How to break down a race to get better

If you run, you're likely to race at one point or another. But do you know what to do after the race is over? Today, I want to talk about how to do a post mortem on your race after it's long dead and finished, and then figure out what do I do with this and how is it going to make me more prepared for the next one?
How to break down a race to get better

If you run, you're likely to race at one point or another. But do you know what to do after the race is over? Today, I want to talk about how to do a post mortem on your race after it's long dead and finished, and then figure out what do I do with this and how is it going to make me more prepared for the next one?

I'm Jesse Funk this is a show I call Runner's High, where we talk about everything running and endurance-related, even triathlon. If you're particularly interested on occasion, one go that route. But if you like running, you want to know more about running, hit Subscribe. Stick around with me for more episodes that come out every Tuesday and Thursday here on this channel. So we want to talk about a race post mortem or what you might call a race day dissection after it's over.

I did a race recently, so we're going to use my race as an example. But I want to give you some general tips of what to look for about your race, how to be honest with yourself, with what happened, and how to make a game plan moving forward so that if you didn't hit your goals or you did, you know what's next and what you need to focus on to improve for the next race, I should say before we get going, the first thing and best thing you can do is actually a race preview.

Now, this isn't part of the post mortem. This is work you should have done before you did the race. So if you didn't do this for your race, step one, do this for your next race. You need to look at a course and figure out what is the course look like. Do of course preview may that may mean running the course.

If it's a short course, it may mean driving the course and maybe getting on Google Street View and clicking out the course. It looks at elevation maps on like Mapmyrun or some other utility that shows you elevation changes, whatever it is, you need to get data on your race to make a race plan prior to doing that race.

That way, when we go to the post mortem, we can say, how did our race actually stack up against what our plan was? And then we can make plans for what was the mental challenges, what were the physical challenges and how do we address those? So got that out of the way. Do a race preview and then everything will be easier moving on. So let's move on to actually how to do that post mortem.

Now, I recently did this four mile race here near my neighborhood. Very nice. The only time I think I've ever gotten to just run from my house to a race start and then run from the finish back home. So this race is overall a net negative race.

So it's typically fast. What I mean is the start line and the finish line are different elevations and the general trend is that the race is downhill. There are some hills in the beginning of the race that have to be accounted for and they're not insignificant.

But doing my race preview, like I just mentioned, I knew in the first two miles of the race we basically are going to have all the hills that we're going to have then from mile three to the finish. So mile three, mile four. And the finish is basically a nice gradual downhill, a very tiny bump with about a half mile to go and then flat into the finish.

So I knew my general tendency was going to be just sit back, relax for the first two miles and then start to really crank down. That was the plan because when you have those changes in elevation, you're going to have changes in your effort. And I knew, okay, I just need to get in, sit where I'm relatively uncomfortable but comfortable in the first two miles, get the hills out and then when I can get onto the flat or even downhill sections, then I can really get into a rhythm.

So how did my race turn out? I'll first say I wanted to hit 23 minutes or I actually I wanted to go sub 23. That's about where my fitness is right now, like 5:45 pace based on recent workouts on the track on Wednesday, I was doing thousands at about 5:40 to 5:45 pace, so I thought, okay, the following Sunday, let's give it a go.

First mile, 5:39 first mile goes out a little bit quick. That's how it goes. Second mile, 5:53 dropped off a little bit. But again, hillier sections, you're losing some time. That's going to be okay. Third mile, pick it up. I go 5:39 again and then last mile unfortunately dropped off at 5:55, ended up at 23:07. So I missed my goal by just a little bit. That's how I put goals.

So what do these things actually mean? Well, clearly we can say, okay, I didn't hit my goal, so thus I failed. There is some disappointment, obviously, but if you know me, you know that I only am going to hit my goals if I'm running at 100%. I know basically where I'm at and I very rarely hit my goals because they are always just a little bit further than I think I have the fitness for, thus the carrot that I'm interested in.

So we know that I "failed", but there are some takeaways from the race that I think are important. Number one, I did pretty much stick to my plan in that I was comfortable with the first mile, even though it was a little quick. It did have some sharp downhills, a little bit of uphill. So that would adjust a little bit for the pace. So, you know, 5 seconds quick, but overall, fine.

The second mile, I did let off a little bit too much, but that's some fine tuning and both these things have to do with pacing. So I know if I spend more time at the track, then that's what is going to help me dial in my pacing and spending more time doing at race pace on varying terrain, hills, downhills, those things. All that's going to help me with my pacing as training progresses. So I'm not terribly worried about those things.

Mile three really hit my stride, got right into the low end zone of what I had been running at the track for a full mile at 5:39. I think my mentality was good there because I made the adjustment. I didn't go early and went right where I wanted to. Then mile four, what happened in a mile four is basically the wheels started to fall off because my calves started getting tired. They started to feel like rocks. I've had like an Achilles thing that I'd been rehabbing, which I'm sure affected the situation, even though I didn't feel it at the time.

I tried to restart several times mentally, trying to get the gears going again and that last mile just simply couldn't get there and came up with that 5:55 and a little bit disappointing. That being said, there are positives and negatives to take out of that last mile for me and what I can do with them.

Number one, the negative. Obviously, I lost the time I needed. Had I been near that 5:q45 pace like I should have been because the last mile is basically flat. I would have made my time, but because I know that basically my calves were starting to lock up. I don't have the fitness yet to really do that four mile stretch.

My speed work at the track was only three miles worth. So I know. Okay moving forward, if I really wanted to do this exact same race again and be successful at it, I probably need to increase the amount of mileage I'm doing for speedwork, which will happen we're very early on in speedwork for me.

Mentally very positive in the last mile and that I didn't give up. I kept talking to myself, you can do it. Come on. You know you're close. Let's go. If you have that positive mental self-talk, absolutely great. If you had negative mental self-talk, then that's where you have to say, okay, I need to practice this more during training, because in a race when it's tougher, that's when it's going to be the time that those tendencies, those automatic tendencies come in. If you practice the positive self-talk, then that's going to be more likely to be your tendency then the negative mental self-talk.

So going through my particular race, you know what I'm looking at, but in general, what are we talking about? We need to figure out where you stood up or fell down physically. So for me, with those splits, I know that last mile let me down. And that's going to be an adjustment of I need to spend more time and more speedwork training. Mentally, I think I stood up pretty well so I wouldn't have to worry about that too much. Continue to do what I do, which is practice that in training during tough intervals, that positive self-talk.

And then if you have again those negative mental tendencies, add that into your training, spend some time, do that pre-race so that you are prepared for your race. All of these things have to apply to your particular schedule, and it's going to be harder to break down as you go into longer, longer races, because you need to remember your mentality at any given time much harder to do mile by mile during a marathon and then remembering each and every mile. But you can remember those large swaths of time and know this was good, this was bad. This is what we need to adjust and then go forward from there.

So do you have any questions for me on your particular race? Do you want an outside view on maybe how to dissect your race and how it went? Leave them in the comments below, I'd love to help you out. Hopefully, I'll see you on the next episode of Runner's High.

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