, are the running gods just out to get you? Perhaps they're in a smiting mood? Take it from someone who's undergone far too many multiple-choice standardized tests in their lifetime - this is probably one of the few times the answer actually is "none of the above." (And remember, when in doubt, fill in letter C!)
Statistically speaking, races have a 50-50 chance of going well or, well, not so well. So the bad news is that you're doomed to have a bad race at one time or another. But don't worry, I saved the good news for last! Preparation and some mental fortification can pull you out of, or even better, prevent, the spiral of negative, self-fulfilling prophesies.
- Stay calm. You don't have to sit at the starting line in a yoga pose, but there's no need to lose your head. It's easy to say, but much harder to do. Next time "everything" seems to be going wrong, remind yourself to stay as level-headed as possible.
- Prepare as much as possible the night before. Yet another thing that's easier said than done, especially if you're trying to squeeze in a good night's sleep amidst a busy life and nightly routine. But gathering all your race gear, pre-race food, and other things will reduce race morning stress level significantly.
- Hit up the Porta-Potty! This one is pretty self-explanatory. I certainly won't go into detail, but if you don't make time for this vital preparation, the race could get ugly.
- Keep in mind things you may potentially regret. No one wants to look back at a race and have regrets. For example: As tasty as the prospect of that Continental breakfast may seem to the taste buds, the remorse following a race in which that Continental breakfast comes back up would be much worse.
- Fortify your mind. You know the race is going to be insanely uncomfortable, even approaching painful. Don't psych yourself out, but rather, welcome that uncomfortable feeling. It's a fact of racing, and no amount of dread, fear, or doubt will change that. So instead of trying to change things you can't, change the things you can, starting with your mindset.
- Remember to have fun! Despite any bumps along the way (which one is sure to encounter a number of times if they race with any amount of frequency), try to enjoy yourself. Soak in the race atmosphere and the excitement of the crowd. If you're feeling worried, tired, unenthusiastic, unmotivated, or all of the above, force yourself to smile. At the risk of sounding shamelessly cheesy, turn that frown upside down! *groan*
And with that, folks, I wish you all a happy finishing stretch of your fall racing season. Remember to keep your head tacked on tightly in the face of adversity, think happy thoughts, and pull through without any nagging regrets. It's hard to move forward in life with a sagging chin and eyes stuck on the ground, so keep your chin up and raise your eyes to see the big picture. Better races and workouts, statistically speaking, are sure to come.