Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The 8 Worst Racing Mistakes I've Ever Made

Racing mistakes? I've made them. We all have. I truly believe that the best lessons are ones learned the hard way. They say experience is the best teacher and after almost 30 years of running, you'd think I'd have a Ph.D. in running. Instead, I consider myself to be a life student at the college of hard knocks. Running just keeps handing out lessons!

Here are some of the more stupid things I've done at a race. Maybe there's something to be gained from this...



Going out too fast
Even though I know better and even though I always vow to hold back at the start of a race, I still go out too fast. My one and only DNF, at a 10k two summers ago, was because I went out way too fast. Yep, my ego wrote a check that my heart couldn't cash. At mile 1, I knew I was in trouble, and by mile 4, I hitched a ride back to the finish line, my tail between my legs and tears streaming down my face. No medal for me, just a big serving of humble pie. Now that I'm using run/walk intervals, going out too fast isn't as much as a problem for me, but it still happens.


I didn't train right
When I decided to run my first marathon, I used a standard marathon plan that I downloaded from the internet. What was I thinking? It was free and it was written by an expert. There was no cross-training, no strength training--the plan was basically one-size fits all. When I decided to run another marathon, I hired a coach to train me and write a plan custom made for me. I wouldn't do it any other way.


I had technical difficulties
While running my second Chicago Marathon, at mile 8, my phone went crazy. I stopped to fix it. The flashlight was on and there were a bunch of messages from my medical assistant, who was tracking me. It took me about 5 minutes to sort it all out. What a waste of time! Since then, I put my phone on "do not disturb" and I haven't had that issue since.

ok, this photo was from a half marathon but you get me.
I drank from the trough
When I ran the inaugural Fort2Base 10NM, I drank Gatorade from the aid stations. By mile 8, I felt really nauseous. I had to walk. I learned a couple of lessons from that--you should train with the fuel you plan on drinking at the race and that Gatorade is not the fuel for me. Now I carry my own fuel.


I ate a giant pasta dinner the night before a race
The night before my first Chicago Marathon, I ate a big bowl of pasta and veggies. I had 99 problems at that first marathon, and bonking was a big one. I didn't know about fueling back then, but what I've learned is that it is more important to carb load the week before the race, to build your glycogen stores so you can draw on them in those crucial late miles during the race. Now I eat pizza the night before a race. Works for me!


I didn't smile for the photographer
I've had some really lovely race photos, including this gem from the Wisconsin Half Marathon in 2013. Yeah, I was struggling, but seriously? No matter how bad I'm feeling if I see a photographer, I work it! Plus, smiling always makes you feel better.


I forgot to lock the door on the porta-potty
In 2014, I ran ZOOMA Chicago, which was a cluster from the get-go. My stomach was really a mess and by mile 4, I needed to make a pit stop. I ran into the portapotty, sat down to do my business, and the door flew open, a guy getting ready to come in and join me. I screamed and he slammed the door shut. In my haste, I forgot to lock the door. That pretty much did me in for the rest of the race.


I didn't enjoy my accomplishment
I considered my first marathon a complete failure. I trained for a 4:30 marathon but fell apart during the race. I was so ashamed of my 5:26 finish time that I didn't tell anyone how I did. I didn't partake in the free post-race Goose Island at the finish line. What the hell was wrong with me? I ran a freaking marathon! Since then, I make every finish line special--be it a 5k or 26.2. Finishing is winning, and you better believe there is beer after every race I run!



What are some of the mistakes you've made during a race? What did you learn from them?

Thanks to the ladies at Tuesdays on the Run, Marcia, Erika, and Patti, for this great prompt!


48 comments :

  1. I tend to always start off too fast. You think that by now I would know better, right? Nope. I get caught up in all of the excitement and knowing that I am feeling really good. :-)

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  2. omg the porta potty... !!!


    my very first race, my biggest mistake was not going to pee 27 times before starting. Maybe not even once... I don't know what I was thinking. Let's just say that my weak bladder won that day (before I'd even made it to a porta potty along the course) and I had to shower and change clothes AS SOON AS POSSIBLE once I finished. Now I stop drinking liquids about an hour and a half before the race AND go 27 times just to be sure.

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    1. I rarely have to stop for #1...but I do visist the portapotty a million times before a race for the other!

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  3. Oh my gosh - I've made that Gatorade mistake! I accidentally got a Gatorade from a water station instead of water and my stomach was a wreck the rest of the race. Why do they even have Gatorade at those stations...I don't know anyone who likes it!

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    1. That was a really tough lesson for me. Too much sugar = nausea. It's really a fine balance.

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  4. Well, hindsight is 20 20 right?

    Training for my first half, I didn't have a GPS watch. This was 7 years ago. Wasn't even sure I'd like a half. So I used the Nike Food Pod and it was wildly inaccurate and I was definitely undertrained. I'm not even sure I actually ran a double digit training run, although I thought I did.

    Obviously, I still enjoyed myself, and the rest is history. And I bought a GPS for that next half, which was 2 months later. :)

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    1. Back "in the day" there wasn't GPS and there weren't timing chips. I ran with a Timex Ironman watch and drove my route so I knew the mileage.

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  5. I hated on my Columbus Marathon finish for years because I went out waaay too fast and was death marching by mile 18. I never wore the shirt, hated the medal, all of it. And it was a freaking BQ one minute off my PR. Talk about ingrate. Now I think about how hard I fought from 18 to the end. I've never worked that hard in my life.

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    1. Exactly!!! After mile 18, when I called my husband to pick me up, he refused. So I pushed on and I finished. What a shame not to enjoy such a hard fought victory. It really isn't about finish times (altho mine was nowhere near a BQ!).

