This weekend’s Secret City Half Marathon was a failure race for me. I shot for the moon, but burnt up before leaving Earth’s atmosphere. To write a mile-by-mile race report would only serve to wallow in my feelings.

I won’t lie – I had a pity party for myself, but tried to keep it contained.  After crossing the finish line, I went behind the building and let myself cry.  Sob really, because I’m a loser like that. But like the walk breaks I’ve begun to allow myself to take, I limited it to 1 minute.  In that minute I let it all loose.  Then I counted down and dried it up in the last 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1.

Then I got up, dusted myself off, and went to celebrate with my running friends for their accomplishments.  For my Ragnar teammate Amy, this was her first ever half marathon.  She completed it in a stellar time! My buddy Jay S had the honor of running the relay with his wife – and completing the 2ndloop alongside her. 

I don’t want to have run 13 miles for nothing.  I mean the bling was okay, but nothing to write home about. Plus, they served foreos (faux oreos) at the post race buffet.  Instead, I want to learn from this experience. I want to become a better racer in 2014. Be more focused, but less short sighted with my goals. I want to enjoy racing again, not waking up with a sick belly full of nerves race morning.

What I did wrong

Lack of training – November was my 3rd lowest mileage month (behind May & June).  Between my last half marathon (October 13th) and yesterday, I only had 1 occurrence of mileage above 20 for a week.  Not sure that counts, since it happened the week ofRagnar – where I had 19 miles in 2 days.

Lack of mental preparation – I’m mentally weak. I too frequently (and early as in the case of this race) decide that I suck and give up.  Also, I had no real race strategy. Of course there was talk of the benefits of negative splits, but having never really tried I have no confidence in my ability to achieve them. Which led to…

Going out too fast – Seems to contradict the above, but I thought I had a sub 2 hour race in me.  My 2 training runs in the week prior were both great paces with little effort on my part.  I thought I was faster, and when my first 3 miles were in the 8:5X-9:10 range, I felt strong and thought I would be able to keep them up or get faster.  I thought wrong.

Not doing my homework – In my head, this was a flat course.  I remembered the double loop from racing it 3 years ago and didn’t bother to review the terrain and elevation gain. Turns out, I was remembering the wrong double loop course.  The Haunted Half in Kingsport really is flat.  While Secret City is flat, relative to Knoxville, it does have some gradual inclines that psyched me out.

The weather – My body isn’t adjusted to breathing cold air yet. My lungs hate fog. The temperature was a good 10 degrees colder than predicted. While these aren’t things I could have changed, I should have adjusted for them.

*My long runs were done in the afternoon hours thanks to the way life fell, but I should have made a point to do at least 1 early morning run. 
*I should have adjusted my pacing expectations with the fog, rather than attempting to push through.
*Morning of, I should have rechecked the weather and added layers (my thighs get cold easily then decide not to work properly).
Adjusting for the future

Training – I suck at training. Before you jump on me for being negative – facts are facts.  I very rarely follow a training plan. As a matter of fact, I only closely followed a plan for 2 of my 6 half marathons this year.  Both of those resulted in PRs, despite being within a month of one another.

More realistic goals– If I don’t have the opportunity to play with paces in training, I shouldn’t guesstimate a fast pace come race day. 

Focused racing – I participated in 18 races this past year, with 2 planned but didn’t happen. (Calhoun’s 10 miler due to snow. On Cosby walked w/Grandfather.) I need to be more selective about races and train accordingly. Right or wrong “to finish” has ceased to be a goal I shoot for in races.  Maybe that will change if I entertain the notion of Ultra Marathons, but for the distances I’m doing now completion (barring injury) shouldn’t be a question.

Cross training – 2013 has been the year of the neglect when it comes to doing other things. I opted out of triathlon training this summer, something I want to add back in next year. Life got complicated; I got burnt out, and gave up on weight training.

I want to get away from worrying about pace so much, and have all-but decided to run the 2014 Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon.  I’m a stronger runner than 2 years ago, so a PR is highly likely without stressing over it.  No crazy goals (I’d entertained the idea of training so I could cut an hour off my PR), no pressure.  Just training, running, and enjoying. Kelly & Amy are both in for 26.2 and I can’t think of better company with whom I’d like to spend hours every Saturday morning training.

Secret City Half Marathon finishing time: 2:11:55