March 25, 2015

A missed PR or goal time does not equal a bad race

As runners, we set our sights on certain goal races each year.  Trying to achieve a personal record (PR) in a race is both exciting and terrifying at the same time.  If you have trained hard and done all the work necessary to make the PR happen, good for you.  But, unfortunately there are things you can't control on race day.  I observed many runners on Sunday have both great races and disappointing ones.  But missing that PR does not mean that you had a bad race.  On the contrary, sometimes our best fought battles in adverse conditions will make the next PR attempt happen with ease. The conditions for racing on Sunday included warmer temps than normal and 90% humidity. Some runners thrive in these conditions and others wilt. Personally I find heat and humidity stifling when I run, so cold weather races are my favorites.

How you handle a missed PR or goal time after a race can be the most challenging thing a runner has to do. No one has a perfect racing year so there is bound to be a race or two that you would like to have as a "do over".  My do over race from last year is the Marine Corps Marathon.  I still look back on that race with some disappointment, but more due to my lack of pre race knowledge than my actual performance.  Making a tactical error where I lined up to race was a mistake. However, this was a great learning experience and I will now always research every aspect of a race so this hopefully will never happen again.

Most runners need a few weeks to get over a performance that did not meet their expectations.  The first few days you will deal with many highs, lows and a sore body which is not very helpful after a long training cycle for a half or full marathon. But here's the thing.  You probably need to spend this time resting your body and figuring out what race you want to run next as redemption.  Just last year, we saw a blogging friend Jen have a miserable day at the NYC Marathon and then crush her local marathon two weeks later.  I am not suggesting that is the right course of action for every runner, but she had trained really well for NYC and handled the nearly back to back marathons with ease. Her redemption race turned into a huge PR race and happiness all around!

One of the greatest things about running is that there is always another race and another chance.  Each race teaches us so many things and future goals can be met from those experiences.  Let's try to celebrate those less than perfect races for what they are, a way to learn from our mistakes.

Did you ever have a bad race?  Did you run another for redemption?


34 comments:

  1. Bad races are just part of the process unfortunately. But learning from it is the best thing to do!

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  2. This is absolutely true. It is a very hard pill to swallow, but after awhile, you realize the lessons you learned instead of the bitterness of missing your goal. Even though you can train hard, there are some things that pop up on race day you can't control. Not easy for the Type A personalities!

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    1. Exactly Megan. Type A personalities struggle with less than sufficient race day results.

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  3. What you've said is definitely the reality. Not ever race is meant to be a PR race, and there are just some days when we'll have off days. Its definitely hard to go into a race knowing that you've done all you can to properly train for it, just to have something disappointing happen during the race.

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    1. When you are going for a goal time or PR that is when you have so much angst over a race. Thankfully my race next month is a "victory lap"!

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  4. Thanks so much for the shout out ladies. <3

    I agree, bad races do not define us as runners. Plus, the PRs wouldn't taste as sweet if they were so easily achieved. Great post!

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    1. Thanks Jen and congrats again on your fantastic redemption race!

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  5. This makes so much sense! I try to find something good in every race (and every run) even if it's just persevering over whatever is going wrong that day. And it does help out with confidence on race days to know that you can deal with obstacles and have done so with other races :)

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    1. Yes, overcoming obstacles on runs and at races makes the next run/race a bit easier and you will be mentally stronger.

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  6. I had trained hard to attempt to run a PR at Princess this year. I was devastated when with less than a week until race day I came down with a cold. I still ran a strong race despite the sickness but I finished 9 minutes over my PR. The hardest part was getting past how slowly I ran. I knew I was sick. I knew I was not going to be fast. But seeing my overall pace started messing with my mind. Was I really that slow? I didn't feel like I was running that slow. During the race I felt as if I was running the fastest I could. In reality, that's exactly what I did, ran as fast as I could THAT DAY. It wasn't until I came within 20 seconds of a new 5k PR a month later that I got my confidence back. I know I over think things way too much and it's something I'm working on as a runner.

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    1. It is hard not to over analyse a race and results. And getting sick before a big race is a huge bummer.

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  7. I really needed to read this so thank you so much posting. I had a horrible race at the LA marathon (solid 20 miles and then legs locked and I was done for the final 10k) and have been bummed about it since then. I am working on picking myself up and moving on but it is hard! especially when it was nothing I did wrong, it was just running a marathon in record 93 degree heat!

