Why You Need To Do A Race Postmortem

Race post Race post mortemmortem

If I’m training for a big race, I pretty much always have (and follow) a training plan (I am a type-A planner after all). I also usually have (and follow) some type of race plan.

Historically (read: before I started this blog), I’d follow my training plan, race according to my race plan, and then move on.

Was it a good training plan? Um… I suppose so? 

Should I use it again? Um… Sure?

Did it bring about good results? Maybe, maybe not…

Was my race plan effective? Um…

I had no idea.

The race was done, and I’d move on to my next thing.

Especially with marathons, by the time race day rolls around I’m so tired of thinking about it, the last thing I wanted to do is to continue thinking about it.

Enter The Blog

When I started this blog, I started writing race recap posts. I did the first ones mainly because I was new to blogging and I didn’t have much other content. Plus, it gave me a place to put my race photos.

But the more I do them, the more I see the benefit of these posts.

Preparing these recap posts means that I’ll sit down, usually the afternoon of the race, and consider what happened.

Am I happy with the way it went? What was my favorite part of the race? Could I have prepared better? Could I have raced better? How was my fueling?

Statistically, not many people read these posts. Even if no one ever reads them, I’d continue to write them.

I always come away from these posts having learned something about my training, my racing or myself.

Project Postmortems

Doing an event postmortem is, of course, not a new or earth-shattering idea.

Professionally, I’ve worked at companies that regularly did postmortems at the end of projects to talk about the project, what worked, and what didn’t during implementation.

Unfortunately, I’ve also worked at companies that refused to ever discuss how a project went after the fact. We’d keep facing the same problems over and over (and over, and over…). I know I was but a mere cog in the machine, but it seemed to me a quick 20-minute wrap-up meeting could have done a world of wonders to prevent the same issues from constantly arising, but the powers that be didn’t want to acknowledge that something went poorly (or that something could have been done better, even if it went well).

Race Postmortems

I’ve really come to see the benefit of reviewing a race after the fact, it’s a process that can benefit all runners and racers.

Maybe you don’t have a running blog (feel free to start one), but my way doesn’t have to be your way.

I’ve created a race review worksheet you can download (because I love me my worksheets). Or you can use a page in your journal, or scribble a few paragraphs on a scrap of paper.

There is no right or wrong way to do it.

What To Include In Your Race Postmortem

After your race, don’t just move on to your next thing.

Chances are something happened during your training or during your race that you can learn from, change, or improve upon.

But for that to be possible, you need to take a moment to review.

The Race

Consider the race.

  • What are your general thoughts on the race, the course, or the race organization?
  • What did you do well on race day?
  • If you had a race plan, did you follow it? Was it effective?
  • What are your most vivid memories of the race?
  • Did circumstances beyond your control impact your race (for example, bad weather)?
  • Would you want to do this race again in the future?

Your Training

Consider your entire training cycle.

  • What are your overall thoughts and impressions of the training cycle?
  • Do you feel like your training prepared you for race day?
  • What did you do well in training?

Goals Review

  • Did you accomplish any of your race goals?
    • If yes, could your goals have been even more ambitious?
    • If no, is there something you could have done differently in training or on race day to achieve them?

What Could Have Been Done Better?

Not everything will go to plan on race day.

Don’t dwell on it or get all ‘woe is me’ if things didn’t well. Consider what happened during your race objectively (or at least as objectively as you can).

  • What would you change about your training?
  • What would you change about your race or your race strategy?

Be super specific here. Don’t say ‘I’d drink more.’ Say, ‘I’d drink water every 15 minutes and whenever I consume a gel so I don’t get as dehydrated.’

When your observations are super specific, you can more easily incorporate them into your plan next time around.

What Could Have Been Done Even Better?

Even if everything went swimmingly, who says it couldn’t be better?

  • What went well on race day that you can make even better next time around? Even a great race strategy can be optimized.

What Did You Learn?

This is where I’ll get a little touchy-feely, but humor me.

  • What did you learn about yourself during training or the race?
  • Did you ever doubt that you could finish the training or the race?
    • How did you prove yourself wrong?
    • How can this change the way you view things you think you can’t do in the future?

Write down any other thoughts or impressions you have about the race or your training.

What about you? Do you ever do a race postmortem?

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