Have you ever tried something and had a bad experience and swore to never try it again? Maybe it was a new restaurant or new shoes. Maybe you took a risk at work and it failed miserably so you held back and never took a risk again. Those cheap tequilla shots in college? Even when you knew the chances of failing again where slim, you still avoided coming anywhere near the situation again. This happened to me and it took me 6 years to overcome the fear. In work or in life, our fear of repeating a mistake can keep us from reaching our potential and our goals.
In 2011, I ran the OneAmerica Mini-Marathon in Indianapolis and it was my worst half marathon experience ever. I had only been running for about a year and a half and this was my 3rd half marathon. Growing up in Speedway, IN, the Mini-Marathon was always a race I was familiar with. Runners start in downtown Indianapolis, make their way west to the famous Indianapolis 500, spin a hot lap around the yard of bricks, and then head back downtown for the finish. 13.1 miles of nostalgia for this Indy guy.
I was so excited for this race. Looking back, I was way too excited. I wanted every bit of it to be perfect. I meet my brother at the brand new JW Marriott on Friday evening before the race. We have some appetizers and just one Sun King ale. We make our way to the expo for packet pick-up and some browsing. And here is where the nightmare begins, although I don’t know it yet.
I had been training sparingly with the Gu gels on some of my training runs and I had no issues with them. I didn’t bring any with me so I figured I’d grab a few at the expo. There they are. The Gu Roctane 2X the caffeine. I had never tried the extra caffeine packed ones but I thought this would only help my performance. If I only knew what would come of this purchase.
Race day morning. I barely sleep the night before. I wake up and eat a good breakfast and put back a nice sized cup of coffee. I get to the starting line and I have a great starting coral right near the front. The atmosphere is electric and I’m pumped.
The first several miles are perfect. I’m rolling along and enjoying all of the neighborhoods. Going down these streets brings back so many childhood memories of driving to and from downtown Indy. I get to Main Street in Speedway and see a few friends. It’s time to make my way into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
I get onto the track and start to make my way around the 2.5 mile legendary course. My plan is to take my Gu pack at the halfway point and this happens at the 4th turn of the track. I grab the Gu, chase it with some water and head down the front straight away. I feel like all of the legends who have made their way around this beauty. Mears, Andretti, Foyt, and Fittapaldi . Rutherford, Unser, Castroneves, and Montoya.
I cross the bricks at the start/finish line and the sensation hits me. My heart starts racing. I start to get light-headed and feel my heart rate get faster. At first I think this is all in my head from the excitement. But it gets worse. I start to panic and take a water to try to flush my system.
I couldn’t slow my heart rate and I was panicking. I even considered stopping at the medic tent, but then embarrassment raced through me. What if it’s nothing? I’m 3 miles from the finish of my hometown race. Then the worst thoughts hit me. What if I’m one of those guys who drops dead at a race? I was in town alone, my wife and kids were back in Chicago, and my parents were out of town.
Needless to say, I made it to the finish line and felt awful. It took me about 3 hours after the race to really feel back to normal. I blamed my whole experience on the Gu Roctane gels and swore to never use any type of gel or solid fueling during races again. I would depend on water and Gatorade as fuel for my future races and this continued for the next 6 years.
As I started increasing my miles, this year, to accomplish my goal of running 1000 miles, I knew I would have to rely on something more than just water and Gatorade. One afternoon while visiting Dick’s Sporting Goods, I spotted the Gu energy chews at the checkout line. My mind immediately went back to that race and I could feel my heart rate pick up. I then noticed the label said, “No Caffeine.” I decided it was time to give the chews a try. Hey, I love gummy bears and I thought this would be perfect.
I went with the no caffeine product after reading a recent article in Runner’s World about using too much caffeine on a run. Looking back at that experience, I probably was dealing with a caffeine overdose. Remember the big cup of coffee I had pre-race?
On my next long run, I set out with a bottle of water and a pack of the Gu watermelon flavored chews. At 45 minutes, I tore into the pack and hesitantly sampled the goods. Miraculously, I had zero reactions. I actually felt pretty good to finish off the run. Had I finally conquered my fear of fueling during a run? I was feeling so good that I ordered a box of these for future use.
Having a bad experience with a particular product or situation can keep you from ever trying something again, assuming that experience wasn’t life or death. It can keep you from wanting to take a risk at your job or venturing out to try new restaurants, or to take another chance at a relationship. And it can take you years to overcome. But you can also be missing out on some experiences unnecessarily.
Do your homework and get a big ol’ dose of some courage. It’s tough to put yourself out there and be vulnerable, but it can be worth it. My long runs are now better because I decided to try something again. My body is thanking me for it.