I was watching Project Runway last night as I wound English horn blanks, and in the Finale, Part One, our designers had each prepared an 11-piece collection and were asked to display a small portion of it to the judges to see who would advance to the big final show. Most of our heroes chose to present lesser items from their collections, in order to save the “wow” pieces for the true Finale, and they were chastised by the judges for not putting their best feet forward. Since this event was an elimination round they should have brought their A games and played to win.
The parallel with orchestral auditions struck me right away. We go in with a huge number of excerpts prepared and we are asked to present just a few of them – 10 minutes or so – in each round. Unlike our designers, we can’t choose which pieces to play, but you can always choose HOW to play. Some people speak of playing “safe” in the early rounds, and not making risky interpretive choices or going for extreme dynamics. These people speak of saving something for the finals, but this philosophy doesn’t ring true to me. There are so many candidates for these positions, and it is so easy to disappear in comparison, and the only way I know to make it out of the early rounds is to play my heart out and commit to every single excerpt. And then to do it again for the next round. And the next.
In contrast, though, the running magazines all suggest starting slowly in a long race to preserve energy for a strong finish. And I used to do that in my 5K and 10K races, but I found that I ended the runs with energy left in the tank which I did not want. And that my times weren’t all that fast. Sure enough, when I went out faster I still had the strength to finish strong, and I had a great sense of having left it all out on the course, and my times were significantly improved.
When I ran my first half-marathon back in June, I started out pretty strong. Not all out – I wasn’t stupid – but I was coasting along at quite a good clip, and anticipating a good finish time because I knew I was faster than my goal pace. I had prepared and tapered well so I had lots of energy, and I was enjoying myself and passing people. All very well and good, but it turns out that 13.1 miles is a LOT farther than 6.2, and by about mile 10 I was done. I was fatigued, yes, but also feeling pain in my hips, knees, and feet. I slowed. Then I walked. I missed my goal time by only about 5 minutes, but it was not a particularly proud moment. It took a solid month to recover fully and run without pain. I can do better.
I am running my second half-marathon next weekend. I have a time goal, but also a physical one – I want to get to the end uninjured. Therefore, like our unfortunate Project Runway contestants, and UNLIKE my audition self, I will start conservatively and try to maintain my goal pace instead of showing off and wasting the finite amount of fitness and energy I have. I will leave something in the tank for the last mile. I will live to run another day.