Overcoming a Disappointing Race

Have you ever trained for a race, only to come up short of your goal? It can be frustrating, disappointing, and feel like a waste of time. All that hard work for nothing. If you can relate (and most of you probably can), here are some ways to evaluate where things may have gone wrong.

Red White and Boom

Thursday was the fourth annual Twin Cities in Motion Red White and Boom half marathon. When my alarm went off at 4:50 am, I leapt out of bed. Coming off of my fastest half marathon in May, I was eager to try and finally break 1:30.

TCM organized a fantastic event as usual. The course starts on St. Anthony Main, travels through the industrial and residential areas of Northeast Minneapolis and finishes across the Stone Arch bridge. A beautiful setting for a 4th of July half marathon PR.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

Race Strategy

I lined up at 6:30 am with 2,217 other racers, and hit my first five miles right on pace. My strategy was to run 6:55 – 7 min pace for the first 6 miles, then speed up to 6:45 for the next four, then hit 6:35-ish for the final 5k. Easier said than done.

Everything was going according to plan until The Hill on St. Anthony Parkway. Somewhere between miles 5.5/6.5 there’s a half mile long hill that just keeps going. This was the beginning of the end of my bid at 1:30. I finished in 1:34:19.

What went wrong?

How to Analyze a Race

After every race, even if you PR, you should analyze what went well, and what you could improve. Things you should consider are your;

  • Training Plan – Did you hit the miles appropriate for your race distance and do a variety of workouts?
  • Nutrition – Did you eat enough quality food?
  • Rest – Did you get enough sleep and taper properly?
  • Goals – Did you set appropriate and realistic goals?

It’s only been a few days, but here’s my analysis on why I think I missed 1:30.

Lack of Focused Training Plan

I didn’t have a clearly defined goal. Sure, I want to break 1:30, but I didn’t specifically train with that in mind. I certainly didn’t do any hill work, which would have helped. I spent so much energy on my last race, that this mini-cycle felt like a chore. Time to refocus!

Improper Nutrition

The previous week we were on vacation, and didn’t eat the healthiest. Lots of rich foods I normally don’t eat. I definitely felt the effects of lots of greasy burgers, fries and craft beer. We’d been home several days, but it still contributed to the sluggishness.

Shorter Taper

Unlike previous races, I didn’t really have a taper. Last week was a little lighter, but not much. Also, since the race was on Thursday, I had two fewer days to rest my legs. They definitely felt heavier during the race (especially after that hill). I now realize how important tapering is.

Loss of Mental Focus During the Race

I fell apart mentally at the hill. Often, your mind won’t let your body go any faster, no matter how hard you try. My mind convinced my legs that it was ok to maintain the pace I was at, rather than speed up to make up the time.

There are some days you’ve got it, and some you don’t. You’re not always going to PR. The best thing you can do is set your sights on another race, and apply your learnings forward.

Question: What’s your best advice for overcoming a less than stellar race performance?

Nathan Freeburg
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Nathan Freeburg

Editor in Chief at Minneapolis Running
Nathan started running when he was 14. 20+ years later, he's still going. When he's not running, he enjoys exploring the city with his son, finding new restaurants with his wife, traveling, or backpacking. He loves dark beer, dark chocolate and dark coffee.

Nathan currently lives in Portland, but works in Minneapolis and runs wherever he is. Favorite Minnesota running route is anything that takes him along the Mississippi River.
Race Results.

Nathan's day job is as a senior consultant with Leadership Vision Consulting in Downtown Minneapolis.
Nathan Freeburg
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