A couple of weeks ago, I ran my first race in a year at the Wharf to Wharf Race in Santa Cruz, California. Given my non-existent cardio base, I had no illusions of a PR, or anything even close to it, I was just excited to be in a race environment again.
Many moons ago I would have scoffed at this distance, but after a prolonged break from training and races thanks to depleted adrenals and overtraining, the six-mile course would be my longest distance covered in a year!
This extended break has provided me many opportunities for reflection and the hindsight has been everything. Reframing my "why" as in "why I run" has completely changed my perspective and approach to running. So while I've run dozens and dozens and races over the years, in some ways, this one felt like my first.
Here are four things I learned:
1. Energy Management Is Important
In the past, I would not have done anything to prepare for a race this "short" of a distance. But now that I have a better understanding of cortisol; i.e., the stress hormone, the role it plays in our bodies and the impact exercise has on it, I was more cognizant of how I expended my energy in the days leading up to the race.
I tried to eat foods that were easier to digest, was more diligent about my morning meditation (even meditated a couple of times in the evening!), avoided situations that would have aggravated me or make me expend unnecessary energy. In short, I just tried to keep things as easy going as possible.
This helped in the moments leading up to the race. I didn't have any butterflies and even in the first few miles of the race, when the road was VERY congested, I just tried to go with the flow and not weave through anyone. My one goal was to enjoy the course and finish without feeling like I got hit by a ton of bricks. Goal accomplished!
2. Whether it's 3 miles, 6 miles, 13 miles or 26.2 miles, being properly fueled for a race, training run or workout is important.
In the past, I wouldn't have given much thought to fueling for a race that would have been over in an hour. I probably would have grabbed a banana because it would have been least likely to upset my stomach during a race. Trying to figure out a strategy for that problem used to be my ONLY thought in planning what to eat before any run or race.
But I've been reframing my approach to my nutrition. Instead of the "what's least likely to blow up my gut" approach and the "calories in vs calories out" mentality, I'm paying closer attention to the nutrients that I feed my body with.
Digestion is the biggest daily stress on our bodies, so I also try to eat foods that won't add unnecessary stress on my gut.
These reasons are why I always start my day with a smoothie. I can pack so many nutrient-rich foods into a simple glass that is easy to digest.
For race day, one green smoothie a couple of hours before the race was more than enough to nourish my body! My gut behaved and my energy levels stayed steady throughout the race. No more blood sugar crashes!
3. I Don't Need Music
I cannot tell you how many times I didn't finish a run because my iPod died. I was not capable of running without music. But I shared in this post why I'm ditching it. At least for now.
And during this race, I felt a whole new appreciation for everyone else running the race. In the past, blocking everything and everyone out with my earphones had me 100% focused on myself.
Running without headphones, I was able to connect with all the people around me. It's not like we had long conversations (hello energy management), but I was able to enjoy laughs and pleasant exchanges with so many people on the course. It just made the experience that much more enjoyable. But it also made me feel a little sad like I had robbed myself of those experiences in past races.
4. Not being tied to an outcome gave me perspective
Overtraining, depleting my adrenals and the mess that I made of my health forced me to take an extended break. It forced me to reexamine the stressors in my life. There were glaringly obvious ones but lots of hidden (at least to me) ones too.
I learned that being tied to an outcome was a huge stressor for me. And if I wanted to continue running, which duh, of course, I did because I love it, I had to learn how to reframe (there's that magic word again), my approach to it.
Now, instead of being tied to an outcome, I run with the intention to feel strong and alive. Carrying that intention with me to the start line made all the difference in my attitude towards the race and everything and everyone associated with it.
Those first few miles were congested. I mean seriously congested. You could not get going even if you bobbed and weaved (ahem, energy management again). People didn't start in the right corrals, but let's be honest, that's always going to happen. And the roads were too narrow (like really narrow), but there's really not much you can do about that. In the past, I would have been so annoyed by this, especially if I was tied to the outcome. I probably wouldn't have had nice things to say about the race and the people who were around me. But this time, I chose to just go with the flow, because there was nothing I could do about it. There wasn't any point in wasting energy on something that was out of my control.
And that's really my biggest takeaway since learning how to recover from Adrenal Fatigue. It's really all about energy management and how I choose to approach all situations, races included.
It's not about other things or other people - what they've done, or haven't done to me. It's about me choosing how I allow it to affect me and how much energy I choose (or choose not to) waste on it.
I don't have it all figured out yet. I'm a work in progress. But so far, the work has been proven to provide happier, more enjoyable experiences!
I can't say enough good things about the Wharf to Wharf Race. The organization, course, and overall experience was top-notch and I'm looking forward to enjoying it again!
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Hi I'm Naomi!
I help smart and savvy women who suffer from chronic stress, unexplained weight gain and burnout, breakthrough their healthy blind spots and relieve symptoms through natural healing with whole foods and by making lifestyle and environmental changes. Why feel tired when you can feel fired up and ready to go every single day?
I love running outdoors, connecting with like-minded people, and exploring the San Francisco Bay Area with my pup, Coco Pop.