Every day is a school day
There’s an old saying in life that every day is a school day, and the older I get, the more I agree with it. More often than not there’s the potential to draw something useful from most experiences we have, it’s just a case of taking a moment to recognise it and register it.
This principal has been coming through a lot recently whilst I’ve been speaking to a number of the athletes I work with. As we enter the latter half of the season, lots of us have already completed our ‘A-race’ for the season and are now either doing some last minute tweaking for ‘B’ and ‘C’ races that are still in the calendar, or in some cases we’re planning ahead for next season. In most of my discussions it’s obvious however that one of the best resources for both athlete and coach to learn from is previous race results. Every race therefore should be seen as a school day and a learning experience too, be it good or bad.
In my years of racing and coaching I’ve still yet to meet anyone who’s told me that they’ve had a perfect race of any description. Yes, many people have told me of excellent races they’ve had where they executed their race plan just as they’d intended, but even then, almost inevitably there’s always something that either didn’t go quite so well or just could have been done a bit better. Maybe the final few weeks of training weren’t quite specific enough, they weren’t fast enough over a certain portion of the course or maybe it’s just that they lost concentration somewhere along the way and the effort dropped momentarily. Whatever it was, if we take the time to step back and give an honest appraisal of what happened, and why, it helps illuminate the path to an even better performance next time. Afterall, the devil is in the detail.
At the opposite end of the scale, there’s plenty of people who’ve told me about their nightmare races where everything and anything that could go wrong has gone wrong. If you’ve been racing for a while, then you’ll undoubtedly have had one and know exactly what I’m talking about. Whilst there may be lots of things that have gone wrong and it may be easy to get down on yourself about a poor performance, it’s not the end of the world and can usually be turned into a positive learning experience. Again, making an honest appraisal of the race, separating the things that were within your control from the things that were outwith your control, separating what were silly uncharacteristic mistakes from larger gaps in knowledge or ability and then making an objective plan on how to sort them can similarly to the good experiences help illuminate the path to improved performances in future. Personally, I know I’ve never learnt more about myself, my mindset and my abilities than on those hard days. So don’t get down, get better!
A number of the athletes I work with are midway through multi-season build plans at the moment which is where post-race analysis of the big races comes more and more into its own. The more experience and data we have, the more we can tell whether we’re doing the right thing overall, working on the things that will give the best return, or perhaps even chasing the wrong goal entirely. Whatever you’re planning, it’s the experiences and results along the way that give the clearest picture of all. Sometimes it might be a hard pill to swallow, but perhaps that may lead you to a new challenge. More often than not though it can encourage and renew determination, helping you take an important step towards that elusive performance we’re all striving for.
And when you get to that perfect race performance, don’t forget to let me know about it. I’ve been dying to hear about one for a long time now!