It's the first race of your season, and you're excited to put your legs to the test. You want to do well but also realize this race is just the first step of the season; your fitness will ideally improve from here.
The first race of the season provides a way to gauge your fitness right now, but, most importantly, it's a learning tool for all of the other races to come this season.
Why the First Race of the Season Is so Important
Think of this first race as a benchmark. A race is a different atmosphere than a regular workout, so it's important to see where you are when you're able to feed off the extra energy provided by other runners and spectators.
The following questions will help you assess your first race effort of the season:
1. How are you in relation to this time last year/season? Faster, slower, same?
2. Are there any other important factors you need to consider that may account for a slower time than last year? (ie: you're coming off of an injury)
It's important to compare this race to another early-season race, and not your last race of the past season. Regardless of how you performed in your first race back, you'll no doubt find it motivating to anticipate how much better you'll be by the close of this season.
Training and racing performances don't work strictly in a linear fashion—think of it more like an EKG chart. If the first race didn't turn out as well as you wanted, don't abandon all hope for the season. Think about reasons this race was slower than you hoped. If you're just coming back from an injury, realize that your rise in improvement for the next races will be more dramatic.
If you're coming off of a longer base-building period that included a significant rise in miles and/or quality, your legs may not be as fresh as they would have been with a taper. But that's a good thing. Think of all that hard work as putting money in the bank. Racing tired now is more important in the long term.
Regardless of how this race turned out, it's crucial to gain only motivation going forward.