I feel like a lot has already been written about this race: the weather was a big question mark, the race time was delayed, the weather ended up being decent, the turn out was poor, the WTAC vs. TNT battle didn't materialize. I ended up running 35:37 this year, good for a 17 second PR and 4th place overall. I should be relatively happy about this. The event itself was great fun with many running friends in attendance. The problem is that I didn't perform well and I'm probably going to focus on it until I get to race again. And my problem is completely mental, it is not physical - that part I train well. Here's a lowdown of where I fell short and how I need to improve:
1. Pre-Race - Despite nailing the final workout in the training plan I was doing (3x2 miles @ goal 10K pace) I have been feeling slow. This happens when I haven't been doing as many hard runs, or most of my runs are on trails. Actually, I'm doing the right thing by tapering for a race, but mentally I feel like I've gotten slower. Doubt about hitting my goal pace (5:40/mile) set in.
Once it appeared the weather would be an issue, it seemed like that would automatically mean a slower time.
Rather than getting excited/nervous about the race as the day approached, I was more preoccupied with work, Christmas, and travel logistics. This can be a good thing, but this goal race was becoming an afterthought.
2. The Race - Basically, due to the small crowd this year, the race was a time trial for me. What I've enjoyed about this race in the past is the level of competition. This helps a weak minded competitor like me thrive. I run better when I'm chasing or being chased and not concerned with how I'm feeling at the moment. At the race start, I latched onto Bob Jackman's shoulder briefly, but when he pushed ahead, I "knew" I couldn't keep up with him today. This is not based on recent experience, rather his results in this race. So after a half mile or so, I was alone. I could watch Mike Galoob (in first) followed by Bob and Chris Garvin (2nd and 3rd) for a while. I heard no one behind me. Begin time trial.
My first mile was a little fast, but it is mostly downhill and I wasn't working hard at all. Then I had to work harder to maintain a slower pace, but I didn't have the drive to push hard enough to at least keep my goal pace. I had my watch set to display my lap pace, but never hit the lap button, so I could see my average pace for the entire race (or where I was at a certain point). I just watched as the average pace slowly ticked up the further I got. The course is beautiful and possibly a nice distraction, but it didn't help me. My mind was made up that I was not going to hit my target time, and I had no runners around me. I wasn't running hard enough not because I wasn't capable, but rather because I was settling.
I perked up a bit during miles 4 and 5 as there were a couple of small hills to contend with, and I attacked them hard enough so my overall pace wouldn't slow down. In fact, my average pace dropped a second or two. I was passing walkers, which was a welcomed distraction.
I hit the Mile 5 mark and the negative thoughts rushed back. I thought I might start bonking. This never happened, it was just in my head. I always muster up a fast last mile plus. I could have made up some time here, despite the slower terrain. Instead I slowed down. I mostly bagged it the rest of the way. My splits on Strava confirm this:
Mile 1 5:31 -25ft
Mile 2 5:47 10ft
Mile 3 5:47 -12ft
Mile 4 5:44 -4ft
Mile 5 5:45 -8ft
Mile 6 5:58 44ft
Last .2 6:04 10ft
3. Post-Race - My lackluster performance was outshined by the races my WTAC teammates put together. Mike won with a fast PR, Chris outkicked Bob, I got to watch 5th, 6th, and 7th places come in close together - Jeff, Nate, and Seth. Some of us headed out on a cool down and I got to see more teammates including my dad (who won his age division). The delayed race start made me late for a family gathering on my wife's side, so I had to leave before the awards and the team lunch. I'm happy to be a part of such a great bunch of people.
So now what? I would say I learned a lesson, but it is one I already was taught. I have the ability thanks to my relentless training. I need to work on the mental aspects, but this is a struggle for me in not just running. I am looking forward to the 4th Season Trail Series. I can't wait to redeem myself.