So you trained hard for sixteen weeks; followed a training plan at least 80%; had a couple really good training weeks; and felt pretty dang confident on race day. If you’re like me you have a finish time goal that you’ll be happy with, one that you share with your training buddies and Facebook friends, and then you have a finish time goal you REALLY want, the secret one you feel pretty sure you can get but just in case you keep to yourself.

Race day comes, you’re feeling good, everything is falling into place and low and behold, you cross that finish line achieving your secret goal!! Congratulations!! Then all of a sudden you think, “how am I going to beat that next year?!”

Evaluate your recent success. Yes, you may have come across the finish line in the time you thought would be impossible to achieve, but there were area’s during the race you could have done something different to make it even better. And it’s by recognizing those little things and improving on them that will set you up for an even faster finish at next year’s race.

I’ll use my most recent half distance triathlon. My goal was 6:05 and my secret goal was a sub 6. I knew that if I could ride the bike leg in three hours I’d be good. During one of my training rides I rode a 3:05 so I thought three hours on race day would be easy to achieve. After all, I was only five minutes off during a 56 mile training ride – throw in my aero helmet and adrenaline of race day and a three hour ride would be easy to achieve, right? Wrong!

Although I had the advantage over most participants of the race being in my backyard and training on the course week in and week out, there is a small 1.3 mile section that runs through a state park that is gated and closed off so we never rode through there until race day. Little did I know sections of the road were torn up and we had to ride through sand and gravel in places and the paved portions were extremely bumpy.

That did not deter me nonetheless. I was whooping and hollering to all the volunteers; I said “good job” to every cyclist I rode by; and in general just had the ride of my life.

Unfortunately coming back through the park I lost all my tire gear – C02 cartridge, tire irons, tube – just bounced right out from the bumpy road. Normally not a big deal but because I had to go back through the park two more times I was concerned I’d be completely out of the race if I got a flat. So what did I do? I tried calling my husband! Yes, during the middle of a freakin’ race I pulled out my phone from my jersey pocket and dialed my husband while riding. I thought if he could have a spare kit in the car in case I got a flat he could come meet me and I could continue. Well, the calls never went through for some reason so I gave up after several tries and fortunately I never got a flat. What I did get was as 3:07 on the bike – a far cry from the three hours I was counting on! Fortunately I had a better swim and run than what I predicted and was still able to come in at 5:59:15! My secret goal time achieved!

Many would be happy they reached their goal and figure they’ll just train a little more or harder for next year if they wanted to beat it. What I learned from this experience is that by evaluating the entire race and seeing what I could do the same and what I could do better (like not trying to make a phone call during the race, among other things) I could improve my time quite a bit without much more effort.

Looks like my goal for 2014 will be a 5:52:00 (or better – but I think I’ll keep that to myself!)

What are some crazy things you’ve done on race day that may have hindered your performance? Share with us in the comments below.