Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Battle That Raged Within - Secret City Half Marathon Recap-Part 2

Enjoying some Gatorade at the halfway point.
In spite of the overall wonderful experience I had at the Secret City Half Marathon, there was one thing I really struggled with. In fact, I wrestled with this issue for a few days after the event.

I had no clue on how I should approach this half marathon.

All along, I viewed this race as a 'fun' one. Just one to enjoy the scenery, clock 13.1 miles, collect another t-shirt and medal and just have fun, in large part, because my kids were also running. I wanted the day to be more about them. I, after all, had already run three half marathons and this was their first race ever.

Confusing me even more was the fact that this was the second of three half marathons I running in within a seven-week stretch. On Oct. 23, I ran the Iron Horse Half Marathon in Midway, Ky., the Secret City Half was on Nov. 20, and I'm running the Smokies Santa Hustle Half on Dec. 11 in Sevierville, Tenn. I had never participated in races so close together before. Not even 5Ks.

But someone wants to become a Half Fanatic, so I registered for these three races.

It's one thing to train for one race, but I'm still trying to figure out how to prep myself for a race so close after finishing one. (Add the fact my work life got CRAZY in between the Iron Horse Half and the Secret City Half didn't help.)

Lastly, I not only PR'ed but blew past my goal time of 2:15 at the Iron Horse Half. After posting a time of 2:09:42 four weeks prior and still feeling good and strong, I wasn't sure if I should push for another PR or just try to maintain a solid pace and register another sub-2:15 time.

Because I didn't have this settle prior to the start, I waffled on what I should do during the race. I told myself, "Just have fun. Let's see what happens." But that's not how things turned out.

I was cruising along earlier on, running at about a 9:30 per mile pace. When I hit the 5-mile mark, only 48 minutes had past and I was well ahead of my PR pace.

But that's when my trouble really began.

While I was on pace to PR, I had not really trained to PR this race. The Iron Horse Half was my PR race. My whole purpose for running the Iron Horse Half was to PR. I didn't set out a clear purpose for the Secret City Half.

Celebrating another successful
half marathon!
I had maintained race shape, but I was not in PR shape.

And it really hit home during the final 5K of the race.

While the course description says the Secret City Half is relatively flat, it's a lie. Oh, I've ran hilly course. The Go! St. Louis Half is still the hilliest race I've been in, and the Iron Horse seemed hilly to me. However, the final 3.1 miles of the Secret City Half is a steady incline. It's not too steep, but you are continually running uphill. And if you aren't prepared for it, it'll bite ya!

And I got bit!

Slowly but surely, my legs became more and more filled with lead. It was a grind, especially the last half mile. Still, I chugged along. I wanted to push harder, but I had nothing left. I had confused myself so much about why I was running that I burned myself out to early, not leaving much in the tank.

Still, I finished with a time of 2:11:14 for a pace just a tick over 10:01 per mile ... just over a minute and half my PR time.

And I'm pleased with that. Actually, I'm really happy with it.

At first, I didn't know what to make of my finishing time. But it didn't take my long to embrace it. See, just seven months prior, my best time was 2:31:01. Sure, this finishing time wasn't a PR, but look how far I've come and in such a short period of time. A time of 2:11:14 is worth celebrating!

I learned a couple valuable lessons. First, I'm not going to PR every race. It's just not possible. I need to run the best race I possibly can that day and embrace and enjoy the experience. Secondly, and most importantly, being mentally prepared to handle a race is just as important as being physically ready.

Happy running!

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