I'm beginning to think that home field advantage is overrated. And not just because my beloved Giants played all of their playoff games on the road to earn their '07 Superbowl victory and 2/3 of their playoff games on the road to this past year's victory.
Rather, it may be in your best interest to not know the details of a course before the start of a race. I know this sounds crazy. Race a course blind and not know where the hills are or how to run the tangents? Hear me out.
One of the reasons I picked the Clemson half as my first race post-baby is because I wanted to do well. I wanted to give myself all of the possible advantages on race day so I had a positive comeback experience. That meant choosing a course I knew.
There really is no where I know better than the roads, trails, and dikes of Clemson. I ran there throughout college and regularly in the nearly 8 years since (wow… I'm so old) then because my in-laws live nearby.
In my race two weeks ago, I knew exactly where every uphill was and how long it would last. I spent my time on the down-hills and flats thinking about those hills (specifically the ones between miles 7- 8.5 and 10.2- 12.2). Which may have been part of the problem. Since I knew what was coming, did I hold back?
In contrast, this past weekend at Racefest, I didn't know the course at all. I'd heard it was hilly, but I was racing "for fun" so I didn't see a need to study the elevation map or drive the course the day before to preview it.
The result: every time I ran uphill, I gave it my all because I hoped it would be the final hill. Of course, it rarely was. By mile 11 my legs burned more than they ever have before in a race, and I'm still feeling the effects of this effort nearly a week later. But I ran over a minute and a half faster than the Clemson race and earned a shiny new PR, which is what matters. Obviously.
Did not knowing the course work to my benefit? Running is mostly a mental sport after all.
My new PR is only 41 seconds slower than my dream half marathon time, sub 1:40. I have no doubt that I can run that time soon (like Fall soon; I'm done racing 1/2s for awhile). Now I just need to decide if I'll run a course I know or one that's full of surprises…
Thoughts on home course advantage?