"Uncaused" Terrible Race (Read 125 times)

    It’s been a while since I’ve turned to the RA forum Oracle for some insight, but in a short nutshell, I think what I’m hoping for is a little affirmation.  Son just finished his senior cross season on a pretty terrible race – 50 seconds slower than his performance at State just two weeks earlier.  This race was also on a much easier course in a faster field.  Naturally he got beat handily by a whole bunch of guys that he routinely destroyed almost all season.  The whole month of October he was running consistently solid and improving races.  In fact, he ran his PR on the State course (not an easy gimme, either) at the highest point of training load.  Coach intentionally did not start to taper and peak the guys because he felt (rightly, it turned out) that in our state we had the luxury that probably even on a bad day the team was good enough to win, and it would be better to point them toward our Nike Cross Regional.  So, going into this race he was actually on decreasing training load, and last weekend he ran a great 2-mile “simulation” race with his teammates.  In the moments before the race he said he felt loose and fresh and ready to roll, but 800 meters in he said it was just terrible.  In his words he said he felt like, “the fat boy running the PE mile.”  I think 3 of our guys responded reasonably well to the taper strategy.  Three others did not really see much change.  For whatever reason, my kid went WAY BACKWARDS.  In the past though (last year cross and track), he has responded really well to a taper going into the championship races.


    We cannot really identify a good cause here.  The only thing I can point to is that he threw up his guts in the finish chute, something he usually doesn’t do, and that was after running a slow time.  I wonder if he had a little something “invisible” going on – although he said before the race his stomach felt fine.  I think his sleep was okay the week before the race.  He is very disciplined about getting to bed at a good time every night he can in season.  Anyway, I know that any of us who have been at this any time at all have had bad races, and sometimes they just seem to come out of nowhere.  But what a sucky deal.  His poor performance, along with a very lackluster run by another one of our faster guys unfortunately kept us far out of reach of contending for a qualifying spot for the national meet.  The boys were heartbroken because they know that on another day they can run with those teams that are going to Oregon.  Anyway, that is beside the point at the moment.


    Sometimes you can do everything right and there’s no good reason and the wheels just fall off.  Right?  Right? 

    - Joe

    We are fragile creatures on collision with our judgment day.


      There are so many variables that go into performing well, and yeah, sometimes you can't pinpoint what went wrong or why.


      Besides the obvious and valid disappointment (which he can certainly wallow in for a bit, then learn and move on), it's a good time to start watching out for any trends that might be indicative of almost over training.  It's entirely possible he got some low-grade stomach bug, or maybe he just maxed out for the season.  A long season may have left him burnt out, but not exactly over trained.  I race a lot and occasionally have shite races at the end of great training blocks and I think it's my body saying "no more for now."


      Hopefully he doesn't dwell on it too much.  Remind him that one bad race is not indicative of future bad races. There's also a lot of physical and emotional maturation going on that can certainly change how one runs.

      Not running for my health, but in spite of it.

        your story sounds very similar to my nephew's story from past few days, and wanted to 'find' you and your son's time and see his race time before I commented.


        My nephew ran the state meet for XC (Michigan) on 11/3.  Prior to that, he was top 5 - 10 in any race he raced.  He'd pace himself well, and run about the same time that your son races (low to mid 16s).  However, for the state meet, he got caught up in the pack, and raced "150th" place, and finished 45 seconds slower than his normal (17:10).


        For him, he talked about having a bad race strategy, where he got stuck about 1/2 mile into the race.  The funnel closed up, and the ability to pass people was difficult.  My nephew's a junior, and said that he learned from it to the point where he'll have better race strategy for next year during those 1st 3 or 4 minutes of the race.  For him, he qualified on his own without his team, and didn't have the burden of finishing strong for the team.  In fact, his team hadn't had a state qualifier for past 10 - 15 years, so getting to state was a victory in itself.


        But, as far as running in Oregon and being heartbroken based on those results.... that sucks.  Sorry that the race didn't go up to his potential. Hopefully, theres a life lesson in it, and a good father / son conversation that'll help him in "25" years as he's leading the next generation of kiddo's.


        Hope you're doing well.


        2019 Goals:

        #1: Do what I can do (250+ training days, 300+ aerobic hours).

        #2: Race (Hurt the Dirt 1/2 marathon - 4/27, Grand Rapids Tri 70.3 - 6/9, MSU Gran Fondo - 6/22, ODRAM - 8/10, Michigan Titanium 70.3 - 8/18, Grand Rapids Marathon - 10/20)


          Thanks both.  I appreciate the responses.  You're both great!  Brian, I hope your nephew has an *excellent* senior season!!  I'll bet he will be hungry after a bit of a letdown at state this year. and he learned what to do different next time.


          I'm also a little sad for a bigger reason.  This is the end of a wonderful 8-year ride of my sons in high school cross country.  Gosh, I've just enjoyed the journey so much.  It is really sad that it is over.  I don't know what I'm going to do with my fall Saturdays now.  Maybe I will start taking care of my lawn again better.  The neighbors might like that.  :-)

          - Joe

          We are fragile creatures on collision with our judgment day.

            I love Jack Daniel's philosophy on this...


            when you do bad, simply chalk it up to whatever, bad day, bad race, not your fault... big deal move on.


            when you have a success, give yourself all the credit!



            also mentally from college, I remember early in the season feeling primed ready to go... fresh, and performing ok, we did a quadrathon which tested explosiveness, 3x through the season.


            the 2nd time I improved, but by the 3rd time, i felt run down or just not ready to kick butt, and my coach was like, what? you've been training, you're essentially bigger stronger faster, you're going to destroy your old marks, and sure enough even when feeling off you can have a great day!


            so now in my thinking.... when I feel good, that's great, but you can feel great and have an off race/day....too.


            and when not feeling great/off, I just tell myself, hey sometimes you feel bad, but you still may have a great performance in you!


            which really relieves the stress for me especially when not feeling like I have the stuff before a race...

            300m- 37 sec.