Before and after a race, everyone has their own ritual. Before the race, I always make sure to do the same drills, in the same order, with the same number of reps. If I’m off by one rep, then I’ll add another one. To be honest, the simple requirement is that it’s an even number of drills. It’s like when you walk on a crack on the sidewalk with your left foot, and you struggle to avoid all the remaining cracks until you’ve stepped on one with your right foot. Maybe I’ve just distanced myself further from my readers, but oh well.
After the race, the ritual varies a little bit. It’s approximately 2-3 minutes of gasping for air, followed by 5 minutes of stumbling back towards my “gear” and testing that my body is capable of being supported by my legs. After a cooldown (typically no faster than a powerwalk depending on the duration of the race), comes the mental thought process that plagues every competitive runner. What could I have done better, what if I’d made a move at x% in the race, what if I’d done this three weeks ago in a workout? Most definitely in that order.
At the end of the day, hindsight will eternally be 20/20. Whether you set a personal best, had a good race in terrible conditions, or even had a poor race, that mental race recap will have little to no positive impact in that first hour after the race. I recognized this after seeing that I was mentally digging myself deeper after some poorer races earlier this season, and tried to shift my mindset. I went for the Hakuna Matata philosophy, where I didn’t think about the race at all leading up to the race and until at least 24 hours after the race is completed. I’ve found that I’m more receptive to myself (is that even possible?) and have a lot more constructive criticism to offer myself. This actually helps a lot because my training can change, my mental capacity leading into my next workout is better, and my ability to come up with creative excuses for my poor races diminishes.
This applies to a lot more than just this idea, especially in the negative mind frame. If a test didn’t go well, I take a day off from thinking about it and then reconsider the process and study habits leading up to that particular test. It’s really helped me avoid the issue of beating myself up, which I think is an important issue that plagues a lot of people in a lot of different scenarios.
In the long run though, this kind of self-introspection ends up being more positive and eventually, your performances start shifting to be positive. At which point all of these insightful ideas go out the window.