The Race Review

As much as writing a race plan is a key starting point for setting up race day success it now just as important to now sit down and review your race. This should be done at least a few days later. This allows time for the emotional dust to settle which usually clouds rational thinking. A race usually looks completely different a few days later when you look at it with clearer eyes.

This also gives you time to look at the bigger picture because a race result is so much more than your overall finish time. Some of the areas you need to consider are:

  • Your current level of triathlon experience ( beginner, intermediate, advanced)
  • How many races you have done this year (Don’t expect miracles if it’s your first!)
  • The quality & consistency of your training building into the race (over weeks & months)
  • The phase of training you are in (early, mid, late)
  • Race week preparation
  • Race day conditions (weather, terrain etc.)
  • Your technical, physical and mental execution
  • Your position & time relative to your category in all 3 disciplines (4 if you include transitions times)

You can clearly see it’s not a simple as it first seems when you start to evaluate the areas above. It never ceases to amaze me how many triathletes come to the wrong conclusions about their race because they are so finish time focussed. This is dangerous territory because all courses are not created equally, some are short, some are measured correctly and some can be long. The conditions also play a major factor. This is why it’s crucial for you to look at your position relative to category, it’s also reason you shouldn’t compare times from two completely different race venues.

The number one question that needs to be asked during this process is – how can I do it better next time?

You need to write a list and honestly identify the areas where  you did well and areas you didn’t. This forms the blue print and driving force behind your next race plan. You need to be as honest as possible because as much as you think you might have a had a great race there is always areas you can improve next time.

I always say that my worst performance as a triathlete was also my best race because it helped transform me both as an athlete and as a coach. Ten years ago I went into Ironman Austria hoping to go Sub 10 hours for the first time. I ended up finishing in 11hrs 59mins, I quite literally fell apart. This resulted in me walking 14 miles of the marathon. What made it so crushing at the time is that I was in my best ever-physical condition, I mistakenly thought this would be enough see me through.

Later when I sat down with my coach to review my race I realised that I took too many chances, made too many last minute changes and worst of all I didn’t race to my race plan. I pretty much made every mistake possible! It was the race that showed me that fitness alone can only take you so far; it’s the accumulation of the smaller details that really can make the biggest difference on race day. It’s no surprise that my next Ironman was one of my best performances.

The message is clear; it’s good to make mistakes if you are prepared to learn from them. The greatest athletes of our time achieved what they did my making more mistakes than anyone else. Triathletes expend far too much energy worrying about making mistakes and trying to be too perfect, we need to flip this thinking on it’s head because if you want to get ‘really’ good you shouldn’t be afraid to fail. This is the key to personal growth and your ongoing evolution as a triathlete.

This is why racing is so important; don’t wait for that perfect moment to do it because there isn’t one. If you want to get better at racing then get out there and learn your race craft. You will only improve as an athlete through gaining as much experience in as many different environments as possible.

Just make sure you keep a written record of all of these race experiences in your race reviews, they are fascinating to be able to look back on.  Then when your next race comes around look back at them to see where you can make positive changes.

As in my previous article on how to write a race plan: (https://teamnagicoaching.co.uk/coaching/cant-imagine-cant-execute/), I’ve included two good examples of race reviews written by two of my athletes. Both are very conscientious athletes with a burning desire to keep on improving:

Race review 1

Ironman UK
What went well Things to work on
Pre race: made sure I had the food I wanted to eat for the day before the race. This was much better than relying on hotel food. Ate quinoa, tuna, avocado, nuts, salad leaves, tomatoes. Also homemade granola in the evening.


Make some bars or other snacks to eat during the day….quite a bit of time hanging around and travelling in between venues to check in bags etc. so could do with having more snacks to hand.


Race morning: felt fairly relaxed. Timings worked fine. Just enough time before the race start to get ready but not too long to wait around either. Just right.


Warm up could be a bit longer perhaps. Did an easy jog but it might be worth spending longer on this next time.


Torpedo water bottle on aero bars worked great. Easy to drink from and easy to refill. Only needed to refill once.