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    1. The race conditions are something we cannot control and you did the best you could on that day. It is unfortunate that you train for months and then end up with less than optimal conditions.

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  8. I have had many bad races. When I first started racing they failed ones really hit hard. Now, with experience I've learned it's all part of the journey. Not every race can be a PR!

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    1. I guess all of us have missed our goal times/PR attempts many times. But the times we reach those goals make them super sweet!

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  9. In running, we miss the mark far more than we succeed when we attempt a PR. At least, unless it's a brand-new distance or something you haven't run in years.

    I've had a few nightmare races. In December, I ran a 5K and my finish time was 2 minutes off the usual time for a road 5K. My coach was at the finish wondering if I was injured on the course. It was horrible, but I had a really great long run a day or so later. One thing about a missed goal is that unless you are injured, you can sometimes get back to training quicker and have a good run.

    Also, occasionally I opt to do 5Ks and 10Ks as tempo runs now. Having different expectations for the race can really help. My last 10K wasn't a PR but I ran completely even splits and even got slightly faster in mile 6. So while not a PR, it was a great training run I can be proud of :).

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    1. Wow, I never thought to use a short race as a tempo run. That is great advice and maybe this spring I will look for a couple shorter races to add to my calendar.

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  10. I think I've gotten better about accepting the fact they will not all be PRs. There are so many factors that come into play too. I honestly enjoy a race more when I let that go.

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    1. If you race frequently there is no way you can PR all the time. This year I have far fewer races on my calendar, but still have very few that I might even attempt a PR.

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  11. Great post, I completely agree! Whenever people ask me, are you sad you don't win, or did you beat your last time. I tell people quite often, there can only be 1 winner, so why would anyone else be sad about finishing a race, they at least did it, and that's another win on it's own. We can only PR so many times in our lives, so I kind of feel the same with that, if doing our best, whatever that is each race is all we do, then that is more than good enough:)

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    1. This cracks me up...if someone asked me if I was sad that I did not win I would LOL. I agree that doing our best on the day is good enough and something to be proud of.

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  12. Did I ever have a bad race.... HA!!!
    You know it!
    I just think they can't all be great, and it sucks, but you have got to move on and focus on the next one.

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    1. Yes, focusing on the next one is the best thing you can do.

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  13. I think my bad race to good race ratio is about 4:1 if I look just at time goals. If I think about the overall experience then I would say it is flip-flopped. It did take a while to get used to not PR'ing every time out like I did the first year or two when I got off the couch and started running. Now the PRs are much harder to get!

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    1. Interesting ratio....especially the overall experience. We have run many Disney races that are challenges and of course those have to be about the experience. It is tough to PR when you race 4 days in a row.

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  14. I wanted PHM this year to be a redeeming run for me and even though my time was better than last year, I still didn't think it was a great race because I know that I am capable of so much better. On the other hand I am proud of each race I finish because I know I did the best I could considering the circumstances. -m

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    1. It is very hard to race when your body is not at 100% and you certainly did not have that for PHM. I am sorry you have been struggling so much and hopefully you will have a redemption race soon!

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  15. I've had quite a few bad races (even when it was not a PR type of race), but they all resulted in good takeaways. For some reason I've always had particularly bad races in Miami (I think it is the heat) - I am going once more next year (for some fun in the sun during the winter) but want a redemption run :)

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    1. I bet if you did some of your training runs before a Miami race where you were overdressed it might help. It will definitely be hotter there and it would be hard to simulate unless you used a treadmill and extra clothing!

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  16. Hit me square in the jaw on this one since I just had a disappointing race last weekend. In grand scheme of things it wasn't disappointing to the naked eye but goals I set for myself were not met. I've sulked, learned a few lessons and moved on. Ready and waiting for the next!

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    1. That's the good thing about running and races, there is always another one to set your sights on!

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  17. Oh yes, I've had a multitude of bad race experiences in my time as a runner and yes, I use other races as an excuse for redemption! :) I agree with you completely, there's always another race to run!

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    1. Karen you must still be on cloud nine with your sub 2 half and you crushed that half. Can't wait to watch your progress this year!

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