On Saturday, I found myself huffing and puffing up the Barr Trail in the Pike’s Peak Ascent race. Pike’s was one of my goal races for the summer. I had trained my butt off, spent loads of time above 12,000 feet, tapered, visualized, and carbo-loaded, etc. (My sleep has room for improvement, but I do have a one year old and an almost 4 year old so what do you expect?!) I called on every mental strategy I know of, but I was just feeling off. I finished in 6th place about 20 minutes off my goal time.
The reality is we all have "bad" races or races that don’t go as planned from time to time. Sometimes, it’s unexpected illness or life stress, other times it’s the weather, fueling issues, or a niggle that flares up during the race. Whatever the cause, it’s disappointing to fall short of a goal we’ve strived for and invested time/energy in.
So, what do you do after a bad race to “get over it”?
First, I think it’s ok to wallow in self-pity, disappointment/frustration for a little bit (but 24 hours at most). After this, no one wants to hear the play by play again. (My husband says so.) Get over it! The mountains/trails are still there! Racing/running doesn’t define any of us as individuals. Indulge in some ice-cream, a beer or whatever your vice may be and then move on!
The next and important step is reflecting about the race itself. Even if you didn’t meet your performance expectations,
· What did go well?
· What can you learn from this experience?
· How can you tweak your training to be better prepared for next time?
I personally, don’t run well in the heat. And Pike’s was HOT! I am still nursing my baby as well so I think part of my sub-par performance was dehydration. I know I don’t run well in heat, so I need to make a conscious effort in my next training cycle to acclimate to the heat. While I am still nursing, I also need to make sure I drink enough fluids before, during and after my races/workouts.
Bad races tend to increase drive/motivation for the next one. However, even when you don’t feel sore, your body needs time to repair itself. Rule of thumb is it takes approximately one day per mile raced to recover. So, if you just ran a marathon, you are looking at about 26 days of recovery. Many athletes I coach like to do a sort of a reverse taper as they recover to gradually get back to the mileage they were at. This is a great time to hike, do yoga, ride your bike or cross-train, or just get caught up on non-running pieces of your life!
While you are recovering, you can start researching new goals/races. Maybe pick one you’ve never done before in a new location. This way, you won't have any of those performance expectations to compare to. Could you bring the family and make a mini-vacation out of it? It’s time to get excited!
Finally, start working with your coach on a training cycle for your next race and set some goals. I find it’s rewarding to have 2-3 goals going into most races:
· “A” goal—(Pie in the sky)—this is the “BIG” goal if all stars/planets align correctly. Winning races is fun, but you can’t control who shows up. You CAN control your EFFORT & ATTITUDE! So, it’s best to make this goal as SMART as possible with factors w/in your control.
· “B” goal—maybe not quite as aggressive as the previously mentioned one, but one that still challenges you a bit and you’d be happy with.
· “C” goal—this is a goal you can live with.
Finally, remember, it’s the journey not the destination that counts! The mountains and trails will always be there. A race is just a race and sometimes despite the best laid training plans/execution we all have “off” days. I once heard a quote, “temporary setbacks are opportunities in disguise, opportunities, to improve.”
Now, what’s next on your bucket list?
Brandy Erholtz J