Transitions!! Same as Staffs really. It was better having bike shoes already attached to bike – had practised this too. Swim to bike…need to get quicker and make this process second nature. In T1 the wrong bag was on my peg so had to go back to change it! Bike to run…better but still can be quicker.


Swim: felt more relaxed again than Staffs. Didn’t panic and sighting was much better (until the heavens opened properly on the second lap!)


Swim: GET FASTER!!!! Don’t know how, but guess I need to swim more in wetsuit in open water, learn to let go more. I know I can go faster! Couldn’t get a good draft on first lap but did manage to for some of the second lap.


Bike: comfortable on aero bars – more than I ever have been in an ironman before. Descending and cornering getting better all the time.


Bike: GET FASTER!!!! Train on TT bike on the road more often? More hill reps? Would doing some time trials help?? Need to build more strength I think.


Run: another tough run course!! First 10k felt really good, especially my legs. Managed to stay focused during the tough sections and for some of the run I actually felt like I was moving pretty well. Overall my legs felt strong throughout, until the final few km.


Run: energy levels felt a little bit low after first 10k. Maybe I set off too quickly? By the second lap I drank pepsi and this gave me a real boost of energy. Stayed with this for the rest of the run. Think it was heart and lungs that struggled more than legs during 2nd half. I know I can run a much faster marathon than this.



General Thoughts

Overall I’m really happy with the improvements made over a relatively short period of training. Considering the ups and downs, picking up a few bugs etc. it was a great result. I don’t think I could have pushed any harder during the race. I wonder whether I could get away with doing a bit less training during the week before an ironman? Or maybe I just need a nice clear lead into the taper week, without being stressed or ill!

A great learning experience – and now I have even more motivation to get better in all 3 disciplines. I’m being realistic about it, I know I can’t get to the standard of say, Lucy Gossage, but those women who were 2nd, 3rd & 4th….I’d like to think I could get to that standard. Somehow, with a bit more time and race experience.

Race review 2

Some thoughts on the race:

What went well:

  1. I didn’t panic when having technical issues with my rear wheel the day before. I worked out a way of fixing the problem although it took a while.
  1. The second half of bike was phenomenal – really strong
  1. I’m amazed I managed a 1:32 half marathon off so little running. With some real run training who knows what can happen?
  1. There was a point 2/3 into the run where I started to doubt, and thought I was going to blow up. But I know from past experience that it doesn’t necessarily mean the end, so kept pushing and started to feel stronger again

What could have been better:

  1. My swim was poor. I felt good at the start, but could feel myself losing power halfway through. Maybe because I didn’t have time to warm up at all. Next time I’ll get to transition earlier in the morning so have time to warm up. And I’ll take some stretch cords to warm up swim-specific muscles. But I think my swim performance was also affected by the missed sessions the week before the race, and by the fact that quality swim sessions were difficult to do in Bali.
  1. The first half of the bike lacked rhythm. I kept having to hold back to avoid drafting people, then getting overtaken, then when I tried to get ahead I found it was slightly above the effort level I was looking for that early in the race. There are two ways of tackling this – one is to have a stellar swim so I can go at my own pace on the bike. The second way is to go harder for the first 20K of the bike course and get ahead of the groups before settling into my own rhythm.
  1. The run: I ran the first 7K at about 4:15/K, which felt sustainable and I could have gone harder. I really didn’t think I was overdoing it, and could see myself running at that pace the whole way. Then at about 12K I started to slow down, and felt pretty awful. I slowed to about 5:00/K at one point. Thought it might get even worse. I stopped and walked through one of the aid stations and had a can of red bull. After that I picked up and managed a reasonable pace (4:30ish) for the remainder of the run. In hindsight I should have started slower. But I also think I could have sustained that initial pace if I had more run endurance in the legs. The longest run I’ve done in training was 15K and I’ve only done about 12 runs in the past 3 months (some run-walks) so I think there’s a lot of gains to be made in this department.
  1. It’s worth staying in a hotel right next to the race. We were staying 30min taxi ride away which compromises sleep on race day and causes difficulties on the day before the race, such as where to leave your stuff when doing your pre-race brick.