It’s summer, it’s June, and we’re slap bang in the middle of the mountain racing season.
As usual IMRA has put on an array of mid-week and weekend races to test speed and skills over a range of distances and terrains. There are titles too to contest for, such as the popular Leinster League, the Irish Championships, or the Leinster Championships. In addition to these, there are places up for grabs on the Irish international teams bound for the European Championships and the Mountain Running World Trophy.
The terrible temptation is to try to vie for them all.
Before you know it, you’re running every Wednesday at the Leinster League over short but sharp races. Then, during your pre and post race chats with fellow athletes on those same midweek nights, you hear about this or that longer distance race over the coming weekend. “Sure I’m free to do that. Sure that sounds like fun”. And before you know it, you’re racing too on Saturday, and sometimes again on Sunday.
The reason why I’m bringing this up is that, now that we are mid-season, I’m increasingly seeing girls looking tired as they line up to the starting line. Then after the race, I’ve seen girls crashing over the finish in obvious pain having pushed so hard yet not having the necessary reserves to produce the needed energy. Then you hear that they’ve raced successive Wednesday leagues and done one or two races over the weekend.
I’m hardly one to be pointing this out however. Two years ago I was doing the exact same. The whole social scene revolved around racing: the forming of teams, the training spins together, the actual race, the post race analysis, and the plans for the next event. I was so used to feeling sore and tired that I didn’t even notice how run down I had become. It was only when someone pointed out how many races I was running and the effects that it was having that I began to cut back. People are now surprised that I don’t race twice a week. Indeed, I feel at times that I have to justify myself and my reduced racing plan.
I’m lucky that my bad racing habits were pointed out to me at an early stage. I stopped the fanatic racing before I got too tired or, worse, before I got permanently injured. I know now that my body can take only so much battering, and realise that racing in particular takes a huge toll on my system. Granted, there are a few, an exceptional few, who have the years of endurance and experience built up so that they can deliver a punishing race schedule. However they are the exception, rather than the rule.
I’ve also found that volunteering at races can give me as much of a buzz as racing itself. Course marking allows me to have a gentle jog over the route at my own little pace. Working at the race finish still allows me to engage in the pre and post race banter. It also makes me look forward to my planned runs rather than lining up to a start and thinking, “Oh God, not another race”.
Now I plan for a few races well in advance and train specifically for them, allowing for ample rest time especially after big long runs. It’s a formula that hopefully will keep me fit to race well into my forties and fifties!