May 9, 2014

Hedging My Bets and Increasing the Odds

People are always asking me why I run so many marathons. (Okay, perhaps not lately when I’ve taken a six month break, but usually I get that question a lot.) Most people who do marathons themselves run them once or twice a year, and can’t fathom why I run them more frequently than that.

First of all (and most importantly for me), I think running marathons is incredibly fun. I get to see 26.2 miles of a new place, and probably meet some new running friends along the way. It’s a great excuse to travel somewhere, and gives me both a built-in activity for a morning of my trip, as well as a built-in excuse to stuff my face the night before! (Hmm, and we wonder why I’m having to resort to Dietbet to lose weight…)

But one other benefit of running marathons frequently is that I’m increasing my odds of finishing in a fast time. I will be the first to admit that I’m kind of lazy – I think I could get a much faster PR if I put some serious training in, and also if I really pushed it during a race instead of just settling in for the run and taking it easy. However, by running marathons more than once a season, I’m hedging my bets against the factors that I can’t control.

How many times have you seen someone train hard for months, but then on race day something went wrong and they didn’t reach their goal? Maybe the weather wasn’t conducive to success, maybe they tripped and fell, maybe the course was long, maybe they had to use the porta potty mid-race and ended up standing in line for a while… lots of potential reasons, and I’ve experienced a lot of them myself. Unfortunately, I’ve seen some bloggers caveat their race times due to these excuses (“well, when my Garmin showed 26.2 miles, my time was X:XX, which would be a PR”). Hate to burst your bubble but… things happen. Race results are not adjusted for excuses, no matter how good they are and no matter how much it wasn’t your fault. (And we would all probably do well to remember that lesson in life, as well.)

On Monday morning, I woke up feeling kind of tired, and wasn’t all that psyched about working out, but I went to Flywheel anyway. (As you have to do sometimes – there are always going to be times you’re not all that psyched about it, but that doesn’t mean you should give up.) When I got there, though, instructor Megan told me how psyched she was to see me, so that made me feel a little better. I figured that I would just get through the workout and then be on my merry way. I reminded myself that sweating usually makes me feel better, and afterward I’d be glad that I went.

I typically score a little above 250 torq points in a 45 minute class. With 10 songs per class, that means an average of 25 points per song. But after the first song on Monday, I was at 32 points. I didn’t think much of it – some songs are longer and some are shorter. But when my average consistently stayed at 30 points per song, I started to wonder. Maybe this was going to be one of those rare classes where every song is long and so there are 9 songs instead of 10? It wasn’t until we got to the arm song (after which there are always two more songs) that I realized the truth: I was performing very well, and was on track to get a personal best. I started pushing it hard from there, and when the class ended, I was amazed to discover that I had scored 315 points – significantly higher than my previous PR of 292.

My first reaction was to think it was a fluke, and not take any credit. Maybe my bike wasn’t calibrated correctly, and 315 shouldn’t have been my score? But I’ve been reading a lot of personal development books lately that point out an interesting gender discrepancy: women are more likely to credit their successes to outside factors, whereas men are more likely to just accept the credit. (Highly recommend Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office to everyone, male and female alike.) With that in mind, I’m owning it. I’m in the 300 Club!

Flywheel Torq Board: I'm in the 300 Club!

However, I couldn’t help but chuckle at how this happened. I hadn’t gotten a crazy PR at Flywheel by training diligently and saving up all my energy for one class where I’d try to PR no matter what. In fact, I had achieved this high score by simply continuing to go to Flywheel frequently, and only really pushing it once I saw that the situation was primed for success. And yet, the “one shot” approach is the one that many people take when trying to do well in a marathon.

No matter what your big goals are, there are going to be circumstances outside your control that may prevent you from reaching them. It’s fine to acknowledge those factors, but I think it’s important not to use them as excuses. There’s an element of luck in everything we do, and as much as the control freak in me wants to figure out mitigation plans for every possible scenario, sometimes the best way to minimize the effect of those outside forces is to hedge your bets and keep trying again. After the probably hundred or so Flywheel classes that I’ve taken, it was kind of inevitable that one of these days I’d hit on a bike that was being extra nice to me, and I’m not going to discount my new PR just because I may have had a little help with a lucky bike. Instead, I’m going to chalk it up as an example of the good luck that can result from hedging my bets and increasing the odds.

PS: Flywheel Highland Park friends, it’s bike #7, if you want to go try your own luck on it.


4 thoughts on “Hedging My Bets and Increasing the Odds”

  1. Welcome to the 300 club I was so excited my first time! And a great post. After being disappointed and placing all bets on one race for a PR I am being way more lax this year and enjoying the training process and the run more. Goal is to get stronger and leaner and trust in the training come race day. Anything can happen on race day – my half PR was run with a restroom stop and a hillier course – totally unexpected!

  2. That’s an interesting approach that I hadn’t considered. When at first, or second, or fiftieth we don’t succeed…try, try again! 🙂

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