I hear you thinking ‘Den What’? Is that a place or a city? And where is it located? In case you never heard of Den Helder before – and I can’t blame you for that if you don’t live in Holland – it’s a town located beside the coast in the Upper Northwest of Holland, about 1,5-hour drive away from where I live. Last Sunday, the yearly half marathon event of Den Helder was held, and I decided very last minute to participate. I knew, that it would be the last chance to participate in a race before heading to New Zealand, so I thought, why not. Moreover, it was also a nice opportunity to test my training results so far. And I can tell you, a test it was, for sure!
When I woke up that Sunday morning, the weather was just beautiful. With a temperature of 11 degrees, the sun was shining and there was almost no sign of wind, which is very unusual for this particular area. These weather circumstances made me very confident for the race to come. For a moment, I actually thought it would be possible to run a new PR. I guess, due to the 20k race at the beginning of March, I became a bit too confident. But honestly, running that 20k race back then was really a piece of cake. I didn’t need to push myself to the limit, which felt great, and most importantly, I enjoyed every bit of the race. With an average pace of 5:28, I was actually quite happy with my training result.
What went wrong?
You can already guess, last Sunday, however, it didn’t go as expected. As confident as I was beforehand, the more demolished I was afterwards. In fact, it was my worst race ever. Even during my very first half marathon I ran easier and faster, which made it even more painful. So, what went wrong then? What about the progression I wrote about just one week before the race? Coincidence? I wish I’d have a straight answer to all that. But unfortunately I don’t. The only thing I can do now, is look back on that day and evaluate what could have caused performing less. As I wrote before: running is an on-going process, and apparently, I needed a little reminder of that.
The first 10k of the race I started off as scheduled. Although, I was getting slightly slower with every kilometre to come, it was still within the margin. One thing in particular, though, was distracting me right from the start; I just wasn’t in a good mood that day. I couldn’t enjoy the sunny weather, the cheering people along the course and my body felt very tight from the beginning on. It got even worse.
From the 10k mark on, my pace was getting slower and slower. My energy was gone. Taking an energy gel, which normally helps to get me back on track, didn’t help either. My body just felt empty. At a certain point – when my pace reached 6:47 – I even considered walking. Luckily, I was able to somehow push through, and eventually I finished. This time, unfortunately not with a smile on my face. So, again, what went wrong? What could have caused my discomfort?
Finding the cause by comparing races
Similar to the race in March, the Half Marathon of Den Helder wasn’t planned beforehand, so I participated rather spontaneously as part of my training scheme. However, looking back on both races, there were also a few differences between them, and I’m not talking about the distance difference of 1,0975 km.
The first difference I can think of, concerns my expectations. Back in March, I didn’t have any expectations at all when it came to reaching a certain goal. I considered that race as a ‘fun-run’. This in contrast to the race last Sunday; I wanted to prove to myself that I could do better. Clearly, I wasn’t ready yet. And I should have known better. Being in the middle of my training scheme for a half marathon at the end of May, it wasn’t my time to peak. Furthermore, one very important part of the running game wasn’t balanced. And still isn’t. I totally neglected the mind-part of running, which actually shouldn’t be a big surprise to me.
Leaving Holland in less than 2 weeks brings certainly stress with. Saying goodbye to everyone, things to organise…all these emotions going on in my head, no wonder! It all makes sense now, or at least, it could be one of the reasons why my race didn’t go as expected. The focus was missing. And maybe it was just too much to handle without noticing it. I’m not sure. Anyway, it made me think about and I realized that I need to take a few steps back. So, for now, I’ve decided to take a break from my training scheme and only go out for a run whenever I feel like. That means I still run quite a lot, but I don’t feel the pressure to perform a certain way. Once I’m settled down in Auckland, I will continue with my training scheme, let’s see how it goes then.
So, again, another lesson learned: don’t underestimate the mind-part of the running game and try to find your balance. It’s definitely good to uncover your limits every now and then. This is what makes you stronger. But at the same time, it’s also important to listen to your body and to know when you’ve reached your limits, whether it’s physically or mentally. In the end, I run because it’s fun and it makes me feel good – at least most of the time. And it should stay that way. So hey, I ran another half marathon and I’ve got another medal in the pocket!
Have a nice weekend y’all! I will go out now for another ‘relaxing’ run…