5 Steps to Progress After A ‘Face-Plant’ Race Performance

By Cari Junge

For those of you that caught last month’s article, hopefully you found some of the tips useful, as surely many of you have dealt with Mother Nature’s attitude on Race Day this season.

If you raced Boise 70.3 on early June, my hat tips to you. A group of athletes I coach have worked towards the Boise half-iron distance triathlon, and what a day that was . . . some came back with pride and fulfillment while others were sure they faced hell.

Athletic performance at an A-Race or Main Goal Event, versus that of a B-Race or Training Day in preparation for an upcoming A-Race, is typically quite different. The A-Racer’s schedule might provide a transition period post-race for her body and mind to recover, refresh and perhaps shift gears all-together. In this case, the athlete’s level of output could reach intensities knowing that an extensive transition time is on the way. The B-Racer might be racing in the middle of a training block where a recovery period is not immediately following this finish. Here, the athlete’s level of intensity is critical to control in order to minimize the need for extensive healing and regeneration time. By racing this event, the B-Racer’s plan might focus less on time and intensity to reach the ‘win’ however he might define it, and more on maximizing awareness of race day, building confidence, practicing tactics, etc…

A Race Plan can be like a recipe to follow- for success or for failure. Having a goal with a specific result in mind, you follow a sequence of planned steps in order to complete it successfully. Certain tools and tactics may be defined as needs in order to simply complete the task while others would enable heightened success. In the event you face an obstacle within or beyond your control that can shift the plan and-or outcome, you’ve got to respond quickly. Strategy, actions and likely expectations should change in order to simply finish, let alone with fulfillment.

If the apple pie is supposed to be hot and crispy so the ice cream will melt only a nominal amount the moment the doorbell rings, but the electricity goes out due to a power line down and you can’t finish baking the pie through, you may need to go to the store or make something else in time for company to arrive. Next time, you will likely be prepared with a back-up plan and-or practice some scenarios so you can feel confident to invite friends over again. As stressful as this was to deal with, shifting the Plan to offset the obstacle for a successful and satisfying outcome left you more grounded and resilient as an entertainer. You can take it on again having faced it head on. But take time to evaluate what happened and why, and then refine your recipe in case of disaster (which in this case was huge not getting any ‘hot and crispy home-made apple pie a-la mode you were near drooling over on your long ride earlier today’).

Let’s recognize the athlete who is racing with an A-B-C or Z-Race Plan, and facing similar obstacles requiring quick shifts in order to reach success. This 2012 season already has seen some devastating race day encounters and DNF (did not finish) rates. The obstacles, that ‘threw the race plan’ into the freezing cold water, strained mental and physical power from the athletes in Boise. Performances had to shift due to uncomfortable weather patterns, race course changes, and more. Those with a Plan were thrown and those without one, and not prepared with alternate ingredients or tools handy, may have ended their day early or crossed the finish with the devil.

Our Ironman St George athletes faced a wind storm and ocean-like conditions timed perfectly- or not- with the swim start. Dangerous conditions resulted in many races ending before they barely started.

Many of us who come off a tough day such as those, having committed to the outcome for hundreds of hours planning and training for that day alone, find ourselves questioning Self. We may even go to that ‘post-race depression’ feel. And this is understandable having taken many months to build your mind, body and spirit to give it all to this one day, or knowing that day was supposed to be an indicator of your race readiness for the ‘real thing’, your A-Race.

Its these gentle nudges, perhaps from Mother Nature, that empower us consciously or not to grow stronger, smarter, and faster as endurance athletes. The key from here, however, is to get back in the kitchen, get a back-up generator, have your top three favorite recipes handy with varying levels of control needed, and make the call to plan your next party.

Let’s hone in on 5-STEPS TO PROGRESS after a Face-Plant Race Performance. Whether you faced Boise 70.3 or IMSG, or another event with obstacles leaving you feeling low below-ground, these steps might just be your recipe for the perfect finish, a la mode.

STEP 1:

Face The Day: What happened and why? What were you prepared for and what could you have done to better prepare? Make your list of things that you will know to do in preparation for the unknown next race. Acknowledge what was within your control, and that which was well beyond. Give yourself a break and then you can tackle the tough stuff.

STEP 2:

Celebrate Your Gains: Don’t take another step forward without dedicating time (and even a piece of hot apple pie a-la-mode) to celebrate YOU.

Place your right hand on your left shoulder, and pat repeatedly- ideally while seeing your full SELF in the mirror. Give a smile remembering and maybe verbalizing the good, the bad, and the ugly. Face It, Embrace It, develop a hymn to it, and then Get Outta There!

STEP 3:

Prepare Your ‘Kitchen’: Let’s now establish that your ‘kitchen’ is your ‘kingdom for mastery’. It’s a designated space you can go to any time to gather your thoughts, your tools, your peace of mind separate from your training ground, or the oven. Your kingdom has to look and breathe success. You can hang photos of you or others you see as successful, race data you are proud of, and other sensory stimulation that inspires you (music, color, fragrance, etcetera). And here is where you post your upcoming race information. Hang up the swim-bike-run maps, transition areas, your training plan with race type indicators (A,B,C, etcetera). Develop buzz words to focus on, and challenges plus solutions you might face. Keep adding information to your kingdom as you continue building your mind and body to optimally perform throughout the season ahead.

STEP 4:

Re-Assess YOU: This could require the mirror again only to remove the hand from your shoulder and gracefully pick at what could use some cleaning. I always start with a clean mirror, so take the time to Windex so you can to your SELF clearly. Then, talk yourself through where you are right now and where you intend to be as you reach the start line for your next big race. Assess your body composition, fitness level, nutrition for lifestyle and race day, technique and performance strengths and limiters in the swim, the bike and the run. Go through every step of the sport that comes to mind so you can place YOU relative to it.

STEP 5:

Realize Your Goals: The final step for this recipe is to make it happen, successfully. In order to do so, you must be clear and realistic with your SELF and what your guidelines are for self-satisfaction. Post clearly your timeline, your goals, and every dimension involved in your triathlon training program that affects your race day performance and is realistic to nurture during this next training period. Take the time to step back and dissect your patterns that are possibly years old and dusty. For example, re-assess your swim technique and spend two weeks refining just the kick. And take that same period of time to eliminate refined sugar. Celebrate each day of that 2-week journey and see how you feel after practicing both of those limiters with intention. Perhaps commit to watching every stage of the Tour of Utah as a learning experience. Watch riders’ technique and tactics, and take notes of ways this can help your training and racing. Soon you may dabble with bike races for training days as your tri-sport specific limiters become minute.

And that’s when you can take a bite of an eggplant and believe its apple pie.

Cari Junge has over 20 years racing, coaching and teaching experience in the endurance sport industry. She is a certified USATriathlon & USACycling Level II Coach, an 8x ironman athlete, and is currently the Nutrition & Therapy Director for ‘Utah Sports and Wellness’. For more information, see www.utahsportsandwellness.com .

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