SUB5 MIND-FIT BLOG
Hello Dyestat fans, I want to introduce myself, my name is Janet Leet, and I will be writing a weekly blog on different women’s issues and general running topics. A little about myself, I created the SUB5 camp for girls 13 years ago as an avenue to promote a positive message to the future female runners of tomorrow. My goal is to have every athlete walk away feeling better about who she is and where she is going. I am a former Kinney (Foot Locker) National Champion, 10 time division I All American, USA team member, professional runner, and Cross Country Athlete of the Century in New Jersey.
I participated in many camps as a youth and worked at many more as a collegiate runner. What I found is that NONE OF THEM told the real story about running and none dealt with issues about being a young female runner. In reality, women’s running at that time was very new and in some ways it still is today. It was not until 1980 that women could even run over a 1500M at the Olympics. What really surprises me, though, is that my high school times from over 26 years ago still stand up in today’s standards. I ran a 10:18 2 mile (not 3200M), 4:52 mile (not 1600M), and a 16:43 5000M (not a 3 mile). I would love to see the youth of today take this sport to a whole new level and eventually be able to compete on the world stage.
One of my many goals with the camp is to help guide each individual athlete to create her own goals and visions. I want her thinking about TOMORROW so that she makes the right choices and decisions TODAY. I want her thinking big because we are made of so much more. I ant to see the times I ran as a youth be just that – Old times from the past. I have had a lot of success with runners who have attended my camp such as All American NCAA Division I athletes Maureen Scott, Stephanie Brown, and Dacia Barr (Olympic Trials qualifier). They all set goals, wrote on tiles, and smashed their tiles when they achieved their goals. But, let me be perfectly clear, I have athletes attend the camp with all levels of ability and their goals are just as important as Stephanie Brown’s. Not everyone crosses that finish line first. Cross Country and distance running is about learning to take the body to all new levels.
Goals are extremely important to have in any sport. Goals guide, direct and give us vision and focus. If there is no goal then the athlete can weave aimlessly in and out of her performances. The athlete will have no direction or guidance on what she is doing or why.
Athletic goals are important but even more important are academic and personal development goals. “Running must be a passion, not an obsession.” I have been asked to write about GOAL SETTING in my first blog. I want to start out with an explanation about where goals come from, explain the different types of goals, address where to set goals, dealing with team goals, and how to run a goal setting session for your team or individual. Next week’s blog will be about THE PLAN.
WHERE DO GOALS COME FROM?
All goals start from a thought and build into a passion and then become a conviction. Many Olympic athletes will tell you they knew they were going to be Olympians when they were just kids. I knew I would win a national title when I was in 5th grade. I had just gone to my first Junior Olympics and finished 80th out of 83 runners. I set my goal that day to win a national title. I know that is crazy but, I won that National title just 7 years later. On the bottom you can follow my progression of setting and achieving my goals.
Goals all start out from a thought that come out of an experience at some point. That thought comes from our imagination. We might even visualize the thought in pictures or in words. As we hold onto the thought and visualize it, the goal grows and becomes bigger. These thoughts and visualizations get power and energy. The more we hold onto those thoughts and visualizations the more imbedded into us they become. After setting our goals we want to tag positive affirmation statements against them. Then we develop a morning and/or nightly ritual of relaxing our mind and body to say our statements to ourselves. This type of training session teaches us to hold onto those thoughts in order to give it power. But, we must also listen to what we are saying back. If we pick up on any negativity then refocus, and go into a deeper relaxation. If this still does not work then we need to listen to what we are trying to tell ourselves. It might be time to revisit that goal and make an adjustment to it. But remember we are working on getting that goal to become a true belief. An example of why we might not have a belief is that maybe we are having a hard time hitting the times we need to be at during practice. We might not be adapting. There could be reasons for that, so I recommend talking to your coach and make adjustments to the goal if need be. At a different date I will discuss visualization and incorporating the goals into that visualization but it is very important that we understand its role in the “Mind-Fit” training program (SUB5’s mental training program).
