A running buddy of mine criticized me for not "cooling down" after a fiveK with an easy jog. I'm fairly new at racing and don't know anything about this. What advice can you give about the "cooldown"? Rick from Flower Mound
Your friend is correct that a good cooldown is helpful after a race, as a slightly elevated heart rate helps flush accumulated lactic acid, keeps you from stiffening up, and speeds recovery. But enough of that sports physiology mumbo jumbo. There is another reason why cooling down is important, and it has to do with your persona as a runner.
Face facts. In every race there are two groups of runners: those who finished ahead of you, and those who finished behind you. Who are the runners who finished ahead of you? They're lucky people who happened to have a good race that day. They're not necessarily faster or better than you, and with a bit more training you can beat them next week.
But more important, who are the people who finished behind you?
These runners have no business being in the same race with you, and you must make sure they know it. If not, you run the risk of having them come up to you later and try to talk, tell you about their race, or in a wild act of temerity attempt to befriend you. You must put a stop to this quickly so they know their place. And the perfect way to do this is in what I call the "Pro Cooldown."
Here is what you should do immediately after a hard fiveK. Grab a water bottle and jog the entire course again, so you get another 3 miles in. But here is the key: make absolutely sure you run the course from the finish line back to the start, not the other way around. This way you run opposite the lowlifes still out on the course, as an "in your face" reminder to them that you are top dog today.
To do this well, you must adopt an air of studied indifference to the people you pass. If you pass someone you know, for heaven's sake, don't yell, "Way to go!" or the nonsensical "Woo Hoo!" Instead, a low wave, flip of the hand as you go by is sufficient, if you bother at all. Act as if fast people seldom notice anyone slower.
There is one key exception. Let's say that purely by luck, someone is in the crowd of losers who has in the past beaten you in a race or two, a key rival you hate. Now the rule changes. For this competitor you must offer banal, yet chilling words of encouragement: "Go for it Mike!" "Hang in there Henry!" "Lookin' fine Mindi!" This appears to bolster their self-esteem, in the knowledge that you permit them to share the oxygen we all require. It is all the acknowledgement they need or in fact deserve, but more importantly it will drive them insane!
Here are three more techniques that have worked well for me. First, drink often from the water bottle so it appears you are running effortlessly. "Hey, I can drink, talk and run at the same time. How you doin'?"
Second, throw in some fast strides during the cooldown, but wait until you are about even with the middle of the loser pack, so you can show to the greatest number of people that you have plenty left. This says, "Sure, I ran hard today and beat you, but if I wanted to I could still run another hard mile. This is easy."
Third, find someone of about your own speed and finish place to cool down with, and spend the whole time chatting amiably about this and that, totally ignoring the others. Laugh a lot. They'll get the idea.
If you can incorporate the "Pro Cooldown" after every race, you will not only maintain fitness, but also show others "who's your daddy". Naturally I recount these rules and advice with this degree of accuracy in full recollection of the many times they have been used on me, your fellow back-of-the-packer. Good luck. Spareribs"