There's a surprising amount of gold buried in your first race results of the season. Miss this learning opportunity and it could come at a cost in your next race.
Mining race data to improve future training plans is your first and best opportunity to get solid, objective feedback far beyond any test you can do in training. Why? You almost always go harder in a race than you ever do in training—the race environment drives you to perform much closer to your true fitness level.
Interpreting this information, and tweaking your efforts based on what you find, is critical to race success for the rest of the season. Here's what you need to know.
How to Interpret the Information
The key is to step back and objectively look at the big picture. From this vantage point you can to use your specific race statistics and memory to re-experience the race all over again.
Note: Be mindful not to beat yourself up over what you should have done. Instead highlight what you did right, while still allowing room to notice weaknesses and find ways to improve on them.
One of the best ways to do this assessment is to free write answers to the most important questions. Here are three question categories to help you get started.
1. How do you feel about the experience?
- Did you enjoy the race?
- Was it fun?
- Was it too stressful?
- Did you accomplish what you wanted, exceed your expectations, or come up short on your goals?
- Were there any specific parts of the race that were particularly memorable?
- Did you feel you were adequately prepared?
If you can recall fun or happy highlights, allow yourself to relive them regularly to stay motivated during training. If you had any overly stressful moments, like panicking at the swim start, get ahead of this by visualizing being calm and relaxed in that moment.
2. How well trained were you for the distance and course?
- Were you able to hold your desired pace throughout the race?
- Did you have to slow down because you were feeling more fatigued as the day went on?
- Is there a particular leg of the race that went better or worse than you expected?
- What can your results teach you about where to focus your training in the future?
The last question is particularly important if you have specific performance goals. For instance one of my goals is to consistently finish in the top ten in my age group (AG). When I looked at my first race results and compared them to the top ten in my AG, my swim and run weren't too bad but I realized my bike and transitions needed serious attention.