Spring Racing Season: Part 1, Hawkeye 25K Solon, IA March 15, 2014

The Hawkeye 50K & 25K was 2 weeks later this year for which I am glad, because NE IA was what I called the "Sub-Arctic" this winter.

As it would happen, much of the snow in Iowa would start melting the week of the race and the course had to be rerouted.  The normal course for the Hawkeye 50K/25K is about 1/3 roads, 1/3 crushed limestone trail circumnavigating Lake McBride, then a crossing of the spillway, and finally 1/3 rolling trails.  However, due to high water we were not allowed to cross the spillway.  For the race I would run, the 25K, this meant that our course would contain an out-and-back paved section, an out-and-back trail section to just above the causeway, and a final double-loop of trails.  Overall, the road section would increase to about 2/5 but the trail section would increase to about 3/5.  Since the trails were still in the process of melting, there ended up being a combination of snow, ice, water and mud.

My goal for the 25K was to PR and bring my time under 3 hours.  Since the first 40% would be on pavement, the temptation I would have to deal with was going out to fast and then having enough left in the tank for the final 8-9 miles on the trails where footing might be questionable and my body would be getting more tired as this would be the longest run I had put in to date for 2014.

During my run, I was listening to a podcast from Trail Runner Nation-Lanny Bassham on mental management in sport.  Bassham is a former gold and silver medalist in rifle shooting for the USA.  As I listened to this podcast during the first hour of my run, it encouraged me to look at racing as well as life a little bit differently.  One of the key skills that Bassham noted in champions is their ability to anticipate, deal with, and overcome problems in the midst of competition without letting it take them down into the "woe is me" spiral.  Furthermore, later in the podcast, he urged coaches/spouse/parents to steer away from the typical question of asking your competitor in their most recent sports endeavor, "How did it go?"  Since not everyone can win, this almost invariably ends up being negative for most people as they answer with a thousand different reasons of why they didn't do well.  Certainly those of us who do trail and ultra-running would agree.  When our spouse or friends ask how the last race went, don't a lot of us answer with, "It was going pretty good until..."  "I enjoyed it but..."  "I would have done better if..."

Bassham instead asks the athletes he works with these 3 questions:  What went good/what did you enjoy?  What did you learn?  What will you do differently next time?  I know this may not seem like much, but those three questions set one up to have better reflection on the most recent event and encouragement for the next one instead of just lamenting over what went wrong or could have been.  

But the nail really hit the hammer on the head, when he said parents typically are the ones who ask this wrong question of their kids and cause the worst stress that hinders their kids from succeeding.

And I wondered, as I ran, where have I done this to myself, and to my kids.  In addition to applying immediately as I ran  to the event I was participating in at that very moment, I thought of my kids and asked, "Am I helping them succeed in various opportunities in life, or just giving them opportunity to voice how they have failed and lament over how they could have done better?"  More importantly, am I doing this to my kids in regards to other areas of life, especially their faith?  Certainly we all sin, and that needs to be dealt with before God.  But in addition to teaching our children the difference between right from wrong, are we actually encouraging them in the pursuit of the right versus just avoiding the wrong?

Life is a lot like trail racing at times.  You never know what to expect, but you need to be ready for anything.  Course changes, unstable footing, warmer weather conditions, icy patches, falls, tree branches in the face...all of which I had at Hawkeye...where because I trusted God and focused on dealing with the problems instead of complaining about everyone of them...I PRed by almost 10 minutes and broke 3 hours!  Praise God!  

Now, if I can just encourage my kids like Paul does in Romans 8:28-30 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified;those he justified, he also glorified."