LONG TERM VS. SHORT TERM GOALS:
Very simply, long term goals take over a year to accomplish while short term goals are less than a year and more immediate. Long term goals can be the desire to run in college, desire to run marathons some day, desire to compete at the local, state, or national level, etc. I look at the short term goals as stepping stones towards the long term goals. We can have many long term goals because that is what keeps us training and doing what we do. There are NO RULES with goal setting. If short term goals are set correctly they become a stretch for the athlete but not unmanageable. I have many campers who stretch themselves and do not reach their goals right away. There are no guarantees in sports. It can take a little longer to accomplish that goal. That is OK because accomplishing it makes it mean so much more. Plus, if we hit all our goals all the time we would never learn. Obstacles get in our way of accomplishing goals and how we handle those obstacles determines our future success or lack thereof. As a former professional runner, I learned more from my failures then I ever did from my victories. I learned more about my weaknesses in my defeats. I always tried to make my weaknesses my strengths.
TIME VS PERFORMANCE GOALS:
A time goal is just that, a time you may want to accomplish. A performance goal, on the other hand, is more a place or range you want to be in. For example, If you want to be “All State” that is a performance goal where as a time is a time. DANGER arises when we tag performance goals with time goals. I always tell my campers never to do that because you do not know what is going to happen in a state meet for example. It could be 100 degrees or the course could be full of mud, or better yet the race goes out really slow. There is no satisfaction when we hit our performance goals but not our time. While yes we all want to run fast times and we all want to put on the show at the state meet, I strongly encourage you to treat the performance meets for what they are performance. Go and RACE THEM. Remember Alan Webb had to set up a race in order to break the American Record in the mile because the perfect race never presented itself in professional racing. Now if you want to run a fast time at the state meet than you better be willing to do all the work in the race. As Steve Prefontaine once said “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”
One thing I do not allow in my goal setting sessions is for athletes to make a main goal about beating a particular someone. I never liked those kinds of goals because the focus becomes one individual and it defeats the purpose of what this sport is all about. It is about honor, determination, dignity, hard work, commitment, etc. It is not all about beating Jane Smith. You sell yourself short if that is your main goal.
GOALS WITHIN GOALS:
Within the goal you could have several smaller goals. For example, chronically injured athletes may have a goal that they want to stay injury free for the season so as to build up strength in order to perform more consistently. I had a goal in high school of adding fun back into my training. I put so much pressure on myself my junior year in high school I forgot what the sport was all about. I raced like it too. I had no fun and it felt like a job. Anyone who runs with me today knows I am going to laugh a lot during a run. They also know I will throw in some race like situation to see how she reacts; i.e.: like bump into her, push her, cut her off, etc. If you can learn to laugh and respond appropriately in training runs you will quickly learn something very special about competing. I added that philosophy into all my training runs and I never forgot it. I was known as one of the toughest mental competitors of my time. I made training and racing my playground.
I wanted to win a national title so bad that I made many changes into my routine. Another change was that I was not going to over train. I put things into place to prevent myself from over training. One was that I took a morning heart rate and if it was up over 10% I ran easy that day. No matter what was on the plate. My coach and I agreed and lived by it that season. I trained from June until December with no illness, injury, or fatigue. The other goal I made was to deal with pressure. I felt so much pressure to win my junior year that I needed to control some of those pressures. I talked to my coaches, parents and friends about it. I told them that I wanted to win a national title and I needed their support. To be on my support team they had to believe in my goal and accept that I was beatable. If they could not accept that I could lose then I asked them not to come to my races. I can only control what I can control. I cannot control others and there is always someone out there better.
My challenge to you is what smaller individual goals do you need to put into your plan?
Team goals are extremely important because the team provides the electricity to create the desire within the athletes. The power in numbers can create the ideas in the individuals that in turn create the goals and desires. A positive coach and a positive team combined create the magic. I sat next to Coach Joe Vigil (USA OLYMPIC and USATF WORLD CROSS COUNTRY TEAM COACH) on a plane ride out to the world championships. Coach Vigil told me this fascinating story about team goals. He said he asked his captains and team leaders to come up with a strong goal for the season and they came back with something he never could have dreamed of – A jump rope. The team leaders invited all who accepted the challenge to run in such a way to stay within the distance of the jump rope as a team at Nationals to attach themselves. The jump rope was only 6 feet long and it went with them to every competition that season. They not only swept at nationals they all stayed within that 6 foot jump rope. Coach Vigil told me he learned from his athletes because even he had a hard time believing that could be done. The power of the team, when the environment is right, is unbelievable.
