Sunday, August 10, 2008

Funny Thing About Pacing: It Works


In many ways, my ability to pace myself is somewhat compromised, always has been. As a child I envied friends who were able to savor their ice cream cones so that they would last and laaast, an ostensibly endless ice cream cone to mock my long-gone, down-the-hatch, dessert-eating technique. As a teenager, I competed in track events that required running as fast as possible from start to finish. Regular O.G. readers might recall that, just last winter, I struggled through the cautious and uncoordinated stages of being a newcomer to the world of "shredding, dude" known more commonly as snowboarding.

In other words, my nature is one of immediacy: Do it now. Do it well. Make it snappy.

Sound familiar?

However, as we can all attest, this "seize the moment" mentality isn't always wholly effective. For one, eating ice cream too fast can lead to a brain freeze, and two, some life experiences simply take more time. No one needs to be reminded of the fable of the Tortoise and the Hare . . . Or, do we? Let's consider this question against the backdrop of this weekend's 36th annual Falmouth Road Race.

Thankfully, just before boarding the shuttle bus to the starting line on Sunday, I bumped into my friend and running resource Jack Fultz who called out only one, small piece of pre-race advice as I set out for Woods Hole, "Don't go out too fast!" For the die-hard running buffs among you, Jack is, indeed, the same Jack Fultz who won the 1976 Boston Marathon and currently coaches the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge Running Team. Needless to say, if he's doling out racing advice; I'm taking heed.

I ran the first mile at a slower pace than usual. Rather than attempting to keep up with my speedy, former professional athlete brother (which I'd normally be tempted to do), I ran solo and resisted the urge to expend too much energy weaving through the masses (approximately 10,000 people run the seaside race, making the first mile rather congested). Instead, I soaked up the atmosphere and found a manageable rhythm, specifically, one that gave me a steady base from which I could improve from one mile to the next. Previously, my strategy was go out really hard, bite the dust around mile 4, curse my stupidity for signing up for such a masochistic event year after year, nearly blackout at the top of the final hill, and finish the race with a pledge not to repeat the charade the following year.

To be fair, I've been training more this year than in past years. Being a native of Falmouth, there is an odd level of pride taken in our collective lack of preparation for the iconic race. After all, the world-class competition did evolve out of the suggestion that one could run from one bar in Woods Hole to another in Falmouth- the distance between the two watering holes? 7.2 miles. And, so the tradition began . . .

I, too, have started a tradition of my own. After a lifetime of watching the race and what I estimate is a decade worth of running it, I've finally learned to pace myself (and train properly), which makes the experience much more enjoyable and efficient (no near blackouts!). One might say it's the athletic equivalent of the Buddhist principle of right effort. I even posted a time to rival that of the race I ran 7 years ago. Plus, there's plenty of free, frozen dessert to savor at the finish line.

1 comment:

Maria said...

Love your blog! I picked up a card for it at South Boston Yoga.