Analyzing Your Race Performance Is Key to Improvement
Race stories do more than entertain—they help assess what went well, what went wrong and what you can do better.
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If you visit any running, cycling or triathlon forums on the Internet, you’ll notice the popularity of race reports. We all seem to love the storytelling that goes with our adventures, especially in longer races where so many things happen, the toughest part is remembering them all for the report!
Many athletes enjoy writing the report and talking about the funny instances, the pain and discomfort (at times) and the lows and extreme highs of their performance. However, most are missing a quality opportunity to assess their race, performance, strategy, nutrition, pace and even confidence or motivation in some cases.
If you’re tempted to write a race report, it’s fine to make it enjoyable for others to read, but be sure to use it as tool to be honest and objective with yourself. In fact, a race report should be more for your use as an evaluation tool than as an entertainment tool for others.
With as much time as athletes put into training and preparation for an event, probably the most effective use of time comes after the race: in truthfully assessing your performance and how closely it matched your expectations. If it didn’t match, what were some of the causes? Were you under-confident in yourself, and did you perform much better than you expected? Did you overestimate your fitness, or underestimate the course and conditions?
What types of things can be learned from this reflection and evaluation? It may seem unimportant once the race is over, but if you ever plan to return to a similar endeavor, this opportunity is golden!
The great philosopher and poet George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” If you don’t take the time to accurately assess your performance and examine the mistakes you made in the race or in your preparations, you are likely to repeat the same mistakes despite anything else you might do otherwise in your training.
What does a good race report for evaluation contain? This is the key question! You need to distinguish what factors affect your race most dramatically. Be too vague and you can miss these key factors entirely.
Key Components For A Race Report
— Travel to the event (did travel affect your performance?)
— Sleeping patterns in the days before the race
— Eating habits in the days before the race
— Stress levels in your life in the days before the race
— Preparations for the weather conditions
— Your warm up and its effectiveness
— Thought process on the start line
— Motivation level for the race
— Nutrition plan and execution
— Hydration plan and execution
— Pacing strategy (what were your splits? What do the splits show about your pacing?)
— Race decisions made which were very helpful
— Race decisions made which were not helpful
When should you complete a race report? The sooner the better, as details are fresh in your mind immediately following the race. It’s acceptable to wait a day or two, or simply go through the race in your mind and make notes, before sitting down to begin the evaluation process. Don’t be afraid of details — the more information you provide, the more likely you are to identify the key components that affected performance. Nothing is unimportant! The littlest things can make the biggest differences, so include plenty of details.
One of the biggest misconceptions athletes have is thinking the only time they need to evaluate a race or performance is following a poor one. Though much can be learned from a poor performance, a comparison over time of the differences between our best performances and our worst is where you will find the keys to your performance. With this in mind, a complete evaluation should be completed after each and every race, regardless of result.
Self reflection takes time. As I recover from the @bostonmarathon that didn’t go as planned, I’m taking lessons learned and shifting focus to the next goal. Check out my latest column on @PodiumRunner for race recap and how to identify ways to improve after a disappointing race. https://t.co/WBtJFVEPc4
— Dathan Ritzenhein (@djritzenhein) April 24, 2019
Take your time with this, and give it your full attention. Though it may seem tedious at first, the one hour or less of time devoted to your race reports is minimal in comparison to the many hours you will spend training and devoting to your sport. However, the payoff could be immeasurable.
With an objective evaluation of your performances, you will maximize your training time and identify the things that most affect your performance on race day. Once these limiters are addressed, you’re certain to perform at your best.
Sample Race Report And Evaluation Chart
On a scale of 1 to 10, (1 = poor, 10 = exceptional), how would you rate this performance? Why did you rank it as such?
What was your travel itinerary to the event? Did this affect your performance (positively or negatively)?
How were stress levels in your life in the days before the race?
How were your sleeping patterns in the days before the race?
How were your eating habits in the days before the race?
What were the weather conditions for the race? What specific preparations did you make for these conditions (hydration, clothing, etc.)? Were these preparations adequate?
What was your warmup routine for the race? Was it effective? If not, what would have been more effective?
What were you thinking about on the start line? Did this help or hurt your performance?
On a scale of 1 to 10, (1 = poor, 10 = exceptional), what was your motivation level for this race? Why did you rank it as such?
What was your nutrition plan for the race? How well did you execute the plan? Could the plan be improved? How?
What was your hydration plan for the race? How well did you execute the plan? Could the plan be improved? How?
What was your pacing strategy for the race? How well did you execute the strategy? (List your mile/lap splits, if applicable) What do your splits show about your execution?
What decisions did you make before or during the race that helped your performance?
What decisions did you make before or during the race that did not help your performance?
Anything else about the race, positive or negative, you feel is important?
Jim Vance is a USA Triathlon Level 2 Certified Coach, former elite triathlete and a two-time Amateur World Champion in ITU and XTERRA. Visit his website at www.coachvance.com
This article originally appeared May 2014