I was contemplating writing up a post race recap from the Fjallmaraton race that I did in Sweden, but realised it would've been too brief to even warrant talking about it. It would've gone something like this: Fjallmaraton - Went out too hard. Blew apart. Groveled to the finish. Went home.
So instead I figured it'd be better to share my post race strategy for overcoming a disappointing race.
Most athletes will usually do one of two things:
1. Try to move on straight away with analysing why they lost.
2. Continue to dwell on the loss without analyisng why they lost.
Basically, many don't adhere to the cliched line of "Learn from your losses". And it's extremely easy to do, as I did it many times.
Nowadays I employ a system post race to overcome and move on from a loss....
Step 1: Be disappointed.
The race didn't go as planned, so of course you're going to be upset! Post race I give myself 24hrs to be disappointed and to feel down. There's no point pretending you're not disappointed or to just put on a happy face. Get it out of your system! But 24hrs is the maximum amount of time I allow for this, beyond that, no more sooking.
Step 2: Analyse the race.
Once I'm back home and feeling more pragmatic about the race, i'll sit down and start analysing my performance. The key to this is to be honest and not only highlight what went wrong but also the positives; so write down what you did well too. At Sweden the first 20km was relatively flat, and given I still don't have the flatland speed of seasoned professionals, I should've taken it slower and paced myself better. Instead I got caught up in the front group and was running far too quick, so when the climbs started I struggled, and at the halfway point of the race I was cooked. Although I continued on and finished the race. My legs felt good and post race I had very little soreness which shows my conditioning was quite good.
I also look at what my rivals did and what I can learn from them - how they performed in the race and also (thanks to strava/social media) what was their build up and training like.
Step 3: Adjust training.
Depending on where I need to improve and what my next block of races are, i'll make changes or slight adjustments to my training. I had already started doing more flat and speed sessions leading up to Sweden, but i'll continue to have them in my programs regardless of next races as it's something I fundamentally need.
Also sometimes it's just a case being aware and sticking to a race plan, like pacing regardless of how good you feel.
Step 4: Move on.
Once i've gone through these steps, I then start focusing on the training at hand and looking forward to my next race. Look ahead, not back. No more reflection or dwelling on what could've been and the motivation and excitement to race again will come naturally.
So that is my strategy that I've learnt over the years to overcome a disappointing result.
Regardless of your age or standard, having a good post race process is very important. Although I'd make special mention that it's essential for young athletes to employ something like this as it's important for their general mindset and progress. Less than 1% of juniors progress to the professional ranks of any sport and having the right mindset and a healthy ego is important as it also feeds into actual sporting and physical progress. The alternative of this is the attitude of "I'm already good enough, it's someone elses fault!" Every town and city is littered with those who coulda/woulda/shoulda made it and they will let you know that it was everyone else fault but theirs... Selectors, sponsors, team mates, etc.
By using small techniques like this in defeat helps to feed into the general mindset and overall attitude.