I recently raced my first full marathon. I have done three marathons in the Ironman distance races after a 112 mile bike and a 2.4 mile swim - but never solo. So, I was anxious to see how it was going to unfold. Let's just say it didn't unfold like I had planned it; which happens sometimes for whatever reason on any given day. I felt as though I did everything wrong and nothing right. I paced wrong, I hydrated wrong, I think mentally I was a little absent, and, possibly, was over confident. So after the race the question became - What the heck happened? Did I do anything right? I must be able to find something positive, right? Then the icing on the cake - I had someone approach me and ask "so are you done racing marathons?" The question struck me at first as odd, but then I thought should I stop after only trying it once? After quickly analyzing the question I shot back and said "No way I am not ending on that note." That is all fine and dandy to not want to end on a "bad note" but I guess the question then becomes - What have I learned from this not so stellar performance?
I knew one thing I needed to do, and I needed to do it quick. Figure out the answer to that last question. But how do we learn anything from such negative experience?
Answer - Analyze it!! I am going to analyze every aspect of the race and learn as much as I can about the way I reacted to the event, my body, my mental outlook, my preparation, and my nutrition. This is the positive that comes from this scenario - learning from the negative. I needed to turn this big negative into as big of a positive as I can so I don't make the same mistakes again. The worst thing that can happen to us as athletes is to let the same things happen to us race after race after race. We need to constantly be changing our approach and learning from these mistakes. I analyzed this race up and down and learned a lot of valuable information about the day. Most were very obvious points and some I needed to go digging for. I really put myself back into that race - even though I mentally didn't want to experience it again. I found that I wasn't as consistent as I should of been when hydrating and fueling on the course. I got stubborn and just turned a blind eye to this aspect. Probably one of the biggest things I learned is - don't underestimate a race! I believe in the back of my mind I was overly confident thinking that this might be a walk in the park since I have completed this distance before in an Ironman event. Running this race solo is a whole different animal - lesson learned. Respect the distance ALWAYS.
But with all that negative I did find one positive, no matter how bad it got out there on the course, even with my whole bottom half of my body seizing with cramps as I made every step, I was resilient and never gave up. I kept pushing forward even though my body was rejecting every step and my mind was telling me to shut it down, I finished. Maybe not the way I wanted to but I did cross that line. There were many more lessons learned that day but these were just a couple of them. So, if you have a bad race or training session I challenge you to analyze that session so it doesn't happen again. What you learn can be one of your biggest tools in your racing tool box and your biggest confidence booster as you move forward.
All of this analysis produced a light bulb moment for me - can this analysis approach apply to a positive racing scenario? Answer - ABSOLUTELY. Sometimes we overlook all the information we can learn from a positive session, when in reality we should be asking ourselves almost the same questions. Why did my nutrition work this time? What did I differently? How did I fuel the night before my long workout session the night before? All these are just some of the questions we need to ask ourselves after a positive experience. After a positive performance we need to analyze for one major reason and that is to make sure we follow this information when we race to ensure that same positive outcome.
My final point, in regards to the analysis process, is for all the times we are outside of a race. Frequently I am asked "What do you think about when you're training for such long hours?" I don't take offense to it when it comes from someone outside the sport because they perhaps don't understand the sport, but when it comes from a fellow endurance athlete it makes me concerned for them. For me, you guessed it, I analyze and assess frequently during my long training sessions. No matter what the distance is that we might be training for, I think we should constantly be analyzing and assessing everything going on with our bodies, our minds, different stress variables, the environment, our hydration, our fueling, our equipment, our competitors, EVERYTHING. We need to keep ourselves in constant check with how we are holding up as conditions and circumstances change around us. This will allow you to understand your body inside and out. It will allow you to understand how your body might react to almost every situation or stress you might throw at it and, if need be, how to get yourself out of certain situations. This self analysis should be happening regardless of the distance you are covering or the intensity of the session. The stresses and effects on the body are definitely different with the distances, so this just allows you a different opportunity to gain more information with different variables which you can then use to your advantage.
