Am I Good With Good Enough? Parsley’s Racing Update

Hello everyone. It’s been a while. After a long break and time away following a disappointing marathon in Houston, I started training and racing again. I seriously contemplated competitive retirement, but couldn’t make the final decision. I thought I might find clarity through racing, so I ran a few races between March and May 2018.

March: Whispering Pines St. Patrick’s Day 5k

This local 5k was my first harder effort after a week or two of consistent running. I ran 18:45, exactly the time I expected, a good starting point for a new round of training. I was first woman and second overall. I won a “pot of gold” full of goodies.

I do not live in a competitive running area, but still local friends were impressed with my result. Was I? Not really. Place is all relative to who shows up. But it did make me realize I could do pretty well in my local race scene with little sacrifice; keep my foot in the competitive arena without a lot of effort training-wise. Maybe I should give up competing in large scale races, and stick to local ones when I need to get my competitive fix?

March: Wrightsville Beach Half Marathon

A week later, my family was headed to Wrightsville Beach for spring break, and I got an entry to this relatively large race, which also offers a full marathon. I knew a half marathon would be much tougher while out of shape — you can’t fake it like a 5K — but needed a good butt kicking to ramp up my training. I finished as fifth woman in what I think was my slowest half ever. Looking at the results, I did feel optimistic that if I came back in shape the following year, I could finish in the top 3 and win some money.

What surprised me about this race was that despite running a slower time and really not caring competitively, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the atmosphere and the energy of being in a larger race without any pressure. I always thought that when I was done competing, I would be done. I wouldn’t do races just for fun. But this gave me a glimpse of a different future. Maybe I could still enjoy the race scene, just with a different mindset.

April: Monument Avenue 10k

This was my goal race after roughly 8 weeks of training. I was getting into a groove, and while I was nowhere near peak fitness, felt like I could run a pretty decent 10k. However, what should have been a 3.5-hour drive up to Richmond the day before took almost the entire day in what I will just call a comical series of unfortunate events.

When I finally got the kids down to bed at our hotel around 9, I went to get my stuff ready for race morning. In the only fitting conclusion to an already disastrous day, I discovered I forgot to bring the backpack I’d packed with all my gear. Close to tears, I managed to get in touch with my husband, who was meeting us there from a work trip. He found a store still open and bought a pair of running shoes in my size and I luckily found some old (questionably clean) running clothes stashed in my trunk.

Race morning I got to the line in (unfortunately uncomfortable) new shoes with no watch. I threw self-consciousness about my diastasis recti aside because it was a hot day and my old baggy t-shirt was even more embarrassing than my stomach. But it was fine; I was grateful to make it to the start, and didn’t feel stressed about the drama from the day before.

Unfortunately, I think my body was physically tired from the stress, because it was a struggle from the beginning. But I pushed the negative thoughts aside and raced with abandon since I had no watch; I battled it out with two other women the entire second half of the race, and finished ahead of both. Unfortunately, my time did not match my struggle, a pace slower than my season opening 5k. I’d had a goal pace range and the mindset that if I couldn’t run in that range, I should probably just go ahead and give up. But I didn’t give up. I wrote it off as an off day.

Early May: Cinco de Mayo 10k

Eager to gauge my fitness and give the 10k a fair shot, a few weeks later I woke up super early and drove several hours to run this as the best chance of a semi-competitive race anywhere close to my area. Unfortunately my race plan of settling into an even rhythm then dropping the hammer at 30 minutes was literally derailed, as I got caught at a train crossing around 2.5 miles in. When I thought to look at my watch, I saw I’d been waiting for over 3 minutes, so who knows how much time I actually lost. I ran hard the rest of the race, but not necessarily fast, as I lost a lot of energy in my anger at the train. I finished slightly more than 3 minutes behind the winner, and left with a lot of frustration at not having an accurate time.

Late May: Alexandria Half Marathon

In May I took a week off running to travel to England. When we returned, I felt like it took me almost a week to recover from vacation, adjust to the heat and humidity that moved in while I was gone, and get back into a good exercise routine. The following weekend I was in Washington, DC for a wedding. It’s the land of a million races, and sure enough, I found a half marathon that started two blocks from my hotel. Running a half at the tail end of some pretty raucous wedding festivities may not have been an ideal segué into a great race, but I have to take what I can get when it comes to racing opportunities. Plus, I knew that if I signed up for a race, I’d be unlikely to make excuses why I couldn’t get up and run Sunday morning.

Race morning was ridiculously humid and the race director himself described the course as “somewhat of a scavenger hunt.” He was right: there were twists, turns, and out-and-backs galore. But the course design meant I could keep an eye on a woman I judged to be about 30 seconds back. While I did not feel great or enjoy the race, my prevailing thought was that the only thing that would be more embarrassing than the slow time I was on track to run would be to get beaten while running that time. I picked it up the last two miles to put in some distance and ensure the win, and ran what is now definitely by far my slowest half, even slower than most of my full marathon half splits.

The upshot

So, after this series of what seems like increasingly slower race results, where am I?

I have thought a lot about “good enough” vs. “good.” “Good enough” means I can do pretty well in local races in my area with minimal training effort; I can push myself in the moment, get in a good workout, fulfill my competitive drive, and enjoy the race environment. But that doesn’t leave me with the same satisfaction and sense of accomplishment I get from working hard and achieving a goal. That’s what I consider to be “good.” So as long as there is hope that I can get back to what I consider “good,” I’m going to work for it and see if I get there.

But if I continue this downward spiral of running slower times, any sense of competitiveness or goals may slowly seep out of me, and rather than making a clear decision, I may slowly fade into retirement. On the other hand, maybe I’ll eventually pop a fast time that will jolt me out of the downward spiral. In the meantime, I’ll continue to train, and time will tell.

Have you ever found yourself at the crossroads of “good” and “good enough?” How did you deal with it?

I have fun trying to sprint, enjoy long runs in the mountains, and everything in between. Former competitive runner (3 x marathon OTQ & trail marathon national champion) currently working through a lingering injury. I write about trying to stay competitive while raising young kids and moving into a new post-competitive stage.

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  1. I can relate to this. While I was never as fast as you, I have won quite a few local races and have placed high in many others. However, in the last year or two, as I approach a milestone in age (eek!), I’ve noticed I’ve gotten slower. It’s taken me quite a bit of internal work to be ok with that. After all, it’s why there are age groups, because it’s not fair to expect a 50-year-old to run as fast as a 25-year-old. So now I’m learning to be a *little* less competitive overall and be grateful that I can still run as fast as I can. Even if I never win another race or win another age-group, I still love to run and love being out there seeing how I can push myself. It’s about joy in the journey, so to speak. So maybe think about why you run and see where that takes you. It is a process, though.