Runner vs. Racer

Hi all! It has definitely been some time since I last post, but things couldn’t be better. First and for most, I have been working at a mergers and acquisitions firm, which I may have brushed on back in August. Secondly, I have been injury-free and fresh off a new PR! 16:38 at the Southern California Half & 5k!! Boy, does that feel great! I knew my training has been going in the right direction: I’ve been consistent, my mileage has been higher volume, and I’ve been hitting the gym for strength training – all I really needed was confidence, and that race did it! I don’t want to go too much into the race, but I would like to talk about how I got to this point; it has been all about changing my mindset as a student of the sport. It has been transitioning from a runner to a racer. I’ll start with defining what these two mean to me.

I am definitely a runner, always have been and always will. A runner, obviously runs and majority do race – I mean why else are we logging in all these miles. A runner, however, follows a healthy lifestyle and lives for their runs. Each run is utmost important; missing a run or not hitting the expected pace can be an end-all. As a runner, I made sure I ran the run exactly as my plan transcribed. Under the weather? Oh well, gotta make sure I get that 10 miler in and hit 7:30-7:40 pace. Feeling beat up from the workout the other day? Suck it up, you NEED to hit that pace HOW BAD DO YOU WANT THIS.

My diet as a runner was also more lax. Yes, I ate healthy, but I didn’t care much for nutrient timing and assumed I can just eat things because it was healthy – not asking what purpose this food has in my training. I also still had those moments where I focused on how my body looks for racing rather than how it feels.

A racer, on the other hand, is being more mindful on the longterm. What is my purpose? What is my intention? How is this workout or run contributing to the greater picture. I listen to my body – I don’t make my body listen to me. I focus on nutrient timing and put the foods that help me recover and perform in my body. I follow a high protein and fat diet with no bread (not even gluten-free) and throw in high carbs right before races. I don’t know, or really care how much I weigh, but I do know I feel and look strong.

My training is focused around workouts and race days. I make sure each run has a purpose and intention. Monday’s are all about recovery. Tuesday’s focused on my evening track workout (aka nutrient timing – throw in those carbs at lunch and pre-workout). Wednesday’s, pace is but a number – I need to recover. Thursday’s are for tempos. Friday is another recovery day, either extremely easy or off. Saturday can be either an easy run or I get out and do Lactic Threshold work. Sunday is my long run and I eat, eat, eat.

This week I was faced with a testament to my mentality. I had a stellar track workout on Tuesday and woke up Wednesday with a sore throat, feeling like crud. I literally ran to my chiropractor and he told me I need to rest. The runner in me freaked out, ‘I can’t miss weights, I need to stick to the program’. Later that day I took a nap during my lunch break (if you know me, you know I despise taking breaks) and later only stretched at my gym. The next day I allowed myself to sleep in that morning (7:30AM) and thought I felt much better. After work, I had full intentions of doing my 6 mile tempo. 4 miles in, I wasn’t hitting the pace and literally took a moment to evaluate myself. I thought to myself: This workout is doing you no good. You’re not feeling great, you’re not running great, and you’re probably going to prolong this sickness. Call it a day, jog the rest home and if you feel better Saturday get out on the track and do the LT workout. That’s exactly what I did and ran back at a painfully slow pace. That decision proved to be a good one.

I felt great Saturday and ran a solid workout: 4x200m (30″, 30″, 31″, 31″) with 2′ rest followed by 2 lap recovery and then 11x400m. The 400s were to tease my lactic threshold, so we did the first 3 between 83-85″,  3 between 165-168 heart rate, 1 hard (75″), 3 more between 165-168HR and the last one hard, where I went 77″ and had my HR at 175 bpm.

I completely changed my training purpose. I do everything with the intention of getting better for my races. Yes, pace still is important and I try to make all my runs “quality”, but I also know today’s run does not define my success. My college coach would alway emphasize, drops in the bucket. I now know what he means. It’s not one workout that will define your success, but it’s the consistency and ability to recover that will help you improve in the long term. I don’t just run to be fit, I run to race and push my body to achieve its full potential.

So now, I ask you: Are you a runner, or a racer?

Just Keep Running. XOXO

Ashlee Powers