I believe that the team and individual needs to be the ones creating the goals for the season. The coach can be involved by providing the thoughts like Coach Vigil does but ultimately it is up to the athletes to set their future. Coaches need to set up an environment that promotes the athletes to shoot for the moon. The coach needs to establish parameters and a positive encouraging environment to bring out the best in every athlete and team. But, ultimately it is up to the athlete and she needs to believe it in order to buy into it. She is the one running for it.
At my team goal setting sessions I run an individual goal setting session first. Upon completion I gather up the teams for a team goal setting session. The coach sets up the atmosphere for a positive environment and shares his visions. The team locks themselves in a room (or can be a pizza party). Each athlete is encouraged to share their visions and goals for the season. The coach is encouraged to stay in the background. If team leaders are not set yet, the coach will quickly see who their leaders are. During the session they are to discuss what commitments each of them will make to this goal and tie back in their own goal. The team leaders must then present it to the coach. Everyone is involved from the first year runner to the senior. No one is left out. If all agree then a GIANT TEAM TILE is made and all must sign it. If the Team accomplishes their goal they are to smash the tile and have fun doing it.
Mental toughness is a learned trait. We are not born with it. Personality is unrelated to mental toughness. Coaches and team captains need to lead by example and have expectations not only for themselves but more important for the team. Dr. Jarvis, a sports psychologist created the Nine Mental skills for successful athletes. Coaches and athletes need to choose and maintain these nine mental skills.
CHOOSE AND MAINTAIN A POSITIVE ATTITUDE
MAINTAIN A HIGH LEVEL OF SELF-MOTIVATION
SET HIGH BUT REALISTIC GOALS
USE EFFECTIVE PEOPLE SKILLS
USE POSITIVE SELF-TALK
USE POSITIVE MENTAL IMAGERY BEFORE AND DURING COMPETITION
MANAGE ANXIETY EFFECTIVELY
MANAGE EMOTIONS EFFECTIVELY
When setting goals athletes need to understand these principles and be willing to live that lifestyle 24 – 7.
HOW TO RUN A GOAL SETTING SESSION:
I run my goal setting sessions at the camp in a very unique way. I want the athlete to have a free flowing thought session. I want the athletes to see the tremendous young people that they are and to not be afraid to reach for their dreams. No idea is a dumb idea. I would have been laughed at in 5th grade if I told my coach and friends that I wanted to win a national title after placing 80th.
I start my sessions by giving the campers a power talk about what goals are and the commitment it takes to achieve them. I discuss many success stories, running and non running, to get their thought process going. I put powerful statements up behind me and make the group continually read them out load. My goal is to get each individual thinking big and not just for this season or the next but for her lifetime. As we all know this sport takes many years of commitment to see much progress. The long term goal is what keeps us going.
Below is a step by step procedure for how to run your own goal setting session. The athlete needs to bring a pen or pencil and be willing to write for over an hour straight. I talk for 15 – 20 minutes to pump them up. I then ask them to put their pen to the paper and for each of the following topics to write whatever crazy thought comes into their head. The pen is not allowed to leave the paper at any point. I play pump up music during that time. While the music is playing I will offer up ideas to think about. They are not to look up but write until the music stops.
One note is that during each of these sessions I will have a note pad that I have key phrases, motivational items, things to think about, possible goals to set, team goals, etc. I find that you might have to prompt the athlete to think of it in order to drag it out. They are to keep writing and not look at me during the session. I individualize the session for each camp. Every session is different. I run goal setting on the third day because I want 3 days of getting to know the campers. I used what I have learned during this session. Below is the step by step procedure.
Step 1: What do you like about ATHLETICS, ACADEMICS, SOCIAL (Personal Development) Life: (3 - 5 Minutes pens to the paper during that time and music playing)
I recommend always starting on a positive note because it reminds the athlete why they are doing what they are doing. This gives her the strong "why" reasons she is doing this sport. I recommend keeping this somewhere easy to remember or see because it is good to look at once in a while - Post it in a locker, or on a book. In this session all three areas are addressed at the same time.
Step 2: What are you not happy with? (3 Minutes)
Pick an area of concentration (athletic, academic, personal development) and write out what you are not happy with in that area. Stick to the focused area through step 5 and then return and complete the other steps. You can complete steps 6 through 8 later.
Step 3: WRITE GOALS: (5 Minutes) create a free flowing thought list. Let the thoughts come out on paper. Take 5 – 10 minutes and write every weird, strange, awesome idea that comes into your head. Coaches throw in some prompts. I.e.:” Some of you on JV may want to step it up to Varsity? Some of you can be all conference, all state, etc.” It is important to do this drill in specific each area.
