|Sage Canaday racing for the WIN at the 2014 Speedgoat 50K|
© Steve Seckinger 2014
"Nobody is training to come and be 10th", said by Polina Edmunds before the 2015 World Figure Skating Championships.
I'm not much of a competitor in organized races, but have done a handful of mountain bike and running races. Even shot a competitive pistol match or two. That said, I'm not a deeply experienced and seasoned competitive athlete. I've certainly been around running races for years and have seen how the training and competition cycle works THAT said, I do have an opinion on entering competitions. Let's look at running comps as as example.
A running competition is a race. A race is an event where the fastest person wins, with everybody else ranked in time order. If you enter a running competition and you are not there to race, what are you there for? I get the fact many people enter a race to see if they can do it, to mark the end of some fitness or weight-loss quest, but why enter a race to see if you can just finish it? You should know that long before you enter! That's neither a competitive or racing attitude; that's just saying you can survive something. Can't you go out and run 13.1 miles any day of the year to see if you can simply survive a half-marathon? What I really don't understand is entering a 5K to see if you can finish; most people can run, walk, or crawl that distance during a day of shopping at the mall. If you are going to enter a race, then race.
Entering a race doesn't mean you have to try to win, and most likely you won't win any race you enter. But you can target a certain time, age group placings, or beating a time from your training (you train, right?). THAT is what you should be racing. You have to have a plan before you enter!
My general ideas for this are:
Shoot for the average the first few races. That's OK and proves you are training!. It's also not planning on just entering, trying to finish, and planning to be last. If you come in middle-of-the pack in a big race, that's great! The 50% below you didn't do this, so you already have an advantage for the next few races.
Go for age group/gender rankings. Once you have trained more and raced more, you might be able to start moving up in your age group by gender. While it's harder to win a race, placing higher in this group is a more reachable goal. That goal should be the top ten in your group. When you look at lots of race results, you might see how much work you have to do to get there. It'll vary by race of course, but this is the goal.
If this strategy works and is paying off, you can look for the 1-2-3 spot in your age group. This is tough, and may by off the table for all but the most serious and dedicated athletes, but remember you are racing, not just entering. Placing here is where strategy and experience can pay off. I gave up the #3 podium spot once in a trail race by stupidly being polite and letting another runner pass me on a narrow trail. I found out he was in my age group at the finish line where he took 3rd and I took 4th.
Polina Edmunds came in 8th in the Worlds. Everyone had a good day and the scores were good all around. But having the mentality to show up to win, not just finish, is what I think competing is all about.