The Tobacco Road Half Marathon was almost three weeks ago and I am just now collecting my thoughts to write about it. It didn’t turn out to be the great race I had hoped for so I’ve had some trouble working out my feelings.

In the week leading up to the race, we were preparing for thunderstorms the morning of. I had totally focused in on how to do everything possible to stop the rain from slowing us down. I bought ponchos, hats, prepped extra clothes, etc.

But the race turned out to be partly cloudy, warm, and HUMID. Conditions I hadn’t even considered.

As expected, the race was expertly handled with organizers doing everything possible to make it a great experience. It was festive and beautiful with great water stops and a fabulous start and finish fully stocked with all the chocolate milk I could drink.

Unfortunately, the actual running of the race didn’t turn out as I had hoped. I had a tough time, really lost ground in the second half, and didn’t get close to my 2-hour goal.

I suppose you could call it a great learning experience. In the spirit of the Friday Five Linkup (a weekly, themed linkup with fellow run bloggers Courtney at Eat Run Pray DC, Cynthia at You Signed Up for What and Mar at Mar on the Run), here are the five biggest things I learned from this race…

Manage expectations

Early on in my training, I knew my under-two-hour goal was going to be tough. As I got closer to the race and couldn’t keep the pace I needed, I should have reevaluated. Instead, I counted on some magical race speed to kick in. And I over-valued the flat route (which isn’t actually as flat as it was in my head). So, rather than managing my expectations or trying to do more with my training, I just decided that the race atmosphere and a flat route would improve my pace by 20-30 seconds per mile. Obviously, that magic time warp didn’t happen.

Sleep!!!!

I fully expected to be tired on race morning. It was the morning after the time changed and super early in the morning (especially for someone like me who is not an early riser.) But my level of tired was much, much worse. Like week-old-baby tired, but without the baby reward. The whole week leading up to the race was filled with sleep distractions – work thoughts, the dog, the kid, everything possible got between me and a good night’s rest. So by the time race morning rolled around, I was beyond tired. I was able to actually get up and move, but any part of my body that could rebel, did. My stomach refused to wake up making it impossible for me to eat the breakfast I needed. In the end, I ended up running the 13.1 miles on a nearly empty energy tank.

Prepare for all conditions

Like I said earlier, I was fully focused on the impending rain. The heat and humidity were a surprise. Even though I was checking the weather every 15-20 minutes, I ignored the heat and I wore long leggings instead of capris or shorts. I think I was the only person there in long pants. I hadn’t trained on any hot days. I hadn’t trained while super tired. I hadn’t even trained much in the morning. My training focused only on running and completely ignored being prepared for race conditions. That was a big mistake.

Don’t try new things

I know this. You know this. Anyone who has ever prepared for a race knows this. Don’t try new things during or too soon before a race. But I thought I could beat the system. Weeks before the race I bought new shoes. I was trying to fix my foot falling asleep issue but the shoes didn’t help. I probably had the necessary time to break them in, but I didn’t have time to compare and contrast and decide if these really were the right shoes for me. I know now that they weren’t the right shoes. I think they introduced new issues for me and didn’t help my old problems. I know I would have been better off in my old shoes.

I also started using a new music app. I used it in two runs before the race. Once it went fine, but the next time resulted in a music explosion. And, of course, that happened during the race too causing me to have to shut the whole app down and just play regular music. Unfortunately this left me without any bpm help causing my pace to fluctuate a lot. I went back to my habit of starting too fast and wore down before I was halfway done.

Stay positive

I made some mistakes and had some factors working against me, but I still ran a decent half marathon. Unfortunately, I let my disappointment get the better of me early in the run. Before I was 3 miles in, I lost sight of the 2:00 pace runner. I decided I would never make up the time and instantly felt defeated. Toward the end of the race, when the 2:10 pacer passed, I decided it didn’t matter anymore how often I walked or how long it took me to finish. Rather than seeing these things as a challenge or praising myself for persevering through tough conditions, I silently chastised myself and essentially gave up. At the end, instead of celebrating, I felt down and just wanted to forget the race.

Three weeks later, I can finally look back and feel good. The race is over, which is great. I learned a lot from the experience. And now I can look forward to future races with a new outlook.