We all have our ups and downs when racing—there is nothing quite like the high after a job well done, but similarly there is nothing quite like a low that follows a race that went so far from what you planned. This is something that any serious competitor experiences, part of the game, and since these feelings aren’t going anywhere it’s important to realize how to use both extremes and all the in-betweens to fuel your future success.
This seems like a no-brainer right? After a great race, you’re on high and you can’t wait to get back out there and continue to chase your dreams! Yes, kind of. Personally, I notice after a really great result, I have to be diligent about picking apart the race and making sure I soak up all of the lessons that were there. Even in the greatest results there are still little nuggets hiding that you could’ve improved. You’re allowed to be on cloud 9 for sure, but make sure you take a look at your race critically within 24-48 hours after the fact because otherwise you’ll forget the fine details and it will become more and more of a “perfect” race—since our memory tends to make us more heroic over time :)
The trick with a bad race is not letting it get you so far down that you’ve lost motivation to try again. Not getting super low after a bad result is extremely hard, especially if there was a large build-up and you were really expecting to smash down walls when all you did was knock on the door gently and run away. These races have so many lessons—everything from physical points of weakness and most often mental points of weakness. Knowing what your mentality was going into the race and during the race is important to recognize and compare to better results—what worked other times that didn’t work this time? What was your preparation like? Did you rest enough leading into the race? The important to thing is capturing everything that you felt was "off" or could have prepared for differently so you don't make the same mistakes next time.
Like a good result, an in-between result is pretty easy to let the little things slip through the cracks. Don’t let the apathy of your feeling towards the race drive you to neglect digging deep into the details of what went right and what didn’t. Every single race is a learning experience and even if you only find one or two things that you could've changed it will help you tremendously as you build your racing experience.
No matter the outcome of the race, it is good to keep a little diary of what went well and what you would change for next time. Many times you travel to a race so just use the travel time back home (unless you’re driving the car of course!) to jot down some quick notes about the race. If you’re not ready to debrief immediately post race, do it with your morning coffee the next day—at least you have the caffeine as a mood boost if it was a difficult result to swallow :)
When I first started racing I kept a very diligent journal of exactly what I did before the race and the couple of days leading up—I recorded what I ate, what I did as far as exercise and any other important details I felt needed to be included. This was extremely helpful for me because I didn’t have very many consecutive racing experiences so it was a stretch to remember exactly what worked and what didn’t since there was so much time between each race. I feel this process is particularly important for marathoners because there is so much to deal with over the 26.2 miles and you really can’t race very often, so it is helpful to have an accurate, first-hand account of what happened to reflect upon every time you are nearing a race. This process helps to prevent you remaking the same mistakes over and over again and that means faster progress towards your goals and dreams!
Happy racing and journaling :)