You never want to be guessing on race day, so the more information you have going into a certain situation the more likely it will become a positive outcome. So if you have a productive training session, outstanding race or one that you might want to forget about; I encourage you to analyze it and learn as much about that experience as you possibly can and take it with you to your next race or training session. One final thought before I end this blog, athletics teaches us aspects about ourselves that we can implement into our everyday lives. This holds true for self analysis, we can use what we just learned to improve ourselves beyond belief as people, as employees, as employers, as spouses and the list goes on and on. So, I challenge you to not simply go through the motions, I challenge you to analyze, assess, and reassess what your body is doing and why, to help you reach your full potential on and off the course.
Train Hard, Train Smart, Have Fun and Analyze Everything
I remember growing up idolizing prominent figures: baseball player (and former IronPigs Manager) Ryne Sandberg , Michael Jordan, Lance Armstrong, and the likes. I was enamored by their abilities, their passion, and their determination to be the best at what they did – they were Super Gods! They were untouchable, invincible, and everything I dreamed of being one day.
In retrospect, through my present adult eyes, I now realize that there are positive and negative elements of your role model selections in your youth. You take a gamble with your selection because there is no way to truly know these individuals on a “to the core” basis. Some will have a fall from grace and with that crashing fall comes a certain confusion in a young mind. Children don’t know how to process what happens in a scandal of epic proportions. Yet, some of the role models of my youth did continue to lead productive, positive journeys through their careers and some of them I still hold in high regard to this day. Another aspect I think we lose sight of when acquiring role models is the lack of a reciprocal relationship. You place so much pride, investment, and trust in someone who doesn’t even know you exist.
There was one role model, however, that sticks out in my mind as soaring above the rest. I truly admired and looked up to this individual starting at very young age. And, honestly, I might not have realized it at the time, but my biggest role model was - my Father. He didn’t have all the “bling”, the fancy cars, the loud flamboyant demeanor of superstar role model but he did possess one trait that was parallel to the idols mentioned above - he was passionate about what he did. He wanted to be the best he could possibly be and continues to strive to be the best. I admire him for that. But there was one other thing he did that the others didn’t and really made him special in my eyes, and I believe this is what makes a true role model. He invested his time into me and our family.
What is my one word of advice to all the adults out there who want to be their child’s superstar role model? Invest your time! Investing time is the key to making our children look up to us as role models. Granted our role as parents is very complex, twisted, multifaceted, but the one as a role model cannot be overlooked. As my father did with me, we need to fully invest our quality time and energy back into our children because, at its essence, our actions and our love will transcend into the person they grow up to be.
When investing this bonding time with our children, it is not just showing up at an event or listening to them with half an ear. We need to put them first and truly get to know them which, in turn, will allow them to really get to know us on a different level. To do this we can communicate with them on their level, allow them to see what we do at work, have them engage in activities we are passionate about, be optimistic, and take the time to answer their questions. This investment you make with them, showing them how you work mentally, physically, spiritually and even emotionally, will go a long way in developing their character, confidence, and personal drive. Time investment will show them how to become successful individuals just like ourselves. These bonding moments will also allow them to see that perhaps you are not perfect and that it is okay. Witnessing our failures and missteps will show them how to overcome adversity and how to adjust their goals in order to succeed. The time investment is priceless and invaluable as they continue their journey of life.
When we invest this time back into our children’s lives they will invest with you. As we make the investment we need to make sure we lead by example and instill in them the confidence to stay true to their moral compass. We need to show them how to become strong and love themselves for who they are. I strongly believe that our children do look up to us but it won’t be until later that they will really admit it. We need to set the precedent for our young minds of the future, as we set the bar high for them, and lead them to success.
I challenge all of the parents out there to play an even bigger role in their child’s life, regardless of age, and to make a positive impact on their child’s life. We must remember that kids will then emulate everything that we do. We must be cautious in our mannerisms, tendencies, tones, sternness and approach of a balanced life. We must set great examples to make great individuals. Let’s go out there and help our little futures become the greatest individuals by investing the time that will allow your relationship to flourish into far beyond the reaches of “parent” and into the realm of Gods. Be their role model and you never know, they may put a poster of you on their wall one day!
Kenrick Smith - Be a part of the K17Sport Lifestyle.
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