Race Location

This is a topic I’ve been thinking about since the Rock N’ Sole run. I understand that it could be purely coincidence, but I have noticed (personally at least) the farther away from home I run my race, it seems like the worse I do. Or, rather, outside of a certain radius, it seems that my performance declines.

Take this, in Milwaukee I have run two Halfs, a Full, and an 8k. Those two Halfs are two of my three slowest (granted one was with injury), the Full was a DNF (injury), and the 8k was decent, but not great.

I’ve run two races on Colorado and California each as well. In Colorado, I opted in for a 10 miler which I ran at a 7:12 pace, slower than most of my regular 10 milers; and a Half which rounds out the bottom three Halfs I have run (again…injury). In California, I also ran one of my slower Halfs and my slowest marathon.

In fact, none of my marathons have been close to home. Grandmas Marathon was the closest at about 6.5 hours away, followed by trips to Virginia and California this spring. And while my marathon PR is in California, I felt I was in better shape than a mere 20 second PR.

My focus on this was fueled by two recent instances. After going back to back with the Cherry Creek Sneak and Pony Express Marathon, I added in the triple crown by running Market to Market in Iowa. At M2M I put down more sub 7 miles than I did in the two West Coast races combined. And again, this was the third race week in a row, so fatigue should have been a huge factor.

After falling apart at Rock N’ Sole, I chose to run a 10k the following weekend. In equal (I would say greater) heat at the 10k, I ran a far superior race. Granted it was half the distance, but a good race is a good race.

So what was the difference? The races in Colorado and California involved significant flight and drive time within two days of the race. Running both M2M and the Run to Exile involved under an hour drive time, plus a night’s sleep in my own bed. I’m starting to think there is something to be said for that.

It seems to me, that my “preferred radius” for races is about 3-3.5 hours. In fact, with the exception of the Marathon, all of my PRs in the 5k, 10k, and Half are all either in Iowa or Minnesota. Looking just at 2016, all of my top races have been in Minnesota or Iowa.

I would speculate this is for two reasons. One being (specifically for Iowa races) the ability to sleep in my own bed. Comfort and familiarity is huge for a night’s sleep. The other being drive-ability. Obviously the races in the Des Moines metro area are a close trip. Even Minnesota is a mere three hour and change drive. That really isn’t a taxing drive, especially if it comes a few hours before the race.

Take my runs in Milwaukee. While an easy drive, six hours still takes a bit out of you, whether you realize it or not. I can throw the drive to Duluth in here as well. Sure, I’ve normally given myself a day or so between the drive and race, but it might still have an effect. Your body is on high alert, and it seems we as people do tend to get a little stressed when traveling anyway.

Obviously, this is expanded ten-fold for my destination races. Time on a plane and in the car adds up. This especially played a role in my Sacramento race; having driven from LA to Sacramento to San Francisco and back to Sacramento. Probably not the best planning on my part. Ditto with flying into San Diego and running La Jolla less than 24 hours later.

Of course, you could argue that my Marathon PR was in Virginia. I would argue, though, that I grossly underachieved in that race.

Of course, for some of these races distance and travel isn’t the only factor. In the Cherry Creek Sneak I was coming off of being sick for a week (the same bug that put me down when I attempted the Leprechaun Chase a year earlier). And the Pony Express was, of course, a week later coming off of running a race while sick.

Two races in Milwaukee and one in Colorado were strictly hampered by being injured. And the Rock N’ Sole saw high temperatures plus an incredibly poor job by me of pacing the race. And the Shamrock Marathon saw us run into a 30+ mph headwind for over half the race.

So let’s not blame it all on distance from home.

Still, it is something to consider. It’s a big reason why I’ve determined that the Twin Cities Marathon will be my “A” race this fall. In fact, based on my work schedule, I will just have to make an hour to hour and a half drive to the Twin Cities four days before the race. Talk about convenience.

I’m a fan of destination races, and utilizing my travel schedule for work to hit races I wouldn’t normally be able to. I’m beginning to mentally determine, though, that maybe these races are more a perfect storm to have things go wrong. Or maybe I just need to learn how to travel and race a bit better.

I’m sure I’ll have more updates to the story as we go.

Run: On the Fourth of July I ran up to watch the 5! on the 4th race in Ames. It’s always a nice experience to be a spectator for a race. Plus, it gave me a good excuse to run up to Ada Hayden Lake early on my day off. I got a solid 10k in, negative splitting each end of that run. This morning I went in for about 7 miles, and boy was it tough. With some storms rolling through I didn’t sleep well, and was probably still feeling the affects of my margarita the night before more than I would like to admit. It wasn’t a bad run (pace wise) but it was a struggle. I’ll be going out in the blistering heat after work to tackle some stairs. So at least I’ll have some shade?

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