It’s been a rough year around here but I have certainly learned a lot about myself and what racing means to me. By realizing mental strength is not always about toughing it out and toeing the line, I’ve opened up an entire new world of possibilities. Having mental strength is sometimes knowing when not to start a race and take a well deserved DNS (did not start) and own it.
Today I’m linking up with a few women who know all too well how tough your mental game needs to be to conquer the screaming voices in your head, telling you how “less than” you are. But first, I’m sharing my three (yes, three) DNS’ I’ve taken this year and how I don’t regret any of them.
TO START OR NOT TO START? HERE’S HOW TO TELL:
YOU CAN’T SEE STRAIGHT
This seems obvious but, if you’re a fierce competitor or have been training for the better part of a year toward a goal, you just may find yourself sick as a dog on race day but wanting to do it anyway. That’s exactly where I found myself on race morning in Cuba, suffering from a ridiculous case of vertigo, something I had never experienced in my life up until that point.
I actually crawled to the bathroom and sat on the floor to pull on my race kit, wanting so badly to race. It took an hour of trying not to vomit and talking with my husband and brother to realize it wasn’t going to happen but it was one of the worst feelings I have ever had.
WHAT I LEARNED:
Get checked before you travel. Once I returned home I was diagnosed with a sinus infection, which caused the vertigo on race morning. I was certainly aware of the symptoms of the sinus infection before I left for Cuba but didn’t bother going to the doctor since they were manageable (read: I was able to train). Had I gone to the doctor and received antibiotics, this would be an article reviewing the race not recovering from never having run it.
Tip: If you’re not feeling well, there is no downside to going to the doctor before a big race.
Make smart decisions. I keep thinking about what might have happened if the vertigo hit me while in the water, in transition or on the bike. I shifted my thoughts to being grateful it struck when it did and completely prevented me from lining up at the start. I know if I was only feeling “a little off” I would have pushed myself to participate and it could have been a disaster.
Tip: Make smart decisions based on your health and how you truly feel. Be honest and realize that deciding to not race may be the safest and best decision.
Set your expectations. It never occurred to me that I would somehow not be able to race, which made it that much more difficult when it happened. I have raced all over the country and world and nothing like this has ever occurred. From now on, I will mentally prepare for the worst both with my health and equipment. No matter how prepared you think you are, things can happen that are out of your control and then, you can only control how you react to the situation.
Tip: Mentally prepare for anything and have a plan.
Be as prepared as you can be. As I already stated, there are things beyond control (like getting vertigo) that can happen to anyone; however, my stepmom had packed ear drops and those, coupled with the sinus medicine I packed, helped to mitigate the symptoms of the infection and vertigo. Because we packed a veritable medicine cabinet worth of drugs, I was still able to enjoy my vacation after only one day of rest.
Tip: Pack extras of everything and a variety of medication, especially when traveling overseas.
Have a backup plan. The Havana Triathlon held in February was a very early season race for me, and I was there mostly to have fun. However, I spent the months prior to the trip dreaming of swimming in the warm aqua water of the ocean, riding the gorgeous, flat streets of Havana and running on the iconic Malecón while looking out onto the ocean. Eventually, I was able to do all of that, it just took three days instead of one.
Tip: Plan something else you really want to do while at the race destination so, if you can’t race, you still have something to look forward to.
YOU JUST DON’T WANT TO
If there is a real reason you are just feeling “meh” about a race, skip it. The day before the Litchfield Hills triathlon in July I was pretty much dreading it. Here’s why:
- I was going to have to wake up at 4:30am and drive over an hour to the start by myself
- My husband was leaving for a trip overseas so I could have breakfast with him and hang out alone with him for a few hours or kiss him good-bye the night before
- I was heading into a two week vacation directly after the race and had to pack the car, dog, kids and drive over two hours to my destination while solo parenting
I honestly decided it just wasn’t worth it to me. It was kind of a throw away race to begin with and I just didn’t see what real value it brought to my life…not my racing life, but my overall, real life.
Sometimes the pros just don’t outweigh the cons. You have a gut instinct for a reason and you should listen to it.
IT’S CREATING BAD STRESS
Racing is stressful but there is a big difference between good and bad stress. Racing should be mostly good stress and when the scales tip too much toward bad stress is where you get into trouble.
