Bib #14 – Spring Run for Fun 26.2
Perception: the way in which something is regarded, understood or interpreted.
Perception is a funny thing, especially when interwoven with memory: the faculty by which the mind stores and remembers information. For example, Saturday’s weather forecast for the Northwest Trail Runs Spring Run for Fun was clouds for the 8:30am marathon race start, with an 80-100% chance of rain from 9:30am until 2:00pm; the entirety of the race. I thought that, of my 14 races this year, 10 of them had to have been in the rain and/or otherwise terrible weather. I even commented as such in my live, start line video.
The beauty of a race blog is the objective evidence it leaves behind. It has actually only rained in three of my races, not 10. And this got me thinking about why my perception was so off. I came up with a few reasons:
Temporal proximity. This is the obvious one. It has rained for two of my last three races. We remember what happened most recently. And while I’ve raced in the rain three times in total, there were three other races I ran in which it rained during the day of the race, even though I didn’t actually run in it. I understand psychologists refer to this as reconstructive memory. I remember it raining during some races because I both raced and it rained in the same day, evening though they didn’t actually happen at the same time.
Expectations versus reality. Now it gets interesting. Runners plan. Training plans, meal plans, race week plans, night-before plans, race morning plans, pacing plans, fueling plans, drop bag plans… We like to control absolutely everything we can control to ensure that our races go precisely how we expect them to go. In all of that planning — often times months in the making– there is only one thing we cannot control: the weather.
Races 2-5 this year were at Walt Disney World in Orlando, where it is typically in the 60s overnight in January. This was the case for races 2 and 3, but severe rain and thunder hit on the morning of race 4 and, on the on the overnight before the 5:30am start of race 5, temperatures dropped into the low 40s. Living in Seattle, I run in the 40s all the time. But I hadn’t planned for it in Orlando. I purchased enough cold gear ahead of time to be comfortable during the race (including a hat, gloves and hand warmers), I recall that marathon as being freezing cold.
Similarly, the 2016 Black Canyon 100k outside of Phoenix was reportedly in the 90s. But race day 2017 was in the low 40s, with torrential rain for most of the race. I handle heat the same as or better than the average runner. Cold, on the other hand, especially wet cold, is disastrous for me. In was treated for hypothermia and hypoxemia when it was over, despite having all the proper gear; more clothes, in fact, than most of those running alongside me.
When I registered for Disney and Black Canyon, I expected warm weather races. And even though I’d known the actual forecast before I stepped up to the start line and was dressed accordingly, in my head remained the expectation of warm weather. More so than remembering the actual weather, I think I remember that the weather didn’t match my expectations.
Seminal experiences. It’s been less than 30 days since I ran the Black Canyon 100k. It was traumatic, physically, mentally and emotionally. I can’t say definitively that my race would have been better if not for the driving rain, but I know it would have been different. I learned a lot about myself during that race, much of which I’m still processing. That race has changed me; I’m still figuring out how profoundly. Regardless, I feel confident I will not forget the rain on that day.
I finished well in Redmond, given that this was a training run for an upcoming ultra at the end of April, and given the conditions. The photos will keep me honest — it did, in fact, rain during the race, unlike the dry-sky and sunny photos I have from 11 other races before it.
My next race is just one week away, the Bataan Memorial Death March marathon in New Mexico. The forecast is calling for overnight lows in the 50s, with a daytime high of 81. My body is not accustomed to such conditions. Despite 2017 races in Orlando (#2-5), Dubai (#7), and Phoenix (#13), I’ve not yet run in anything over 70 degrees. At this point, I welcome the opportunity for shorts and a tank top. I secretly hope it will usher in a series of warmer-than-expected races. Perhaps by June, I will be posting about all the races being too hot.