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  6. I have found the hard way that I can't do gels in a marathon. Now I carry dried apricots and salty almonds. Much better for my tummy!

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    1. For sure I couldn't do those! I'm all about my Tailwind.

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  7. I love the last tip, LOL. My worst was trying a new (old) hydration pack on race day and realizing it was supposed to have a chest strap to keep shoulder straps from slipping. I think that same race I also had aid station fuel I wasn't used to. It was rough!

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    1. You and me both. What's the point of working so hard if you can't enjoy the finish?

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  8. I've definitely gone out too fast and also made lots of fueling mistakes! Running is always teaching us lessons, isn't it? Luckily I've never left the porta potty unlocked and now I will make sure I never do that!

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    1. Even when I've locked the portapotty, I've been broken into!

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  9. I think I've done all of these except for the porta potty door (un)lock thing...that's always been the immediate thing I do before even losing the sunglasses LOL (and I always knock before entering so I don't catch someone else in action).

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    1. I don't usually knock before I enter, but maybe I should!

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  10. My second 5K I missed the turnoff (In my defense, the volunteers were incredibly unhelpful in directing runners) and cut the race short, missing the last bit of the trail.
    I was a new runner and had organized a team for this fundraiser. Some folks on my team I had never met in person until we all ran together that day.
    What a letdown. I still cringe.

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    1. I had that happen on a bike race. All of a sudden I was alone...and I knew that I missed the turnoff. My 25 mile ride ended up being a 33 mile ride.

      Don't cringe! Stuff happens.

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  11. Oh no on the porta-potty!! That's the worst. :[ That's happened to me in a public bathroom because the lock apparently did not work. ._.

    I did the giant pasta dinner thing on the night before my first race!

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  12. I think I may have done most of those!

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  13. I've done them all except the port-a-potty one LOL

    Actually I think I've done them more than once. Esp the one about not enjoying our accomplishments.

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    1. I've had a lot of tough races, most recently that ZOOMA half where I shed tears at the finish, I was so miserable. But I recovered and you bet I had my beer at the finish! Waterskiied later that afternoon too.

      We get to run. We don't have to.

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  14. My biggest race mistake was believing my Garmin during a half marathon - when it hit 13 miles and I was nowhere near the finish line (OK, I was about a third of a mile away), I was mentally crushed...I thought I was done! I've since learned to go with the route mile markers despite what my Garmin says - oh and tangents. Those are kinda important. ;)

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    1. Especially if you run in Chicago!!! The tall buildings really mess with the GPS.

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  15. I have made the mistake of going out too fast more times than I can count! Technical probs yes I've had a few of those as well as wardrobe malfunctions.

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    1. I didn't even mention the wardrobe malfunctions!

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  16. Starting off too fast, not fueling correctly, even not locking the portopotty, I've made them all at some point. My biggest was my PR race in St. George. Because I'm prone to upset tummy during a marathon, I didn't want to upset the applecart so I didn't eat anything. I crashed hard at mile 20, barely able to drag myself to the finish even though that part of the course is downhill. I lost at least a minute a mile over that time.

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    1. I probably have had more anxiety over fueling than anything! The things we learn...

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  17. My biggest error has been not organising with my friend I was running with what to do if one of had to drop back - one mile of crying and arguing (I'll stay with you, no, carry on!) and a mile of crying on my own, d'oh. She was fine, i was fine, now I have a chat and a PLAN!

    Oh, also not being clear. During my first marathon I saw my husband at half way, pointed to the sky (as I thought) and said, "This is effing awful, isn't it" meaning the weather. He spent the rest of the race worrying I was having an awful time altogether!

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    1. At least have a plan to meet up at the finish!

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  18. Ooh the porta-potty is always a scary place, whether the door is locked or unlocked! I've definitely started out too fast and I've learned that I'm ok with Gatorade but only early in a race...it's way too sweet for me!

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    1. I didn't know it at the time, but the high sugar load is just too much for most of us to digest, which leads to nausea. Hence, the Tailwind!

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  19. I have gone out too fast, early in my sporting career. I knew when I started this long distance stuff I needed to pace. Run/walk definitely helps with that, and the crowds.

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    1. I would agree with you that run/walk helps with pacing but I still go out too fast!

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  20. I can relate to the last one. After my nightmare Chicago Marathon last year, I took my beer and just sat down. I didn't want to take any photos. I wasn't smiling. I was just totally pissed off. Looking back, I wish I hadn't done that because finishing is still a big accomplishment.

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    1. At least you got your beer! I skipped that!

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  21. Starting too fast (every damn time!), not appreciating the accomplishment, wearing a fuelbelt that I didn't try, not enough fuel, not enough electrolytes, running someone else's race plan, not training well or respecting the amount of training I did, not locking the potty door and opening someone else's potty door, chafing from clothes/heat and not enough body glide, not having enough fun and not smiling enough. I finally broke the code on the last one! ;)

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    1. Oh, yes, I've walked in on other runners too! :p

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  22. That portapotty GIF, <3
    Your not smiling face is a perfect "Don't mess with me" post

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    1. Oh, I was probably just feeing sorry for myself...

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  23. I've learned over the years too, to smile (or at least try to look like I'm not dying) at the camera. I have way too many bad race photos.
    That poor lady in the portapotty GIF. LOL. I'm thinking ETOH was involved. ;-)

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  24. These are all super helpful. That porta potty one has happened to me. OOPS! As beginners we think we need to eat like 5000 calories of pasta the night before a race but then we realize, that might not be the best..... Good post Wendy!

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    1. I know now that pasta is not the pre-race fuel for me!

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