Missed Your PR or BQ Goal? Here’s What to Do Next
For many training can be, well, all the time. Most runners are always training for something. Who runs and doesn’t have some race on the books? But training can be a loaded word. There are an array of levels, physical and emotional, that runners commit to when they are training. Some races are distance firsts. Some are bucket list race locations, while others are favors for friends. Others can be runs of redemption. Yet, nothing quite compares to the training set forth to PR or BQ or, for some, both at the same time.
Your schedule if planned out months in advanced. Vacations are waylaid. Friday night cocktails are non-existent. Speed work moves into dread-worthy levels. The list of sacrifices and schedule altering is endless. With the commitment that comes with focused training, the emotions attached to our goal race can be huge. And what happens when that goal is not met? After all the energy you applied, now what?
Deal with It
That doesn’t mean immediately. It doesn’t mean the day after or even the week after. It may not be something you are wild about but in your own way and time you need to find some form of closure or acceptance. Each race is different and how you process those races are equally as different. Sometimes you are over a disappointment by the time you pull back in your driveway. Or it could be a race that makes you grumpy for the rest of day or even the whole weekend. It might even seep over into your motivation for the following week.
Embrace the emotion that’s bubbling up even if it seems random. Relief or apathy might be reigning supreme instead of anger or disappointment. Taking note of your emotions could shed light on how to better prepare mentally in the future. Relief or apathy could mean you were a little too stressed or maybe you were skeptical about your training to afford you the ability to reach the end goal. Anger and disappointment could mean you felt really prepared or as it often is, anger is appearing as a secondary emotion and there are other emotions at play.
An honest evaluation needs to be ascertained by you first and foremost. If you can’t be honest, it’s not time. Continue to mull over the emotions until you can be unbiased with yourself. This relates mostly to being kind to yourself, which may be hard since many runners are overly self-critical. Seeking out help from someone who knows your running style and can ask questions or add constructive help in areas you might not have thought of could be a value add. Generally, the race can be placed into two categories, things you absolutely cannot control and things you can sort-of control. While extremely frustrating, things like being sick, race cancellations, getting injured (on or off the course) are like getting a fender bender. They ruin your day and are annoying while you get things back into working order but at the end of the day, you were doing what you should have been doing so go light on yourself.
Other items like going out too fast or too slow, running out of steam (either due to undertraining or nutrition) and being too conservative on the course are items that can sort-of be controlled. This is where the honesty is needed. Being conservative on the course can be a race strategy that didn’t go as planned or it can be an excuse to not push yourself out of your comfort zone. Correctly identifying the intentions behind actions in your race can help in future races.
After some misses you get back up, dust yourself off, fix the issues and get back to the work at hand. Other times there is a real blow to the self-esteem especially if you were very vocal about your goal or there was a lot of support behind you. Placing the race into perspective will be helpful to gain a realistic viewpoint. You’ve seen many a runner friend try and fail. Rarely, if ever, do you judge the runner by the race. When a comrade fails our community offers words of encouragement and empathy. It is what make us unique but it also makes it an open space to go out and try for those goals. Allow yourself to be a little bruised but you know a solid runner doesn’t mean every run or race is amazing.
When you are ready to try again the recipe is simple: prevent what you can from getting in your way. When it comes to choosing the race, fix what ailed you. Maybe the course and weather were great, but if they weren’t, pick a place where you can, on an educated guess, assume both of those things have a high likelihood of being awesome. Or maybe you realize travelling on a plane might have been the kink in the wheel. Whatever you can rectify, do so.
When it comes to training, it’s back to the honest evaluation. Were you in a good base shape to begin with? If you weren’t start with your base, maybe the remainder of your program is good. Maybe your speed work doesn’t translate to the race time it should. Look at making split goals faster or longer. Maybe add more repetitions or adding in longer rests periods to ensure the time on speed is spent on legs in the correct state. Could you have been overtrained and needed a cross-training day instead of junk miles? Look at all aspects, not just the obvious. If you are circling back to train because of an instance out of your control, it’s still worth evaluating your overall program and making tweaks.
Only Willy Wonka sugar coats stuff and missing a PR or BQ goal is no fun. It can be painful on every level but we’re human and resilient. There are so many factors in a race that some days it just isn’t going to happen. But the beauty is that some days it does. And there is a response to a common running question to be kept in mind: when someone asks your fastest time, the answer is always, “I haven’t run it yet.”