After deciding not to race in Litchfield and then having a fabulous two week vacation where intense training took a backseat, I knew I was not in shape to make the World Championship Triathlon team. The only decision that felt right was to not compete at Nationals.
Once I made the decision to cancel the trip to Omaha and stay home, I felt nothing but relief and a huge amount of self-induced stress was lifted. It was incredibly hard to realize I just didn’t want it badly enough but I’m proud of myself for stepping back and saying so, before it was too late.
And now there is a whole new world of possibilities for the coming year and I can’t wait to share my big ass goals with you. Bur first…go work on your mental game with these chicks…
ANGELA | HAPPY FIT MAMA
NELLIE | BROOKLYN ACTIVE MAMA
CARLY | FINE FIT DAY
LAURA | THIS RUNNER’S RECIPES
SARAH | RUN FAR GIRL
Now you should have all the motivation and information you need to help kick your mental butt into shape for fall. Good luck and remember, don’t overthink it!
[Tweet “How’s your mental game when it comes to #running and #racing? Get expert advice #RunItWednesday”]
Do you have a mantra or mental strategy for racing?
Have you ever taken a DNS that didn’t involve and injury?
I took a DNS from Mount Washington this year. I was back to running but I wasn’t BACK to running like I wanted to be for that race. I could’ve run it but I was so worried about what could happen that I opted not to. Who knows what would have happened if I ran. But mentally, I knew I did the right thing.
It’s so, so hard but I know you did the right thing too. That race is hard enough without having to second guess each step. Hopefully you can be there next year!!
Masters track season was meh this summer. Blew off our Championships to be ‘nanny’ for the week to my baby grandson… no regrets. And so much more fun!
Oh I love this so much!! Good for you!!…and you will undoubtedly remember the time with your grandson so much more than a meh championship!
If you saw my IG post, you’ll already know that I am struggling right now with my mental game and have wanted to just quit. But it’s related to my aches and pains and the frustration of worrying whether each run I will run with pain or pain free. I’m really frustrated but I feel like I’ve come way too far to quit now (unless of course my aches and pains get worse and aren’t manageable). I’m so close, but need to work on the voice inside my head because why should I bother if I’m going to talk myself out of a good race?!
I have seen it and I’m a horrible friend for not reaching out because obviously I know what you’re going though…kind of. I definitely know struggling though aches and pains in marathon training and the struggle is real. And that cupping you’re doing? Yikes woman!! I think each person has to make that tough call on whether it’s worth it to them. You will know if you’ve had enough. Good luck and I really wish there was more I could do to help… xoxo
When someone is as competitive as you are (in the actually able to podium or qualify for things sense), it can be really hard not to want to get out there, but at the same time, it can be much safer for your mentality long term for you not to get out there and have a subpar performance. We expect so much of ourselves, and race day can be such a wild card, that we often feel that there is “always a chance” we can pull it out.
You nailed it. I know I have gone off the deep end before where racing is concerned and it was just a matter of enough is enough. Thanks Susie!
I took a DNS about a year ago when I was signed up for a marathon, got injured then recovered, and could run the half but just didn’t want to. Mentally, it was a relief not to just have to run a race because several months ago I had signed up for one. Like you said, that bad stress isn’t always worth it!
Exactly! You know yourself well enough to know when to just call it. Thanks Laura!
man racing is fun, and it all looks good on social media but if people only knew what it actually takes to get to the start line! I am SO proud of you for listening to your gut–I’m still stunned that you tried to race in Cuba but I get it, it was a super important race for you! <3 Sometimes all the stress that is involved in a race is NOT worth it. I remember getting up to go to a race early this Spring…It was way cold, I didn't dress properly, I was running insanely late and I had to RUN back to take the kids to an event. I simply left the train station, came home and crawled in my bed. best decision ever. We had a great non stressed time that day and in the end it was just a 4 miler in Central park.
