As part of the post-race exercise my coach asked that I put together a list things that worked well for me this race, as well as a some things that didn’t that I might change for future preparation or simply not do again.
Overall I feel pretty good about Sunday’s race. You can’t complain about a 4 minute PR, ever. Especially one that’s as a result of a mostly run-free spring and summer; the product of just two months of butt busting to build strength and speed for race day. I am happy that I did well and grateful that I had the opportunity to do so. But, my goal was a 1:35 and I came in at 1:37, so there is room for improvement and I won’t get over that part. I’m not losing any sleep over it, but I am already trying to plan my next road race to shut my brain up and prove more fastness.
It was a good exercise to think about things I’d do again versus things I shouldn’t do again, ever because it forced me to think about what I’ve learned and how far I’ve come. And it made me identify specific actions that I’m responsible for that contributed to and handicapped meeting my goal. The best part being that if I’m responsible that means that I have control over these things, meaning that I can change them, meaning that I can make sure they go better (or keep going well) next time around.
Here’s the summary:
Things I’d do again to prepare for race success. For sure.
1. Running the course pre-race. Usually I drive courses or just generally study up on the terrain, but running it so many times really helped me focus on what I knew was coming next (flat stretches, hills, turns, etc.). Though I may not be able to replicate that for IMC, it worked well for this race and is something I would find helpful to replicate when I can. It was a huge relief while I was pushing myself through the race that I didn’t have to think about how far I had to go, since I just knew and knew how to stick to the plan.
2. Plan water station stops and stick to the plan. I used this tactic during Black Diamond too, and rather than waiting until I’m thirsty I just made a goal to run through every water station if only for a tiny sip. For the Seattle Half I planned ahead to stop at alternating stations and hit that right on target. I never felt like I was fighting dehydration or nutritionally related lack of energy, and I think planning it out ahead of time contributed to that. I’ve never used Gu during a half and forced down 3. No stomach issues and once I recovered from the Madison and Interlaken hills I felt good nutritionally speaking.
3. Pre-race Warm-up. Jogging to the start line and a few long sprints made a big difference in the start of my race. The warm-up calmed some pre-race jitters and got (and kept) me warm, and I didn’t have trouble adjusting to going out fast. Usually in a race, and sometimes even in a high intensity training session, my HR spikes really high and then levels, but that feeling always generates a bit of panic and I was happy to not experience that this race.
Things I wouldn’t do again, or would change, to make sure future races are a success.
1. Don’t feel locked in to the pacing group. I mentioned in my short race recap, the pacer was a blessing and curse. He reminded me that I needed to get myself out of the crowd and keep moving for the first few miles, but the zig zagging and catch up on his terms rather than my own stressed me out and used energy inefficiently. Bottom line is that I think to feel really in the race I need to establish my own footing.
2. Use training to build confidence (not just fitness). I didn’t feel extremely confident heading into this race. I did strong training leading up to it and hit most of the training goals, but for some reason I never felt confidence build alongside progress made. During training even when I hit pace/time I felt like I could have done better, and when I missed splits or pace by just 2 seconds I felt down on my performance. Long progression runs did a tremendous amount for my fitness (I wouldn’t change those at all!) but I wasn’t accustomed to the effect they have and without the “that was easy!” feeling that I’m used to during long runs (which I’ve done slow and steady in the past) I didn’t build myself up as much. Probably nothing to change here, just a learning curve thing.
3. Practice racing. I feel toughest and most aggressive during training, as opposed to when I race, so I think I need to race more to practice my mindset. During training I welcome the challenge, but during a race I get more worried about pushing myself too hard and find myself worrying about not finishing. Silly, but true. A race doesn’t get me into a competitive mindset anymore than a training run with difficult pace parameters does, so I think I need to find a better way to position a race in my mind so that I’m focused on “beating” my own plan.