You hit the final miles of your race with determination, purpose and commitment. But as you cross the finish line, things often lose direction. I believe the key to every race is to see the end as just the beginning. To learn from your latest performance, you need to be at your most deliberate after racing.
Rule one: recover
The first priority is to get your body on the road to recovery. Muscle damage from running at race intensity with someone breathing down your neck can put your legs in a sorry state. If ever a recovery drink is warranted, it’s in the 30mins immediately after the finish.
Eat solid food an hour or two after crossing the line, and save your victory beer until later. Ensure you take on quality drinks high in carbohydrates and protein to repair and rehydrate.
After racing you’ll fall straight back into the real world, lamenting the race that was, or was not. Yet beneath your everyday get up, recovery tights and a t-shirt should already be aiding the recovery process. They’ll keep you warm, which will increase the rate of recovery – cold muscles slow down your return to normality.
Rule two: low impact
The Monday morning alarm clock awakes you from your slumber. If it’s been a great race you’ll still be on a high. If not you’ll merely have added to those start-of-the-week blues. But however damaged you feel emotionally, your muscles will still be repairing.
Be sensitive to this – training in a high-impact manner at this time will only hamper the recovery process. Running and weights should be delayed until Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning, at the very earliest. Instead, go for a swim or out on the bike, and focus on recovery sessions such as yoga, Pilates, sports massage or tai chi.
The other no-no is increasing training volume, or turning up the intensity significantly. The race is now history. Whatever went wrong cannot be rectified quickly – you need to build up again, gradually. So don’t beat yourself up. And be sure to test how tired your body is, before committing to overly challenging sessions.
Rule three: rethink
I’ve seen so many people make brash statements just after a race – this is the worst thing you can do. Let the dust settle. Then, after a few days of recovery, you can mull over your race result with a clear head and decide how best to alter your training, diet and equipment. You might need to build more lactate tolerance, do more run miles, practise transitions or improve your nutrition.
Rule four: race first
All of the above post-mortem is just that: it’s to be done after the race. Not midway through the bike or while running out of T2. Never catch yourself already planning the next race when the current one is yet to be finished. Race, then recover, then rethink.
Thejoy of six: post-race pointers
1 - Finish line
You can still enjoy post-race banter while maximising recovery. But while a pint might seem like a good idea, your best bet is a recovery drink and some quality nutrition.
2 - Recovery Mondays
The stress of racing will really take it out of you. The day after racing must be easy and low impact. Take naps and get yourself off to bed early – you’ll need plenty of sleep to recover.
3 - Appreciate and analyse
Appreciate what the race has taught you about tapering, race-day application and your fitness. Take time to savour it and then write down lessons for next time. Racing is learning.
4 - Taper back up
Gradually build training frequency and intensity in a reverse taper pattern. Resist training hard to make up for a bad race, or becoming complacent about recovery if you’ve done well.
5 - Be thankful
Racing requires support from those around you, so thank everyone who helped you; racing can become a selfish obsession, so keep others in mind. You’ll earn brownie points at the same time.
6 - Change habits
None of us enjoy race-day disappointment but it can be turned around. Use what you’ve learned to make positive changes to your training, diet and the way you use your equipment.