I recently raced my first full marathon. I have done three marathons in the Ironman distance races after a 112 mile bike and a 2.4 mile swim - but never solo. So, I was anxious to see how it was going to unfold. Let's just say it didn't unfold like I had planned it; which happens sometimes for whatever reason on any given day. I felt as though I did everything wrong and nothing right. I paced wrong, I hydrated wrong, I think mentally I was a little absent, and, possibly, was over confident. So after the race the question became - What the heck happened? Did I do anything right? I must be able to find something positive, right? Then the icing on the cake - I had someone approach me and ask "so are you done racing marathons?" The question struck me at first as odd, but then I thought should I stop after only trying it once? After quickly analyzing the question I shot back and said "No way I am not ending on that note." That is all fine and dandy to not want to end on a "bad note" but I guess the question then becomes - What have I learned from this not so stellar performance?
I knew one thing I needed to do, and I needed to do it quick. Figure out the answer to that last question. But how do we learn anything from such negative experience?
Answer - Analyze it!! I am going to analyze every aspect of the race and learn as much as I can about the way I reacted to the event, my body, my mental outlook, my preparation, and my nutrition. This is the positive that comes from this scenario - learning from the negative. I needed to turn this big negative into as big of a positive as I can so I don't make the same mistakes again. The worst thing that can happen to us as athletes is to let the same things happen to us race after race after race. We need to constantly be changing our approach and learning from these mistakes. I analyzed this race up and down and learned a lot of valuable information about the day. Most were very obvious points and some I needed to go digging for. I really put myself back into that race - even though I mentally didn't want to experience it again. I found that I wasn't as consistent as I should of been when hydrating and fueling on the course. I got stubborn and just turned a blind eye to this aspect. Probably one of the biggest things I learned is - don't underestimate a race! I believe in the back of my mind I was overly confident thinking that this might be a walk in the park since I have completed this distance before in an Ironman event. Running this race solo is a whole different animal - lesson learned. Respect the distance ALWAYS.
But with all that negative I did find one positive, no matter how bad it got out there on the course, even with my whole bottom half of my body seizing with cramps as I made every step, I was resilient and never gave up. I kept pushing forward even though my body was rejecting every step and my mind was telling me to shut it down, I finished. Maybe not the way I wanted to but I did cross that line. There were many more lessons learned that day but these were just a couple of them. So, if you have a bad race or training session I challenge you to analyze that session so it doesn't happen again. What you learn can be one of your biggest tools in your racing tool box and your biggest confidence booster as you move forward.
All of this analysis produced a light bulb moment for me - can this analysis approach apply to a positive racing scenario? Answer - ABSOLUTELY. Sometimes we overlook all the information we can learn from a positive session, when in reality we should be asking ourselves almost the same questions. Why did my nutrition work this time? What did I differently? How did I fuel the night before my long workout session the night before? All these are just some of the questions we need to ask ourselves after a positive experience. After a positive performance we need to analyze for one major reason and that is to make sure we follow this information when we race to ensure that same positive outcome.
My final point, in regards to the analysis process, is for all the times we are outside of a race. Frequently I am asked "What do you think about when you're training for such long hours?" I don't take offense to it when it comes from someone outside the sport because they perhaps don't understand the sport, but when it comes from a fellow endurance athlete it makes me concerned for them. For me, you guessed it, I analyze and assess frequently during my long training sessions. No matter what the distance is that we might be training for, I think we should constantly be analyzing and assessing everything going on with our bodies, our minds, different stress variables, the environment, our hydration, our fueling, our equipment, our competitors, EVERYTHING. We need to keep ourselves in constant check with how we are holding up as conditions and circumstances change around us. This will allow you to understand your body inside and out. It will allow you to understand how your body might react to almost every situation or stress you might throw at it and, if need be, how to get yourself out of certain situations. This self analysis should be happening regardless of the distance you are covering or the intensity of the session. The stresses and effects on the body are definitely different with the distances, so this just allows you a different opportunity to gain more information with different variables which you can then use to your advantage.
You never want to be guessing on race day, so the more information you have going into a certain situation the more likely it will become a positive outcome. So if you have a productive training session, outstanding race or one that you might want to forget about; I encourage you to analyze it and learn as much about that experience as you possibly can and take it with you to your next race or training session. One final thought before I end this blog, athletics teaches us aspects about ourselves that we can implement into our everyday lives. This holds true for self analysis, we can use what we just learned to improve ourselves beyond belief as people, as employees, as employers, as spouses and the list goes on and on. So, I challenge you to not simply go through the motions, I challenge you to analyze, assess, and reassess what your body is doing and why, to help you reach your full potential on and off the course.
Train Hard, Train Smart, Have Fun and Analyze Everything
Kenrick Smith - Be a part of the K17Sport Lifestyle.
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