So, what did you do well; what made you feel ready to toe the line for the gun? Don’t hesitate to consider how you trained the weeks before or what you ate during the last couple of days before the race. You don't necessarily have to be superstitious & do the exact same thing before every race, but this exercise can help you to learn the (smart) things which prepare you the best.
Take a close look to see if there were perhaps there were some tactical miscues, a warm-up which was too long, too short, or too intense, or (heaven forbid...none of us have ever done this...) one-too-many beers the night before the race. There’s always room for improvement, and if you're really honest with yourself you’re going to have no problem finding things which might be changed. HOWEVER, don’t dwell on the positives or the negatives from the race any longer than 30 minutes.
CELEBRATION: It is fun to compare notes with your running friends; even talk a little smack which you’ll eventually have to back up; you’re only as good as your next race. There’s nothing like earning hardware, and some age groups are tougher than others. Make certain to appreciate the efforts of all of the athletes; you’ll be amazed at the longevity of some & the speed of others. Respect given leads to respect earned. Perhaps you didn't earn an award, but you ran a personal best or helped someone else to have a great race. Don’t worry. Trophies break & get dusty, but the memory of a PR lasts a long time.
AFTERMATH: A running companion of mine put it well: “The day after I run a good race I go for an easy run. The day after a bad race I go for an easy run.” But, there were many times when the day-after runs were more intense than the previous day. Recovery is where the performance gains are made.
Two post-race recovery rules-of-thumb I like to follow, and often use when laying out plans for an athlete:
Light activity, but no running - one day for each hour of racing. If the race lasts less than an hour, take a day.
One day of easy running (no speed work or racing) for each mile of racing. You can hit the track on Tuesday after a 5K on Saturday, but should run easy for the next week after a 10K.
There are only so many good races a runner can run each season, which depends on base fitness, intensity of workouts, strength and ability to recover after a race. The best runners can stay at peak fitness for six to eight weeks, the citizen-athlete for a much shorter period. Too many races in too short a time can lead to disappointment & injury. Listen to your body & do what feels right for you.
THE NEXT GOAL: Time to sit down and plan for your next goal event. You’re only as good as your next race, so don't focus on the last one you did for too long.