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Coaches Blog

What To Do When a Race Doesn’t Go As Planned: Finding the Positives

Updated: Apr 21, 2022

(photo from the Times-Call

You’ve trained for a certain race for months. You’ve been dedicated. You’ve sacrificed. You’ve given it all and now you’re ready to show what you’ve got. You wake up the morning of the race to find out that it’s cold, windy, rainy, and all-around disgusting out. During the race, you have a terrible headwind, rain is sloshing in your shoes, and you’re freezing. Needless to say, you did NOT have a good race.

Or did you? Take a closer look at some of other ways to view your race and find your “mini-race wins.”

Quantifiable and Measurable Alternative Ways To Look at a Race

  1. Power Numbers: In a triathlon or cycling race, for those that have power meters, take a look at your power numbers during that race. You may have been biking into a headwind and not seen an improvement in speed, but what about power? I can personally attest to this happening. The weather was not good at my last time trial and I did not meet my time goal. However, I had significantly increased my power. With the knowledge that I am stronger and more capable, I’m planning to race again this week to try to meet those time goals. And this time, the weather looks good.

  2. Heart Rate Numbers: For those that use Heart Rate monitors during the race, how did your heart rate respond to your racing? Are you able to maintain a similar speed/effort with a lower heart rate? Also, take a look at your heart rate numbers in relation to your power numbers. If your heart rate numbers went down while your power meter numbers went up, that reflects strongly in favor of your training! Mini-race win!

  3. Range of Perceived Exertion: RPE is a little unique in how it is measured in that it relies on your (the athlete’s) opinion. But it’s great because it can be applied to all sports! For example, imagine that in a race, you decided to run easier than your usual race pace, and only ran at an RPE of 4 (ranging from 1 to 10). However, knowing your average speed for an RPE of 4 from your training runs, you notice that your race run was faster. If this is the case, RPE can qualify as a successful condition of the race and qualify as a mini-race win.

Non-Quantifiable Ways to Look at a Race

There are also some other ways to look at a race to see if it was successful. These ways are immeasurable. Some might say these are race wins that are “good for the soul.”

  1. Lower Anxiety Throughout Race: Many people experience pre-race jitters, but for some people, those pre-race jitters can grow into some negative anxiety. Let’s say you are one of those people (like me) that experiences strong anxiety. Because of the race conditions, you don’t worry as much, and therefore you have less anxiety. That’s a mini race win.

  2. Giving Back During The Race: During this race, perhaps you told the volunteers “thank you” when you got water at an aid station. Maybe you thanked the person who handed you your medal. That’s a mini-race win.

  3. Staying Positive and Grateful in Rough Conditions: This may be tough. Rough conditions have been known to make the nicest endurance racer cranky. However, you can combat this. For example, for my long distance IRONMAN 70.3 race, I knew that at the end, I was going to be ready to be done. So in order to make myself stay positive and grateful, I made a list of 13 people that helped me get to this point. I wrote them on my arm and each mile of the run, I was thankful and grateful for that specific person. That was my own personal mini-race win.

Whether quantifiable or not, even in tough race conditions, you can find mini-race wins. Step back, break that race down into sections, and find the positives.

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