Monday, February 18, 2008

Post-Race Evaluation – or, learning from experience

The race is over. Eat, drink, and rest merry. If you finished, then congratulations! If you didn’t, then better luck next time. Regardless of your finishing status, now is the time to think about what went right, what went wrong, and what you need to do differently next time. You might not believe it now (with your aching knees, sore quads and swollen feet), but chances are great there will be a next time.

Here is my post-race analysis from the Holiday Lake 50k++ that I just ran. I finished healthy, but not as quickly as I had hoped to do, despite near perfect weather/course conditions. Was there something lacking from my training, did something go wrong, or did I just have an off day? A little analysis will help tell the story.

Use this example to help you decide what you need to do differently to make your next ultra an even better experience. Make mental notes before, during, and after the run. Keep track of your strengths (what went right) and your pains, injuries, and soreness (what went wrong) and use it to your advantage for your next event.

What went wrong?

General Health
The transition from winter to spring often leaves me with some sinus troubles and congestion. As I reported last week, I came down with the flu and bronchitis just a week before this race. Obviously not ideal. I believe this was the #1 contributor to my slower-than-hoped-for run. But there were other problems too.

I did not do the long runs necessary to prepare me for this event. Period.

I did not know how my body was going to react to running after two weeks of illness. Just a few miles in, I felt no problems, so I sped up. Several times I looked down at my GPS and caught myself running faster than 8-minute mile pace. I averaged faster than 9-minute miles for the first 17 miles. That’s not any way for an under trained runner to finish a 50k. I paid for this in the second loop.

The fact that I did not get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom should have told me that I was dehydrated. But I ignored it, choosing coffee as my pre-race drink. I did snack early at the aid stations, but when I bonked at around 20 miles, it was due mostly to lack of carbohydrate intake. I realized that and started eating more at the aid stations (mostly fruit), and I did get some energy back. But by then it was too late. The damage was done.

What went right?

Mental attitude
Because I came into the event with a “whatever it takes” attitude, I did not get down when the going got tough. Instead I thanked God for the time buffer that I built up on the first loop, and relied on constant forward motion to get me to the finish. It’s very easy to throw in the towel at the halfway point of this race. I saw some others do it.

Due to the very early start, most runners stay in the 4-H camp cabins (or bunkhouse) or camp out at the start of this race. I chose to sleep in my car, and was a little uncomfortable. But I was able to sleep pretty well. I only woke up 2 or 3 times during the night.

In many of my warmer races, chafing is my biggest problem. It bothers me most on the upper thighs under my shorts. I used a wax-based lubricant on my feet and inner thighs. I also cut the worn-out inner lining from my favorite shorts (the source of some of the recent chafing), and wore a pair of spandex shorts under them instead. As a result, I had very little chafing/blistering.

I debated about wearing road shoes for this run. The single track on the course is very runnable. And the rest of the course is unpaved roads. At the last minute I decided to wear my trail shoes. They drained good at the creek crossings (6 in this race), and gave me confidence on the trails.

Yes, this was a problem, but I did recognize early into my bonk that it was a problem, and I fixed it. That’s a good sign – and hopefully next time I’ll make the move earlier and avoid a few slow, low-energy miles.

Conclusion – what to do better next time.
Other than a bit of a cough and needing to wipe my nose a lot, I didn’t really feel any lingering effects from the flu. With that in mind, my biggest problem was 1) lack of training and 2) not eating/drinking enough early into the run. I need to work on these two problems before my next race. Knowing that my next race will also be a hilly one, I need to concentrate on hill training and get those long runs up to 20+ miles.

1 comment:

Sophie Speidel said...

Great post-race synopsis! I love hearing what worked/didn't work for others, as I learn so much. Thanks for sharing.

Have fun at Catawba...I will be racing with friends at Land Between The Lakes in KY!