Running Reflections

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.

Final Thoughts

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!



About Tracy

Runner. Writer. Reader. Environmental and Indigenous Peoples advocate. Work from home Workforce Specialist. NASM Certified Personal Trainer. Assistant Varsity Track Coach. Fascinated by the ocean, waterfalls and Christmas lights.
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13 Responses to Running Reflections

  1. runeatralph says:

    It’s crazy how much a 5k near our all out pace can take out of us. I’m sure those races did have an impact.

    • TracyNicole says:

      I agree. I don’t think I realized how much of a toll it took on my body. I wanted to run 4 miles today and it turned into 3 and all were at 10 min pace. I think I’m just totally spent. Here’s to 3 days of relaxing and eating in Chicago and hoping it’s enough recovery time for my 5k next Friday!

  2. AJ says:

    Congrats on that 6 minutes. I think it’s great you took the time to work through your thoughts. It will lead to “better” running in the future I am sure:)

  3. Racing a 5k, 5 mile, and half marathon in a month is a lot! It’s good you took the time to think about everything and process it all instead of just moving ahead without thinking about how it all effected you.

    • TracyNicole says:

      I agree. I was originally hoping to break my lifetime 5k PR (set my senior year of high school!) at my race this coming Friday but I have since re-evaluated and realized that is likely too lofty of a goal right now. I still hope to run a good time and place in my age group but I’m going to try to just have fun with it since it’s a fun type run anyway – Glow in the Grove. I likely won’t race again until November when the York Winter Series starts up so I think that’ll give me time to reset on the training and get fully recovered again.

  4. Erratic Movement says:

    Well done Tracy! Six minute PB for a half is huge 🙂 I can relate to getting caught up in analysing the stats too much. I’m also more of a strong finisher so I do question myself in events when I’m not able to pick it up in the latter stages. I’m the opposite in that I really struggle with hills (a couple in the late stage of my half this weekend took it out of me) and enjoy the downhills, but I’ve also not raced any events (excluding cross country) that have any sustained downhills of significant steepness. From what I understand from listening to a lot of ultra running podcasts and talk of events that have miles and miles of nasty downhills, it trashes your quads!

    • TracyNicole says:

      Thank you! I’m glad I’m not the only one who doubts the success of a race if it’s not finished strong. I enjoy downhills if they’re just a mild grade, enough to open up and make the run feel “easy” vs feeling that I’m free falling and going to lose my footing. I have often heard that downhill running is worse physically on the legs due to the extra pounding and I’ll attest to it after that half! There is a marathon in Scranton, Pennsylvania (where my husband is from) called the Steamtown Marathon and apparently the first 8 miles are all downhill so runners can get really tore up if they don’t train properly for it.

      • Erratic Movement says:

        Yeah, definitely need to do some specificity training if there’s an 8 mile downhill! I love it but I feel like I’d have trouble reigning myself in and not going too quickly.

  5. Laurie says:

    I agree with Ralph. Other shorter races run close to the half can definitely affect your speed and stamina. I think you are being way too hard on yourself. HOH is a pretty difficult course – lots of hills. I never PR’d there for sure. Steamtown was my first marathon, so I can’t really give a good comparison, but my quads were shot after the race, I remember. Maybe I will have to do the York series this winter, too. Haven’t done it in a while. I’m gonna wait and see how my hip is feeling.

    • TracyNicole says:

      Well HOH was only my 3rd half marathon and I trained a lot better for it than either of the first two, but I know 6 minutes is still a big PR on that course. I’ve finally come to appreciate just how much of a drop in time that was! Too funny that Steamtown was your first, seems our paths have overlapped a lot in life at least as far as where we’ve been! Last year was my first year with the York winter series and I enjoyed it… for as much as anyone who hates being cold can enjoy a winter series! Let me know if you sign up but I agree waiting to see if you’re fully recovered is a good thing.

  6. The J Teem says:

    Congrats for placing in your age group! I have the tendency to over analyze my run as well. Why do we beat ourselves up after achieving what most don’t?

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