Friday, May 4, 2012

Good Luck

"Luck is the residue of design." Branch Rickey, former owner of the Brooklyn Dodger baseball team

What do you say when a friend (or foe) is going off to run a race somewhere, or even when we're all just standing at the starting line? We say "GOOD LUCK". What do we mean by that? Are we so insecure in their preparation that we believe luck better be intertwined in this race to produce a successful ending? Of course we don't, but, as long distance runners, we know that there always has to be some luck involved or the whole show can come crashing down.

The transition between training and a successful race is, at best, 95% hard work, and 5% luck, but more likely in the 75/25 range. The same is true in most of our areas of our lives - a promotion, catching fish, getting to the dentist on time, or just about anything. We put in the work at our job for when a promotion is deserved, or we study where the doggone fish are gonna be and what lures are best, or we know the best routes to drive to the dentist. But, there better be some luck involved for that job opening to occur, the fish to be where you expect them, or the traffic lights to be synchronized to deliver your mouth to Dr. Pain (nothing personal Todd!).

The problem is that many people rely on the luck and don't do all the hard work. I see this all the time in my PT clinic...folks have surgery, the Doc says "See ya, go to therapy" and the patient thinks they can do 10% of what I tell them and miracles will happen.

You train at 11 minute miles and expect to run 8 minute miles in the race. Or you don't run longer than 10 miles in training, and you expect to keep an even pace in a marathon. That's not luck, it's stupid extremely faulty thinking. Hard work is putting in the 8 minute miles in training, and luck is having perfect weather for the race. Hard work is hitting the trails for frequent long runs in training, and luck is not stepping in a hole and twisting your damn ankle (my ankle is a damn ankle - yours may not be a damn ankle). As the saying goes, "Don't worry about the things you can't control" - that's where luck will smile upon you (sunny skies and no holes) or slap you down (30 MPH headwinds and a trail that looks like the moon).

Hard work is having prepared yourself to the best of your ability. How many of us can honestly say we haven't gone into a race and thought to ourselves "I'm going to try to do this on memory". That is PRAYING for luck. Praying for it usually doesn't work. Hard work is having spent the last 12 weeks doing long runs, tempo runs, hill repeats, and course specificity training and luck is showing up on raceday with a 20 MPH tailwind (Boston '11).

I wish there were a secret store of silver bullets: one for the weather, one for the course, one for that mysterious "Where did that come from?"People ask me all the time what is the secret bullet, pearl, nugget of wisdom to keep doing long endurance. There isn't one. There is no secret store. It's just hard work, and a little bit of luck.

Tomorrow, despite what I have just written, I will be looking for all the luck I can muster up as I run my first ultra in 5 years - the Run For Kids 50k at Oak Mt here in Birmingham. I am understandably nervous about doing this, more about how my ill-natured ankle will absorb the toll of 31 miles on the trail than I am about the rest of the adventure. I've tried to put past performances in the memory vault and approach this purely as the mental challenge of an experienced ultrarunner on how is the best way to finish. I think I've put in the miles that my ankle-knack will allow, though it's way below what I would suggest to anybody asking advice on training. My running will be slow, and I will try my darndest to adhere to a run/walk approach. I think my plan is solid with my on-the-trail nutrition, including the hydration. I know from experience that you can't allow yourself to get behind early.

As far as "luck" goes, I can't really think of anything that HAS to happen that's out of my control for me to do this. The weather is hot...temp near 90 with a heat index about 100...but I always feel that weather is going to affect shorter distance (faster) runners, than it will experienced ultrarunners who have learned (through mistakes) how to cope...RUN SMART is one of my mantras. Although I won't rely on luck, it's ok if any of you want to send some Good Luck my way. I'll appreciate the vibes.

Whatever's in store tomorrow, I'll keep smiling, and for sure, I'll see you on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"


Yo Momma Runs said...

Love this post! My ankles are damn too, but only when they don't feel like I want them to feel. I hope your hard work and luck pan out on the race this weekend.

Phil Min said...

Have a great time out there1 you always inspire and encourage others.

Danny said...

Sending my best 'Good Vibrations' to you. May your damn ankle become an ankle. Oh, and Good Luck, I doubt you'll need it.


Enjoy reading your post. This one reminded me of when I ran Pensacola marathon on 90% luck and 10% training. I'll never do that again! Good luck this weekend on your race.

bcaroh said...

Al, you go to that trail and have fun! ;-) bc

Bob Gingrich said...

Al, enjoy your race tomorrow. Go get'em and best of luck. I enjoy your stories, advice and humor. Thanks.

AL said...

Thanks for all the good wishes (I won't say luck. Apparently, all your vibes worked. All my plans came together and I finished in 7:52, better than an hour than what I hoped for!