Have you ever tried to gain extra credit the two weeks before a race, hoping that one, two, or even three more workouts will give you that hopeful PR?
The difficult workouts had been completed. Long long runs, fast super short sprints, tempos that dragged on and breathless intervals in amongst miles and miles of easy rhythmic running consumed my training season. With my training bank full of deposits I was ready to cash in. The chasm in front of me required belief in myself and that I had done enough training. I had to have confidence to taper before the race.
Confidence is so much harder to gain then discipline or determination. It is not something that you can just decide to do differently or more often. It is a journey you have to walk through. It takes time. Often requiring another trustworthy person to say, “You have done enough. You are good enough. You have worth as you are now.”
I truly can’t think of a time I personally gained confidence without someone speaking into my situation and declaring me worthy of my aspirations.
I certainly know when I am not confident. I weave side to side within my plans. My mood goes up and down depending on my workout results. I search for any clue as to whether my aspirations are crazy or realistic. Please let me have peace, I beg.
Hopefully, the moment comes when one word or phrase is spoken by another and I hear the resounding echo of belief. I pause, recite it, flip it over and under, testing it’s purity. Then it rests on my heart and I am at peace. At peace with myself. At peace with my past work. At peace with my ambitions.
This confidence has to be within me before I can cross that chasm. As the training season comes to within a few weeks of race day, there starts a phase of fine tuning before toeing the start line. It is formally labeled as a taper. Your weekly miles and workout durations reduce, your intensity holds steady as your body makes the final repairs and storage of energy. If you don’t hold the confidence that you have done enough and don’t start your phase of rest and recovery, then you won’t be prepared on race day.
Confidence and successful tapers go hand in hand. If you are worried that you are not good enough or have not done enough, you will search for extra credit opportunities, short cuts, or just fall into the negative realm.
I know this all seems like luck, that is to gain confidence. But it really isn’t luck at all.
First you do have to complete an appropriate training schedule or admit that you didn’t and adjust your goals.
Within your training season you need to develop friendships and mentoring relationships, and take the time to invest in those relationships.
Finally as the time comes for you to taper, begin a dose of open conversations about where you are at with your training and how you will prepare for the race. Talk with your mentors or coach. Discuss what you have done in your training, how your body is feeling, and an estimated race pace.
And now for a story on my last taper ending in an October 10-mile race.
Early September I raced a 10K that felt just awful. I even gave into the pain for half a mile and backed way off the pace I had been struggling at but still could running at. The fact I gave up within the last mile shook me and I strongly questioned how my mental strength had disappeared.
I responded by asking women I admired where I went wrong and why I couldn’t continue to push myself at my breaking point within a race. I listened to their stories and soaked in their advice.
Beth, an incredible triathlete and runner, was frank with me and said, “You have done enough training.”
I paused in relief. I had measured up to the reasonable expectation she had marked. Her words settled in my heart and I gained the confidence to let my body rest and recover and prepare for the 10-mile race.
Over the next three weeks my body felt more light and quick. Gone where the runs with heavy legs. After each run I was more refreshed than tired. The thought of running the race at a given pace became more believable.
And so I bet you are curious how the race went. My body and mind responded well to each mile and hill. I finished the last mile with a strong push crushing my expected finish time.
Now it was not a PR, that was not what I was gunning for, I just wanted to feel like a competitor again. And competitors need confidence.
Confidence is found in the journey.