Asking the Tough Questions
by Pete Pfitzinger, M.S.
Have you you ever run the perfect race? If so, perhaps you could do it again, were you able to capture how you prepared and how you ran the race. For all of the rest, your less-than-perfect races, it is useful to write down what errors you made and how you could do better next time. Too often during our racing careers we make the same mistakes again and again. We all know the obvious cases, such as the runner who always starts too fast and “blows up.” But, there are many more subtle racing errors that may not be obvious until you analyze your races. Perhaps you don’t give yourself time to warm-up properly, or you let your concentration ease during the middle miles.
The questions below are designed to help you analyze your racing performances to identify ways to improve in future races. These questions are just a start, and some are no doubt more relevant for you personally than others. Of course, this method will not guarantee that you always run the perfect race. Over time, you will no doubt make new mistakes. Analyzing your races should, however, help you recognize areas for improvement and gradually improve your performances.
Your preparation during the last few weeks before a race largely determines your racing performance, and how well you taper your training determines how well rested you are on race day. By reviewing your preparation, you will gain insight into the type of training that is most effective for you. This review will also help you determine how many races you need before you race your best.
*How has your training gone during the past six weeks?
*What were the results of other races in the past six weeks?
*What did you do for training during the week before this race?
*How much sleep did you get during the week before this race?
*How could you improve your taper?
Before the Race
What you eat and drink the morning of the race and how you warm-up are important factors in your performance. Runners often compromise their performances by eating too much or too little, or by doing an incomplete warm-up. By reviewing what you do before the race, you can fine-tune your pre-race routine.
*What, and how much, did you eat and drink before the race?
*When did you eat and drink before the race?
*How long before the start did you arrive at the race?
*How long before the race did you start your warm-up?
*What did you do for your warm-up?
*How long before the race did you complete your warm-up?
*How could you improve your warm-up?
The First Mile
Many runners start off too fast and pay the price during the rest of a race. Others start off too conservatively and never give themselves a chance to reach their potential. Recalling your first mile will help make sure that you get it right next time.
*How fast did you run the first mile?
*Did you feel completely warmed-up when the gun fired?
*Did you start too fast, too slow or about right?
The Rest of the Race
Regardless of the length of the race, some runners have trouble maintaining their concentration. Other runners have difficulty with specific aspects of racing such as uphills or downhills. The following questions should prompt you to remember what happened during the heat of battle, so you can work on your weaknesses for the next race.
*How well did you pace yourself during the race?
*Were you able to maintain your effort during the middle of the race?
*Did you run strongly up the hills?
*Did you pass other runners on the down-hills?
*Were you able to maintain or pick up your pace at the end?
*How was your concentration during the race?
After the Race
Besides recording your finish time and place, think through how you could race better on this course or at this distance next time. If you met your goals, what led to your success? If you didn’t meet your goals, try to identify what factors stood in your way.
*What were your time and place?
*Did you meet your goals for the race?
*What shoes and clothes did you wear?
*How much and what did you drink during the race?
*What did you do for your cool-down?
About the Race
You may want to run this race again, or may encounter similar courses or weather conditions elsewhere. A thorough description of the course will remind you of important details for future years. Other details will help you decide whether to return next year.
*Describe the course (hills, road surface, footing, turns, etc.)
*What time did the race start?
*How many runners were in the race?
*How was the weather (temperature, humidity, precipitation, wind)?
*What was the competition like?