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Details Matter in the "Do Over" Race

Trust me, I went faster than this picture from the start would indicate.

I'm a firm believer in "Do Over" races. Few things are more frustrating for me than a truly bad race. And when I say, "bad race," I'm not talking about one where a shoe becomes untied, or one of my earbuds goes out.

When I say "bad" race, I'm talking about one that was as an epic serving of humiliation that sticks to me like stale peanut butter to the roof of your mouth. An awful taste that I cannot wait to purge from my mouth.

Although subsequent races certainly do their part in that cleansing, it's not really until I can actually run that same race again before I can finally put that experience behind me.

All of which is a perfect segue to this year's St. Paddy's Half Marathon. Courtesy of subzero wind chills, last year's race was a thoroughly miserable experience that resulted in my slowest half marathon time ever.

Clearly grounds qualifying for a "Do Over."

And while the odds stood strongly against a repeat of last year's Antarctic conditions, I am not someone who is going to approach the sacred "Do Over" race without doing everything necessary to ensure a thorough expunging of last year's debacle.

What did that mean?

I'm glad you asked.

It meant focusing on a myriad of details leading into the 2024 St. Paddy's Half Marathon.

  • Saturday Morning Runs of 11-14 miles. These long slow runs helped me become more comfortable with the distance of this race. Better yet, the longer it took, the more likely that my lovely wife would be up with the coffee ready when I made it home.

The post-race festivities are just starting.
  • Quality Time in My Vaporflys. Since I've experienced some discomfort recently with my training shoes, I used my Nike Vaporfly racing shoes for both a shorter run as well as a long Saturday workout to be certain that they and my feet would be on good terms come race day.

  • Pre-Race Body Work. Careful attention to addressing a couple of minor issues (Meet my left piriformis and right pectineus.) with stretches added to my workout regimen to prevent either from becoming a problem later. A massage therapy appointment three days before the race provided the greenlight for that half marathon.

  • Tapering Means Tapering. Which means slowing down my pace along with easing back my miles during the week of the race. No tired legs for me on race day!

  • Listen to My Coach. Although a bit irked when Tim cut my final speed workout short the Monday before the race, it ultimately paid off as that energy was better utilized in those final miles. Likewise, his recommended strategy on easing more carefully into my pace proved significant.

  • Saw Those Logs. I may go to bed early the night before a race, but as my wife will attest, that will not be the most fitful slumber I'll experience. To accommodate that, I try to have my best night of sleep two evenings before the race. Hence, Thursday t'was the night I turned into a pumpkin at 830 pm.

  • Munch! Munch! I'm one for traditions such as fueling up. As a result, I greatly appreciated Amy serving us pasta with meatballs the night before running 13.1 miles. (For what's it worth, I skipped the wine - and any alcohol - that evening.)

Iowa's State Capitol!

But this attention to detail did not stop there. It commenced early the following morning. Very early.

  • Even Roosters Hate Me. My eyes were wide open several moments before my 4 am alarm to commence my pre-race routine.

  • No Monkeying Around with Energy. I'm not one to eat much before a race. But based on my coach's recommendation about fueling up, I changed my routine to eat a banana while waiting for my coffee to brew.

  • My Favorite Addiction. Three cups of freshly ground coffee found their down my throat as I read the early morning news. Why the coffee and all that free time before I have to leave? Let's be blunt. It's to stimulate my body to function so that the unthinkable doesn't occur during the race. (Can I just say poop before I leave home?)

At this point, I'd essentially done all that could for the race. Outside of a mile warm up, it's a matter of chatting with other runners before the start. But once the gun goes off, there was still work to be done.

  • Be Patient with Patience. Recalling how hard I slammed into the proverbial runner's wall at my last half, I worked to keep my pace relaxed and controlled. It dropped a few seconds with each mile along Gray's Lake and Waterworks Park. Thanks to those longer runs, I felt more comfortable with the overall distance ahead of me.

  • Savor the experience. Simply acknowledging that for someone in their sixties, I am able feel the same anxiety, excitement, fatigue and competitiveness that I experienced decades earlier is a remarkable sensation that I truly relish.

My wife calls this "Angry Rick," an expression brought on by walkers who did not always adhere to the golden rule of running.

End result, this year's St. Paddy's race awarded me my best half marathon in nearly two years. More importantly, in addition to exorcising the harsh experience from the the previous year, I feel better prepared for my next half marathon out in Eugene in late April.

No question the improved weather played a role. But more importantly, I believe this race served a key reminder of value of paying keen attention to the little details going into a race. Disregarding any one of them could have led to a far different and more disappointing outcome.

What are your thoughts? Do you believe in "Do Overs?" And what about my preparations? Anything I overlooked? Any strategies that you have to offer?

If so let me know below in the comments or on Facebook.


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Jim Gray
Jim Gray
Mar 29

Definitely believe in do-overs. I bonked on the Algonquin 50K race this year when weather conditions were great and expectations of a PR. Didn't happen due to poor fueling and maybe not enough recovery time since my last 50K. Only answer is to go back next year and show that course who is boss! Great article Rick! Also, it's okay to say "poop" 😀

Replying to

Thanks for the comments, Jim. I thought I wasn't alone with "do overs." And I'm impressed with a 50K I've never raced beyond a half marathon. Best of luck with your running!


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