We’ve been talking a lot about post-race reviews, and one question that we kept thinking about was around luck. Specifically, ‘what was lucky about this race?’ and ‘what was unlucky about this race?’ This is a great starting point when it comes to thinking about controllables and uncontrollables from your race. But as we were talking through ‘unlucky’ parts of a race, like weather or a blister or the super-fast guy showing up, we started to think through how controllable some seemingly uncontrollable elements are.
No, you can’t control the weather. But you can control how prepared you are for rain or snow at your race.
No, you can’t control an unexpected blister. But you can run with a few basic supplies to remedy the situation if needed.
No, you can’t control the registration list. But you can control how you react and respond to faster racers on the start line.
While it’s good to acknowledge that there are plenty of factors out of our control on race day, it’s just as important to think through what your locus of control is in any given situation. The idea of ‘uncontrollables’ wasn’t supposed to make us just throw our hands up and accept that a race isn’t going to go our way—it was just to remind us that things like weather and other people aren’t within our locus of control, but our responses to them are.
The post-race review is key for this, when you’re looking ahead towards next season. Write out your lucky/unlucky list, noting the circumstances that led to both positive and negative outcomes.
While this is often easy to do after a bad race—listing things like sharp rocks that caused you to flat or rain that blurred your vision—don’t neglect this after a good race! For example, I just had a great race weekend, but writing out my ‘lucky’ list still had a lot of good information for me. For example, I was lucky with the cooler weather, since I find racing in the cold much easier than in the heat. That’s good information, because it’s a reminder that weather is so variable, that I struggle in the heat, and that I need to keep cooling strategies in mind heading into next season if I want to race well. I was also lucky that getting to the race a bit later than we planned meant less time to get stressed at the start line. That’s not something I should start doing purposefully, but it could be useful information when it comes to my strategy for fighting pre-race jitters.
Writing out your lucky/unlucky list (or just a single list called ‘uncontrollables’) will likely make you realize pretty quickly that yes, these things weren’t within your control… but there were likely elements that were within your control that you either executed on well, or need to work on for next time.
Once you’ve written out a few of the uncontrollables (or at least found one!), it’s time to think through how this can serve you for next time. What can you control about this uncontrollable situation? A really cold race day—common for cyclocross racers!—may not be something you can change. But you can change what you’re wearing in warmup, what you have on at the start line, how you’re fueling, and how you’re warming those frozen fingers up after your race. A course like Big Sugar in Bentonville that often causes riders to get flat tires can’t be controlled, but your tire-changing ability and the supplies you carry with you can be worked on and tailored to the situation.
It’s important to acknowledge that there are some things that you can’t control in racing. That’s what makes it fun! But it’s equally important that you don’t let the idea of ‘uncontrollables’ become more of an excuse than a chance to learn and prepare differently next time.