Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Post Event Analysis

At the end of a race, or other such event, it’s very easy to take a snapshot feeling of how things went, sometimes this means being overly critical of your own performance. On other occasions you may be celebrating a fine personal best before you realise the winner set a new world record and the course was clearly short. That’s why it’s important to gather all relevant information before a serious analysis of your performance. As a runner the first thing I do, after I cross the finish, is stop my watch and check my time, to see how fast I was. This can leave me feeling a little disappointed if my time isn’t as good as I had hoped, or elated if I’ve run faster than I’ve expected, but then I park it until I see the full result. In my best years I didn’t wear a watch in races, I preferred to race the opposition rather than worry about the time so my initial success criteria was based more upon position than time. Now I’m an old geezer it’s more important to see how much I’m slowing down rather than if I finished 36th or 37th.

The analysis of a track race is often easy as it’s a regular distance, generally the same surface and flat, but you may need to take into account weather, altitude, temperature and how tactical the race was. For a road race or cross country event, you need to take into account different terrain and also different conditions to similar races. So it’s important that you get a full picture of what everybody else in the race did, before critiquing your performance.

When I’m assessing my performance I’ll look at the winner’s time and see how they did in comparison to my time. Then I’ll look at the runners who normally finish around my finishing position to see how I fared relative to them. Of course non of this is perfect as you don’t know what their personal circumstances were on the day but if there is a large enough group of peers it should give you a decent indication. If I’ve done the race previously I’ll compare my time and position against that, taking into account who else was in the race, my current fitness level and differing race conditions. Lastly I’ll run through the race in my mind to see where I thought I did particularly well or any aspects that I could improve upon.

As a Coach/Personal Trainer I help my clients to evaluate their performance in the same way. If I’ve been there to watch the race I’ll already know some of the areas that need to be worked on, but it’s important to ask the runner what they think of their own performance, before giving my opinion. On some occasions the person may be too wrapped up with what they think they did wrong that they forget to think about the things that went well. Other times it’ll be clear there were areas that need to be worked on so then it’s up to us to identify the best way to do that. If I can, I’ll always try to end on a positive, it’s a much healthier way to live your life.

And onto the latest race in my calendar:

After my run for Salford, last week, I was so inspired by the atmosphere that I pushed myself a little harder in training this week. I hadn’t realised what a difference not competing for my club regularly had on my enthusiasm, now I’m all fired up and want to improve, to play my part in making Salford the best club in the country. On Wednesday I did my usual quality session but, to me, it felt like I was shifting along that little bit quicker than I had previously. It’s a good sign but I’m still only one week into my quality work so need to be patient. On Thursday I decided it was time to push things a little more and ran for 10 miles, about 3 miles longer than anything I’d done for about 8 weeks. It felt good to be out for more than an hour, even though my hamstring was a little sore afterwards, but Friday was a rest day so I wasn’t unduly concerned.

Come Saturday it was another race day, this time the Northern Road Relay Champs, so tougher opposition and I’d been promoted into the C team. Couldn’t afford to have a bad run or it would mean a quick demotion to D. There were a couple of guys in the B team who had been just a little quicker than me at Marbury so I had them in my sights, but I knew this run was all about building up my confidence, I wasn’t going to make a difference to Salford today. My hamstring was a little sore so I was still a little nervous but I was confident enough that I’d get through it.

It came to me that Sean, the team manager, must’ve read my blog from last week, and focused on the bit about my first relay run for Belgrave, as once again I was on 2nd leg taking over from somebody else I didn’t know. Not only that but I didn’t get a chance to meet him before the start. During the race I was out on the course trying to spot him but couldn’t find number 97 anywhere, I was beginning to think he’d dropped out so wondering if I’d get a run at all. As the runners came into changeover I still hadn’t seen 97 but I decided to get to the start just in case. Then he turned up with a number that was obscured to the point that it didn’t look like a 97, but I was away.

This course was not at all to my liking, it was confusing, a number of runners didn’t really know where they were supposed to be running (though I’d made it my business to make a proper recce of the course so I was fairly confident I knew where I was going), many of the paths were slippery, corners were very tight (one was so tight I had to stop and start again every time I went round it), runners were intermingling from different angles and it was narrow. I also saw a lot of people cutting a particular corner and whilst they might have been well down the race, so not affecting the top positions, it may well have had an affect on some honest runner’s ranking. I also think the marshals cry of ‘where are you going’ wasn’t the most helpful to those people who did go wrong. Still, irrespective of my feelings for the course I gave it a good go and managed to bring our team home 27 places higher than I set off. Nobody overtook me, though there was one guy behind me chasing me down, and I not only managed to run fastest leg for the C team I also beat all the guys in the B team.

You might think that I wasn’t happy being in the C team when hindsight’s view shows I should have been in the B team, but I know how difficult it is to the select teams, I was involved in making the choices for some of Belgrave’s 12 stage medal winning teams and it’s not easy leaving people out of that. To be fair to Sean, guys in the B team had beaten me the week before, I am still coming back from an injury and even I didn’t realise I would run that much better than last week. In fact I was pretty impressed with Sean’s management style, despite being on 1st leg, himself, he put in a lot of time for other members of the squad, putting their enquiries before his own preparations. I’ve never met anybody so laid back that they can still be putting their racing shoes on and chatting to others after the starting gun has gone, and then he still managed to overtake some of the teams, not only a good manager but he has talent too.   

Credit too for all the Salford runners and supporters, they seemed to crop up everywhere on the course and it really is a big help to have them cheering us on. Many of them were shouting out my name, which is always nice for individual attention, so I have to apologise that I’m still not familiar with all of theirs, but that’ll come. I also had my secret weapon, Carole turned up, despite having to go to work for the night shift. I can make out her Bonnyrigg tones anywhere, unless I’m racing in Scotland, and it always spurs me on. Finally I have to thank Paul Simons for convincing me that I could catch those guys that were 200m ahead with 700m to go, in fact if you could have shouted it louder, Paul, I might have caught those that were 300m ahead.

The final result was that my team finished in 46th position, the B team were in 34th but our A team came away with Bronze medals, not too far away from winning the event. Plus we had 6 men’s teams finishing. The ladies had 3 teams, with their top team coming 5th. Good effort all round and another move forwards in our bid for national glory.

Following on from the main point of this blog, what analysis did I make of my performance. My initial reaction to the time, 20:06, was a slight disappointment, being so close to breaking 19 minutes. However when I saw the results I realised I’d run well against my peers, closing the gap on some who ran faster than me the previous week and beating others. It gives me the impression that I’m about 20-30 seconds off where I was before my injury, which surprises me as I’ve not really trained anywhere near as hard as I was then. That means I’m about a further 20 seconds away from where I want to be, and I actually feel I can get there. I’m sure I could have run faster, I wasn’t quite ready at the start so didn’t really get into my stride until about 100m, I also got baulked on some of the tight corners and had to overtake a lot of people on the slippery grass and I know, although I ran hard all the way, I still wasn’t at 100%. My injury still keeps me from committing that final amount and that means I wasn’t aerobically challenged. I don’t think I’m far off but I need to allow myself the confidence to push more, it’ll come and lets not forget this part of the year is about having fun, though a win or two would be welcome. So onto the next one and lets see what comes of that.

Written by Roger Alsop

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