Live and Let Go

By: Brenda Carawan

Forget about Fat Tuesday, Carnival and Valentine’s Day – this Sunday marks the final race of the Austin Distance Challenge – let’s celebrate commitment! When I signed up for the challenge I had just moved to Texas and was going through a bout of nostalgia thinking back to when I did the Austin Series in 1997. Back then the series had five races: Sundown Classic, Decker Challenge, Coffee Exchange 15k, 3M Half Marathon and the Austin Motorola Marathon. The current series has six with a series finisher’s jacket still the coveted prize. It seemed like a great idea to do the series again and upgrade the jacket.

At first, I didn’t think much about signing up but as each race snuck up on me it’s taken an act of congress to keep those dates free and clear. It’s not that I’m living the life of riley or anything but the bulk of the series happens around the same time of year when I take off from running and enjoy the holidays. Ok-ok….confession…the series happens right around when I’m utterly burned out, exhausted and can’t possibly think about running out my front door let alone in any race. Does this happen to you? In light of this, I had to confront this distance challenge stuff from a different perspective. I had to teach myself to LET GO. Something very difficult for an obsessive-typeA-ultrarunner person like myself. I wanted to try letting go of the details and letting go of not running as fast as possible or negative splitting, just enjoying the race, the people, the city.

Here’s what my normal timeline looks like for a race:

Sign up > Train > Obsess > Train > Obsess > Train > Obsessobsessobsess > Race > Obsess about outcome.

Definition of obsess: Map out every single inch of course, elevation, parking, schedule of events, my race outfit, crewing area, pacer points, historical weather data, history of race, food / drink available, and any other nitty gritty detail I can get my hands on.

So in order to get through my usual end of the year burnout rest period I opted for this approach:

Sign up >  Race > enjoy the holidays > Race >  enjoy my birthday > Race> enjoy NYE! > Race >recover from said festivities > Race > sleep as much as possible and wait for marathon day to arrive > Race 2/17.

Guess what? I learned a lot from the experience and more importantly, had a blast at each race while still maintaining a relatively decent level of fitness during off-season (with minimal running)!

Here are some lessons on learning to LET GO:

1.       I can still make it on-time to the race whether I look up the address one night before or ten months before.

2.       Letting go actually helped run more relaxed. (Hmmmm…what a concept)

3.       The less I obsessed about the perfect pre-race dinner, the less stomach issues on race day (GASP).

4.       I slept better the night before (even if my husband snored like a chainsaw).

5.       Pacers are wonderful tools enabling me to tune out and just run freely (read: not look at Garmin every 5 seconds).

6.       Whatever I threw on the morning of ended up being the perfect outfit (especially when it has TEAM ROGUE on it). 

7. I found some terrific breakfast places after every race in different parts of the city.

Of course, there were a few downsides to this passive approach like looking clueless on race day trying to find the start line, forgetting to charge iPod/Garmin, and worrying my coach that I’d get hurt (sorry coach). Regardless though, having taken this back seat approach gave me the mental running break I needed while keeping me on target to hit spring race goals. I met some really cool people along the way, and even managed to pick up a little age-group hardware at the Rogue 30k. Oh, and I can’t forget about the super awesome race shirts. That alone was reason enough not to miss! How about you? Did you do the series, and if so, what’s been your approach?

So here’s to this Sunday – the last “Let Go” race before I have to start hitting training with a lot more focus. I guess Saturday I’ll check to see where the race starts. 

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