I’ve been preparing for this race for the last two months. Built up a base of miles, executed all the workouts, ran a time trial, and began the taper. The night before I ate my pre-race meal, went to bed and got all the sleep that I required. I woke up to fresh legs, coffee and a bagel. Driving to the race I listened to my favorite songs enjoying the breeze coming in through the windows. I’ve got my shorts on and singlet in the backseat. I sign in and get my bib on, do a 2 mile warmup and get ready to go. I feel great. With about 15 minutes to go, I see some of my friends and we start talking in a large group. The energy of the race is building, but I’m starting to feel a bit anxious, I can literally feel my legs getting heavier. I’m trying to keep up in the conversation but I’m not comfortable, I’m trying hard to be friendly but there’s a buzzing in my ears. I’m listening to everyone talk, but my eyes aren’t connecting with anyone’s for more than a few seconds, then back to the ground or off to the side. My buddy next to me is jumping up and down with a huge smile on his face, he’s “getting so amped right now.” He’s actually bursting with energy. My shoulders are slumping and now there’s a pain in my head. It’s not a headache. The RD is giving instructions and the countdown is beginning. 10… 9… There’s so many people. 8… 7… Stop it friend, stop jumping… 6… 5… Should I jump? Will people see me? 4… 3… I don’t like being crowded… 2… 1… This was a bad idea.
I finished poorly. My place and time doesn’t matter. I just know that when I started running up that mountain, I had a lot less energy than I should have. I ate properly and had the right fluids in me, it certainly wasn’t a nutrition issue though for the next few races I try out new combinations. It took a little while to put it together, but I finally figured it out. That crowd of people and those friends surrounding me before the race stole my energy. Everytime he jumped up and down next to me, he was acting like a oil derrick, pumping the energy from me out, and storing it in himself. Just to calrify: He’s not a dick. He wasn’t doing this on purpose. He’s an extravert. Me … I’m an introvert.
At the very core of introversion and extraversion is energy. Where do we get our energy from. Some writers have characterized introverts as those whose energy tends to expand through reflection and dwindle during interaction. My buddies get pleasure and energy in activities that involve large social gatherings including racing. When we line up at the starting line, we’re on two opposite sides of the spectrum.
I had a really tough time with this during the 2013 racing season. The races I did where I drove by myself and didn’t talk to people beforehand ended with better results. (Again, not the placement and time, but the energy output and how I felt with my running) But, one of the best parts of going to a race is the experience with people and I need to find a balance going into 2014.
In 2014 I’m going to attempt a new approach. I plan on driving to more races by myself, getting lost in my own head and listening to my music. I’ll check in and if I see some friends I will make the time to say hello and catch up. Then I need to by myself. I want to change into my gear and go for a warm up alone. I’ll get my head back with some music or just my thoughts and I’ll go to the starting line as late as possible. Hopefully have a good race and then make the rounds post race. I really do enjoy warming down with my buddies, usually running back down the mountain we just raced up and having a post run soak in the river.
I think with a few tweaks I can end up with better results and enjoy the experience more. I'm not mad, I'm not sad, I'm not anti-social. I just like to be in my own head. I prefer my thoughts. I like to think before I speak and I have a really hard time keeping up with the usual banter pre-race. I've found running and training to be heaven for my introversion and racing my hell. But I'll figure it out. In my own head.