Trainer or Racer

A good portion of my childhood was spent at the stables. I grew up riding horses and I was horse mad. I was one of *those* girls. The ones who lived, breathed, ate all things equestrian. I didn’t own my own horse, so until I leased a horse, I rode the school horses. A few horses were the favorites of all the riders, so we had to race to find our instructor to be the first to call dibs on our favorite. A few times a year, we were taken to local horse shows. For the horse shows, we didn’t get choose who we rode; the instructor picked based up our skill level, the event we were showing in, and the horse’s personality.

At my first horse show, I rode a horse named Jeanne. Jeanne was an old mare who was what riders described as dead broke. She was the calmest, most unflappable, and laziest horse that the stable owned and as a result, she was usually the horse that was used for the first lesson. You could have lit a bomb underneath her and she would have not reacted. She was great for scared nervous beginner riders, but less great when your instructor is yelling at you to canter and no amounts of kicks or slaps of the crop could get her to move faster than a lazy shuffle.

When I heard that was I was riding Jeanne, my face fell in disappointment. I wanted to do well in the horse show and I couldn’t see how this was possible when Jeanne barely trotted. My instructor noticed my disappointment and reassured me, “Jeanne is different at horse shows. She loves them and she’ll be lively. Don’t worry.” I didn’t see how this was possible, but I trusted my instructor.

Sure enough, on show day, Jeanne was a transformed animal. She trotted and cantered on command. We came away with 6th place at my first equitation class (I was judged on how well I got my horse to walk, trot, and canter). I couldn’t believe how the laziest nag of the stable was a dream to ride in a horse show.

I learned that some horses were trainers and some were showers. Trainers were horses who were better during training (lessons) than at showing. Showers were horses who showed better than trained. Jeanne was a shower.

This concept of trainer or shower extends to running. Some people are trainers. They train better than they race. Some people are racers. They race better than they train.

I’m definitely a racer. Not to say that I don’t have bad races, I do, but in general, I race far better than I train. Looking over my training logs, I have more than my fair share of bad training runs. Miles and paces that I easily surpass in a race, I can barely do or even fail reaching all together in a training run.

Yesterday’s long run is a good example of it. RLRF prescribed 15 miles at 9:12 pace. All very doable for me, especially since my current HM pace is 8:20-8:30. Those 15 miles were completed at a 9:34 pace and I thought I was going to die. I don’t have any excuses of poor nutrition, poor fueling, or even bad weather (67 degrees in June is a dream). I have a hard time performing during a training run.

There are other people I know, who are better trainers. They have week after week of good training, but their performances at races belie all the training they put in. One of my friends regularly kicks my @ss on our training runs, but in a race, I speed away.

We have different strengths and proclivities. Because I love racing, I’d rather be a racer than a trainer, but it does make it hard to be optimistic after a not so good run.

Are you a trainer or a racer?

20 thoughts on “Trainer or Racer

  1. I enjoyed this post tying together your childhood equestrian background with running. I don’t know anything about horses but your narrative was an enjoyable read and came together really nicely at the end. I am definitely a racer 🙂 In training I often plead with my friends to slow down during easy runs. Ask Jennie! She is convinced that I only ask her to slow down because it makes her smile and feel fast (she IS fast!) but I do it because I am legitimately EXHAUSTED!

    • Thanks for the compliment, Shan! I’m glad that I discovered racing otherwise I would have thought that I was a perpetual slow runner. I admire people who can bring it on for a training run. After 5 mins, I’m done.

  2. This is a great post. I love it. As a figure skater, I was a trainer. I could jump so high and do triple jumps with ease. In competition, I psyched myself out. It was such a shame. And for some reason, with running, I find myself in such a different place. I find a way to be calm, patient and positive. This is an excellent post!

    • Thanks! I also competed in speech in high school and I was a trainer back then. Perhaps with age, we’ve learned to channel the excitement of competing into good performance.

      Happy 4th!

  3. I love your horse analogy! For me I think of rehearsal vs performance, since I grew up as a band kid. I would phone it in during pretty much every rehearsal…put me on a stage, and I have my A game on display! I don’t have enough experience with sport to really know where I fit in yet, but I think I’m probably a racer. In road races, I seem to run a few minutes per mile faster than any of my training runs. In triathlon, my swim speed is slower, but my cycling is faster. And my run….well, that just depends on the weather day of!
    Happy 4th!!

  4. Great analogy! I’m definitely a racer – I hit paces in races that I can never get near during training. I think part of me wants to look good in front of other people, which is weird because I’m usually a giant introvert who doesn’t want anyone paying attention to me.

  5. Like everyone else I loved this post. I was curious where you were going with it at first, but I get it now. 🙂 BTW I’m also a racer. I like training and I do fine, but I really do my best under the pressures of racing.

  6. I love this analogy! I had never really thought about this before. I’m a racer. Most of my training runs are terrible and I’ve been shocked more than once at my race result (how did I do that?). Though likely due to the bad training runs. 🙂 Great post!

  7. Pingback: Summer of Sad 5Ks | A Fast Paced Life

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