YES! 110% YES! And if people knew how hard it was to get to the start line they would never even buy sneakers :-))) Thanks Nellie! xoxo
I’ve never taken a non-injury related DNS, but there are MANY times when I should have. I used to have chronic bronchitis and there were more than a few races in 2012-2013 where I had been sick for weeks and still ran the stupid marathon anyway. And you know what? A lot of them were miserable experiences. I left myself convince myself that I didn’t want to waste the money, needed to get the state, whatever…then ended up being miserable the whole time. Not worth it! It takes way more mental toughness to DNS than to start a race you know deep down you shouldn’t be running. Maybe I’ll be that tough one day 🙂
Thank you so much for your honesty here Danielle. It’s so true about pushing to the point of misery during the actual event…I mean seriously, this is supposed to be FUN and then you’re suffering though it? Why do we do it? I guess I can now say “why DID I do it?” because that train has left the station. As for you – you’re already there and definitely tough enough to take the DNS!
I have DNSed a handful of small local races that I just didn’t feel like going to. The lesson I’ve learned is to not get so trigger-happy about signing up for them. For runners, the fleeting high of hitting “register” is essentially the same as the one that shopping addicts get when handing their credit card to the cashier. Signing up is the easy part, and there is an assumption that the motivation to train will follow but that’s often just not the case. It’s difficult to know how we’re going to feel about something months later or what life will throw at us in the meantime.
With some bigger races you really have no choice, but for the others, I’ve gotten into the practice of making myself wait as long as I can before I register, even if it means accepting a price increase. I’m a planner so this is hard for me, but after way too many instances of dragging myself to “buyer’s remorse” races that I really didn’t want to do, it’s helping me save more money AND enjoy racing more.
Taking the time to enjoy your family and relax this summer was way more important – especially if you weren’t mentally into it. I think taking the time away from racing will make you appreciate it so much more and perform even better when you are back!!! Can’t wait to hear about your kick ass goals! xo
Thanks so much Nat! I know you get this 100% and value the time with family too. I’m looking forward to YOUR kick ass marathon goals!!!
I’ve learned when you just don’t want to that it’s often linked to over-training… my mind knows before the rest of my body. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but sometimes we can’t progress without taking a few steps back.
So true! I think I was completely burned out in every way and now, after taking much needed time off, my workouts are 100% better.
This post was an awesome read and your tips are so practical! I’ve learned so much about racing and its effects!
Thanks so much! I appreciate you reading and commenting.
I couldn’t agree more with your post. I learned so much and I can relate a lot to all as I ran my first marathon of Chicago last year. I love you stress free dream photo.
Congratulations on Chicago! I love running (and swimming and cycling) in that city but have yet to run the iconic marathon. Thank you for reading and commenting and yes, I wish I could live in that photo!
I think there’s so much pressure to follow through that often runners line up when they shouldn’t. I agree it takes a BIG ego check to say nope this just isn’t right. Glad you still got to experience Cuba with that crew.
SO much pressure! Thanks Amanda and yes, Cuba was amazing in so many other ways so I was happy to have a bigger reason to be there.
Oh boy, yep not being able to see straight is a pretty good reason not to start a race! i think it’s so much harder not to start then to start, especially if you’ve been training. when i first got into running for time and racing, i decided to go all in (of course) and signed up for 3 marathons within 5 months. NEWBIE and dumbass mistake, yes i did it all wrong of course. plus i signed up for a Las Vegas rocknroll to be my first full marathon and said i would run it in 4:30, when i had never run more than 11 miles just 3 months prior. i ended up changing to the half and pr’d but had to drop out of the 2 other marathons because of a stress and overuse fracture from vegas. i made all the classic mistakes: too much too soon, running too fast too soon, new shoes, new foods, EVERYTHING wrong. wrong wrong wrong. i don’t just like to be a little wrong, i like to really make an ass out of myself.
but guess what, that whole ordeal got me into triathlons! i had done a sprint before but being injured i was forced to cross train, and really needed a challenge of course. so ironman it was. i love doing the stupidest shit ever especially when i already did the stupidest shit to begin with. i amaze myself 🙂
LOL – yes! Go big or go home in ALL situations!! I did so, so, so many things wrong in my first few marathons but that’s how we learn. I can only imagine the mistakes I have yet to make in triathlon 🙂 Thanks Danielle!! You always make me laugh!
This is all so true! We’re always trying to push ahead, mind over matter. But sometimes you need to chill the F out so that you can still “push” in the future.