Athletic goals – (5 – 10 minutes) then move on to step 4, and 5: I ask the athletes to write their own individual goals and team goals
Academic goals – (5 – 10 minutes)
Personal Development goals (5- 10 minutes) move on to step 4 and 5
Step 4: REVIEW LIST (2 Minutes) and assign time frames against each goal you wrote out. You may throw some away and you may add some. 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, 10 years. There are no rules.
Step 5: PICK TOP GOALS FOR THE SEASON (No more than 3): (5 Minutes) Write what each goal means to you. What will accomplishing this goal do for you? How will it make you feel to accomplish it? Give a lot of good thought in this section. This will be in paragraph form. Return to step 2 and complete for each area “ATHLETIC, ACADEMIC, PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT.”
Step 6: THE PLAN: You and your coach need to work out an organized plan of how you are both going to accomplish this goal. I will address the plan in another session. On your academic and personal development ask a coach, parent, friend, spiritual advisor, etc to help you write the plan.
Step 7: SEAL THE GOAL: You and your coach need to make commitments to each other and seal the goal and plan with a signature.
Step 8: REVIEW THE GOAL: The season goal should be reviewed with the athlete individually at least twice a month. The team needs to review team goals twice a month as well. Changes may need to be made to the goal and/or plan. If you make big changes to the goal repeat steps 1 – 6. Work together with your coach, not against each other.
I perform steps 1 – 5 at camp. No one is allowed to leave the session without doing something that is going to get her closer to achieving her goals. I usually have the campers do 3 power push-ups. After each one the group must yell, “I CAN DO IT”, “I WILL DO IT”, “I BELIEVE”. Each camper is than given a tile and paint to design to give her goal life. The tile is to be placed somewhere that can be viewed on a daily basis. It gives the athlete strength, power, and energy. The tile is broken when the goal is achieved.
Steps 6, 7, and 8 are performed with the coach and the athlete together. At a later time I will write about how to set up the plan. The plan needs to be reviewed against the goal on a bi-monthly basis. Look for how to write the plan next week.
Goal setting sessions should be done two times a year – one for cross country and one for track. Main goals need to be reviewed by the athlete daily, long term goals monthly and all goals 2 times a year. After awhile a pattern will arise and new goals will replace old ones.
I packed a lot into this first article. Next week I plan on discussing THE PLAN. Below are my personal goals I set as a youth to win my national title. If you have any questions or comments do not hesitate to write . The camp website is . The 2011 camp listings are not up yet.
Below is my personal goal outline to winning my national title.
Your 2010 – 2011 goal has been set. You feel 100% committed to it. You have given it a lot of thought and have looked deep inside yourself and feel strongly you can achieve it. The goal will be a stretch for you and that whets your appetite. You feel more ready than ever that you can accomplish this goal. You know it is going to take a lot of work, and it is going to be a big commitment, and you’re dedicated to accomplishing it. You might have even made up a goal tile or wrote it on something that is special for you. Now, it is time to write the plan.
I walked into my college with a huge lack of confidence. Academically, I did not cut it. I struggled all through grade school, middle school, and high school. I was terrified how I was going to make it through college. I was and still am dyslexic. I was told by a professional that I would not make it in college and especially the college I selected to run for. My coach was one of the few who believed in me. He sat me down my first day and told me that I had to keep three things straight in order to be successful at North Carolina State University. He told me, “Your athletic life, your personal life, and your academic life all hinge on each other. If your personal life gets out of hand, it will affect your athletic life and your academic life. If your academic life is failing, it will affect your athletic life and your personal life. Finally, if your athletic life is struggling, so will your academic life and personal life.” I was scared out of my mind that I was not going to make it academically and it was going to affect my ability to perform. I had huge dreams for my athletic life and I knew in that moment that I had to do whatever it took to be successful in the classroom. I openly talked to my coach about my struggles and he told me not worry, he was there to help. We set up a plan together. He got me tutors and paired me up with teammates who could teach me how to study. I got all my college books on tape so I could hear them and not have to read. He helped me develop an academic schedule that was manageable but was going to take me a little longer to complete. It worked and I graduated with honors. Something I never thought possible on that first day in his office. I owe my college coach a lot because he helped me develop confidence not only on the athletic field but also in the classroom. What’s holding you back from accomplishing your big goals?
