How to Evaluate Your Race Performance
Congratulations! You recently trained hard and completed your race, how did it go? If you met your race goal, it can be easy to think you did everything perfectly. If you missed your race goal, you might want to forget about it completely. Either way, spending time evaluating your race performance will pay off in the future.
I recently accomplished my big audacious running goal at the Twin Cities Marathon. I ran a 10 minute PR, qualifying for the Boston Marathon. I never thought this would be remotely possible, so I’m still super excited!
However, now part of me wants to see how far I can go both physically and mentally as a runner.
Since the race, I’ve had two conversations with my coach, Antonio Vega. One was more of a “yippee I did it” call, and the other was about evaluating my race performance. There are a ton of variables to consider, but he helped narrow it down to a few key elements to determine how to change the training for next time.
As you evaluate your race performance, ask yourself these three questions:
1. How did Your Training go?
When evaluating your race performance, start with your training.
- What went well?
- What would you do differently next time?
- What didn’t go well?
Review your training log (if you don’t have one, start using ours) and look at the miles you were assigned, and the miles you ran. Did you complete them all and at the appropriate paces for your goals?
Looking at my training log, I can see that I was well prepared. For the most part, I hit all of my weekly miles. I also nailed (almost) every workout at, or just faster than my goal times. In hindsight, I was probably doing too much speed work (5k and 10k pace) and not enough tempo and threshold work at marathon pace.
Schedule and Intensity
Also consider how your training schedule fit with your life schedule.
- Is it sustainable long term?
- Could you repeat the frequency and intensity?
- What did you sacrifice (and was it worth it)?
Training takes a lot of time. When juggling a job, family, friends, school or any number of other things, it can be hard to find the time to train the way you want. If you realize you put too much on hold during this race preparation, consider bumping down to a shorter distance, or adjust your goals.
For me, quite frankly, it was tough getting in every run. I was only able to complete (95% of) them by constantly rearranging my schedule. There were days when I had to get up really early, and several days I ran twice. I often ran with a running stroller, and twice paid for childcare to fit in significant workouts. I’m lucky that I currently have this type of flexibility, but I’m not sure about future training cycles down the road.
You also want to look at how consistent and disciplined you were with the non-running parts of your training.
- Were you sleeping enough?
- Was your nutrition filled with healthy food and the right amount of calories?
- Were you well hydrated, not just on race day?
- Were you doing some form of strength training?
All of these things make a huge difference for your race performance.
2. How well Did You Execute Your Race Strategy?
The second key metric to look at when evaluating your race performance is the race itself. More specifically, your race strategy. If you didn’t have one, this is a great place to start. This webinar can help!
A few things to consider…
Did you hit your splits?
Were you running the right pace, at the right time to meet your goals? If your splits were pretty consistent, and getting a bit faster towards the end, you did well.
If they were bouncing all over the place, this can be an indication that something wasn’t going well for you.
How did you feel?
Running a marathon rarely feels good. That said, were you running relaxed or tense? Did you feel sick, cramp up, or have other issues? These are all indicators that something didn’t go accordingly to plan, and you need to address the issue.
Sometimes your habits in the days and weeks leading up to the race, such as sleep, nutrition and stress, make a big impact.
What happened at the end of the race?
Did you finish strong, or hobble to the finish? Dying at the end of marathon is NOT inevitable. It does happen for many runners (for a variety of reasons), but with proper training, there are ways to ensure the last 10k is strong.
My race strategy was pretty simple. Run the first 5k a tad slower than goal pace, settle in at goal pace until mile 20, then run the final 10k as fast as my body would allow. Happily, I was able to execute this close to perfection. I’ve struggled in the past with going out too fast. This year, my first mile was by far my slowest. Looking at Tyler Pennel’s splits (TCM marathon winner and USA Marathon Champ), his first mile was also his slowest (albeit 3 minutes faster than mine).
I also didn’t start running faster in the early miles when I was feeling great. It’s easy to get caught in the trap of thinking, “I feel awesome at mile 8! Today is the day I’m going to smash my goal!” only to pick it up and then fall apart in the back half.
Fueling properly is also part of your race strategy. I planned to eat gel at miles 5, 11, 17, and 22, and to take Powerade at every station I didn’t eat. I’ve skipped early stations in the past and regretted it later when it was too late. I deviated slightly and skipped the mile 19 Powerade. I was feeling a little “sloshing” from the mile 17 gel and water, and thought it best to let that settle before ingesting more.
3. Were You Mentally Tough?
Mental toughness is a major component of any race, but especially the marathon. It is not simply willing yourself to the finish, but talking to yourself the entire race. In moments where you felt like giving up, slowing down, or even quitting, were you able to summon the mental fortitude to fight back those feelings and persevere?
Elites have a tremendous ability to push their bodies through crazy levels of pain. They are also extremely well trained. A runner with excellent training (at any level) will continue pushing their body with the power of their brain, even when fatigued.
Confidence plays a big role. Were you confident going into the race? Why or why not? Confidence should not be confused with being cocky. The minute you disrespect the distance of a marathon, you lose your ability to race smart.
I felt extremely confident about this race. I had faith that I trained as best as I could and had my mantras for when it got tough.
Evaluate Your Race Performance
How was your race? Try using our race evaluation worksheet to get started. Unless you never want to race again, the above things can help you evaluate your race performance and decide what’s next.
Who knows, with a higher level of training, maybe you can push beyond what you thought was possible.
If you have questions about your race, please ask! Antonio and I are planning to host a live hangout to talk more about evaluating race performance, and some new coaching options we’re putting together, too. Drop us a line if you’re interested.