Neat-O Idea: Careful Post-Race Positive Analysis

4:53 AM

Seriously, nothing better than fall in Minnesota
I am not a big believer in fate - far too postmodern for that - but every once in a while the right thing/person/event/moment comes along right when you need it.  Everything aligns: you are ready to receive a message when the message arrives.  A couple of weeks ago it was a link to Michael van den Ham’s article “Careful Post-Race Positive Analysis” on the Cyclocross Magazine website.  

In it, he describes having the typical reaction to a couple of bad races: “a cycle of derogatory questioning: Why am I doing this?  Did I train well enough?  Am I even cut out for this whole racing thing?”  At times it surprises me how quickly I am able to lose faith in my training and let negative thoughts about my fitness, my age, even my health creep into my brain.  

The key to combating a dip into self-pity is to engage in post-race positive analysis.  “Instead of focusing on the parts of the race that didn’t go well, I’ve found it much more helpful to acknowledge where I made mistakes during the race, but dwell on my successes.”  It’s a tricky balance, somewhere between Pollyanna-esque optimism and funk-inducing pessimism.  Sure, things go wrong in a race and it is important to note them, but I’ve never met a racer who needed to be reminded of her mistakes to keep them fresh in her mind.  

No, it is the other side of the coin that we usually neglect.  In even the worst race, where you spend more time on your ass than on two wheels, something went well.  Maybe it was a good pass or a corner that you hit every time, but your race will always hold a few moments where you are reminded that you are doing something right.  The elements may not be 100% complete, yet they are coming together.  Over the long term we measure our success in how much of our race goes right, rather than in the reduction of the number of errors.

This reminds me of some great advice from Joe Friel that I find myself going back to again and again.  He describes this process as “selective amnesia” - review and learn from your mistakes, but then toss the memory of them in the trash.  It is our successes that we must save “like trophies.”  Like any garden, only those thoughts that we mindfully tend to will grow and find firm purchase in our brains.  By focusing and reliving the positive parts of our races, we establish them as natural events - things that will happen again, and with greater frequency.     

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