Tomorrow will be one week since I ran the Hands on House Half Marathon. I think I can finally say I’ve fully mentally decompressed since the race. That was somewhat of an odd process for me to go through as typically I run a race and have fully processed it either that day or the next. Here is a breakdown of the various thoughts I had:
Post Race Thoughts
I was so glad to be finished the half marathon when I crossed the line. I don’t think I’ve ever been so physically and mentally ready to be done a race; I was ready for it to be over before mile 11 even began. Besides just feeling completely spent, I was emotionally down. I didn’t anticipate the last 3.1 miles to feel the way they did or to be ran as slowly as they were.
I have always been known for a strong kick to the finish. In high school I knew that in a cross country meet I would outkick anyone in a final sprint. I attributed it to my sprinters’ training in track (I was a hurdler) and that it was in my heart and soul to finish that way. During my cross country seasons I don’t recall any race that I was ever beat within the last 100m. I carried that mentality with me throughout my road races. While I may not have always been able to fully sprint to the finish, I’ve always been able to at least pick up the pace and/or lengthen my stride to finish harder. Not being able to finish that way last Saturday was a blow to my self esteem. It made me question my training, my race strategy and myself as a runner in general.
My saving grace was placing in my age group. It was totally unexpected and definitely made all the suffering worth it. Even though I had ran a half marathon personal best, improving by 6 minutes from the Blue-Gray Half Marathon, I didn’t feel like I accomplished anything until my name was called to receive my award. When I viewed the overall results later that day and saw how well I placed overall and among all the females that furthered my sense of accomplishment.
Thoughts Through the Week
Despite feeling that I accomplished something I was still not satisfied with my race performance. I reviewed my mile splits several times, not something I tend to do. I was trying to wrap my head around my slowing down. I think the concept of negative splits was too engrained in my mind and that fueled my disappointment. I hadn’t physically felt like I went out too hard, I was comfortable with my pace.
That massive downhill was a real unexpected blow to me. I’m not sure if I should have ran it differently, I certainly wasn’t flying down the hill, but it tore my legs up so much. I would’ve taken another decent uphill in that race than to have ran that downhill. It freaked me out mentally. I feel like I should watch some videos of downhill running and learn how to best prepare in case I ever face that type of downhill again.
I had a massage Tuesday after work and expected to really feel the effects in my legs from the half. Surprisingly my hamstrings and calves were not as bad as I expected and even my therapist was impressed. Oddly enough she had to spend more time working on a knot in my upper left trapezius area, a spot that I did feel from time to time during the half despite shaking out my arms regularly. Darn desk job I suppose. The massage gave me a lot of time to truly relax and think about the race, and I think it helped begin the “coming to terms” portion of the process.
Wed. I went for an easy 3 mile run. My legs were a tad heavy but felt ok overall. It felt good just to be moving. It was also nice to just run without a real focus on time or distance.
I began to think of my race in terms of how I would’ve talked to one of my athletes about it had he or she ran it. I have finally come to appreciate just how big of an improvement 6 minutes was. I am so much stronger this year than this time last year. Although I’ve been told it and know it to be true, I realize that using my energy throughout the race in the way that I did was much better than being able to kick it hard to the finish line. All my long runs throughout training were decent and I never really had any bad days, so it’s ok that I had a “bad” few miles during the race. Everyone has their bad times and at least mine didn’t inhibit me from running a great time or earning an award.
In analyzing what might’ve caused me to not finish as strong as I would’ve liked, I think there would be two driving factors:
1 – I raced hard in a short span of time leading up to the half. The Quarterback Club 5k and White Rose 5 Miler were great events. I’m glad I ran them because they were a good self esteem boost and proved to me how much strength and speed I had gained. However, running both the same month as the half just wasn’t great planning. I don’t think I’ll be racing three times in one month again, or if I do I won’t be racing as hard as I did.
2 – In running the White Rose 5 miler I sacrificed running one last long run two weeks before the half. Although I did run 10 miles the day after the race, it just wasn’t the same. 15 miles in two days does not equate to the endurance challenge of running 13-14 miles. I was physically beat up after doing it, probably more so than if I had just ran a long run, and I don’t think I mentally benefitted from it. I had questioned several times if I should sign up for the five miler and that should’ve been a red flag that it wasn’t the best idea. I partially blame the enticement of earning a free shirt for running all 3 of the 717 Series races. I can’t say for sure whether running my last long run three weeks before the half instead of two is what harmed me the most, but future training plans will stick to running the last long run two weeks in advance of a half marathon.
As I was in the last mile of the race I had negative thoughts of “Why am I doing this?” and “I’m not doing this again”. Even before I knew I had placed in my age group that mentality had gone away. I know why I did it, why I do it and why I’ll continue to do it. Running is part of my identity. If I’m asked “Tell me about yourself” one of the first things I say is that I’m a runner. While that doesn’t likely mean much to someone who isn’t a runner, I know the running community understands what that means.
Every race is an adventure, a challenge and a learning experience. I’m grateful for the lessons taught to me by the Hands on House Half Marathon. They will serve to improve me both as a person and an athlete. Here’s to humbling races and great performances, even if they take a few days to fully appreciate!