With racing season well under way, many triathletes are analyzing race results and assessing their performance. This can be a tricky process. Whether it's simply a training race or a more important event, there are many things to consider when looking at the numbers...and some things should simply be left on the course.
With times, rank in each event, overall placing, wattage, run pace and more, how do you analyze your results and performance correctly?
The first rule of thumb: Measure you and only you. Forget about everyone else.
The Hard Data
When it comes to the data, running pace is a big one. I recommend going by your GPS watch—it's the most consistent tool race to race. Plus, run course distances can be off more than you think which can skew times quite a bit.
Be careful with swim times as well. I have never heard of an open water swim course that was perfect. Wind, choppy water and other extenuating circumstances can all affect your time.
Which is a similar story on the bike: You should never use time to measure your performance on the bike. Miles per hour means very little when things as small as a gust of wind or new pavement can affect your average speed. Learn to measure your wattage and evaluate your performance based on that.
Even when you have all the correct data, are you analyzing it correctly? If you are upset about your run time because "it was slow", have you assessed your goal pace recently? What pace are you really capable of running off the bike?
Does this sound familiar? "In 2001 I ran a 5K with some friends and I did 19 minutes flat. Today I'm in better shape and I raced 19:50. That stinks!"
Where do we start? First of all, it's not 2001. You just did a sprint triathlon not a stand-alone 5K. If you PR on the run of a triathlon, you're probably not swimming or riding hard enough.
Avoid choosing an arbitrary time: Set a realistic time goal for you.
Look at your year-over-year results. Race times will vary throughout the year because of issues like the ones described above. Comparing results race to race within a year will not be as telling as looking at your results from years past.
This year, one of my athletes has been working a lot on his run. However, his bike and swim have been improving as well. In the first few races this year his bike wattage has been exactly the same as last year. Effort level? Also the same, yet his bike rank (and his overall placing) is higher. He is going faster.
Another client recently said, "my run was awful, a horrible placing for me."
Taking a closer look we found that he actually placed inside the top eight in his age group whereas last year he was eighteenth...his run pace was faster, too.
Keep an Open Mind
Things don't always match up 100 percent. At my last race, my swim placing was worse than the previous year, but when I compared my time with the fastest swimmer I realized I was closer to the leader this year.
That is why we prefer to use well-executed races—and more than one—whenever possible. The more reference points you have the better.
Break down your goals. Create specific goals for each race? Then choose bigger goals for the season or year?
If you are planning a training race, don't get wrapped up in the numbers: Use it to climb toward a bigger goal.
Finally, have fun and do your best. Everyone should have the goal to execute the race to the best of their abilities on that day! If you did your best, that's all that matters.triathlon.