I believe all plans need to include a “CODE OF HONOR” agreement between coaches, athletes and the team. Each individual athlete must participate in the development of the agreement. There needs to be expectations of the athlete to the coach and the coach to the athlete. The Code of Honor needs to include agreements and philosophy under which the team and individuals operate. It serves as a manuscript and everyone must agree to its terms. The manuscript needs to encourage a good sense of values, a thirst for knowledge, a healthy passion for life, and a drive for a positive mental attitude. A positive Code of Honor binds people together in a constructive manner. It is a guiding force that energizes the group. Each member of the team is required to sign it and live by it. A copy is also given to their parents so as they too understand. Coach Joe Vigil once said at a team meeting, “Believe in yourself. Be upbeat. Positive. Live the athlete’s lifestyle 24 hours a day. Plan your day – live your day – like a winner.”
The ”Code of Honor” is written and now the plan needs to address the individual goal. The goal needs to be broken down into manageable standards to be met. Those standards increasingly get harder and harder as the season progresses. I look at those standards as rungs on a ladder. Each rung represents a standard that must be met in order for a step to be taken. As the season progresses and the steps get higher the main goal comes more and more in site. Checks and balances must be put in place to make sure we do not step off that ladder and lose sight of the goal. We might even need to take a step back in order to take two steps forward. The Plan needs to include commitments that are not just athletic related but also character and academic related. The Plan needs to include daily, weekly, and monthly targets. The Plan needs to include bi-monthly reviews in order for adjustments to be made. Finally, The Plan needs to have commitments by all involved.
Athlete and the coach need to agree upon the athlete’s strengths and weaknesses. A plan needs to be put into place to help address those weaknesses and make them into strengths. That might be one of the rungs of the ladder the athlete needs to accomplish in order for the goal to succeed. I was a terrible downhill runner. I went to a bio mechanic specialist and learned how to run down hill correctly. My senior year in high school I ran faster down the hill at Balbo Park in San Diego at the Kinney (Foot Locker) National Championships, than any of the boys. My coach was so blown away on my first lap that he timed me on the second. I teach that same downhill technique to my campers and private clients today. When done correctly this technique is not only safer than traditional downhill running but it is incredibly fast.
The athlete and coach need to meet on an individual basis early in the season so together they can develop a workout plan to achieve their goal. I count months, weeks and days before goal competition to identify how much time we have. I work the plan from the goal race back and build the individuals season accordingly. I use data from the past seasons and/ or in preseason to identify what is realistic and what is not. I use bench marks for where he/she needs to be in order to accomplish the goal. We develop a weekly guideline plan for the season highlighting key competitions. I encourage the athlete to educate themselves on the sport so he/she can understand and add input. No question is ever a dumb question. We then meet bi-monthly and review the plan against the benchmarks. As a coach I look for training adaptations. The bi-monthly meeting serves to identify if adaptations are taking place or not and if correction to the plan needs to be made. A detailed, well thought out written plan can and will prove to be successful. The bi-monthly quick meetings will identify potential problems so plans can be put in place to address them before they become problematic. The great thing about the plan is that once it is written the season flows beautifully. It becomes a lot of work up front but makes the season flow so much easier for coaches and athletes.
Documentation is a key. Each athlete is required to use a running journal. We all cannot remember everything so journaling becomes a very helpful tool to both the athlete and coach. The journal needs to include details about the workout; Pace, recovery, heart rate, weather conditions, etc. all play a key role. I still have my high school journals. It is fun looking back at some of my old races and workouts. It creates new ideas for me as a coach and now a marathon runner myself.
As stated in my last blog, there is the goal and then many sub goals that go with the main goal. The sub goals all need to be addressed in the plan. I had some pretty crazy plans for my sub goals leading up to my high school national title that I would NOT recommend today. I was not afraid to try them either. One, of many, was that I was not a very good hot weather runner so I ran in a full sweat suit at 1pm in the afternoon all summer long. But, let me preface that I got my electrolytes checked every couple weeks. Silly, because later in college I found out I had exercise induced asthma triggered by heat and humidity. I always feel it is important to not be afraid to take chances and try something different but just make sure things are in place so as not to hurt yourself.
The goal is written, the plan is set, and all feel pumped up about the direction of the upcoming season. It is now time for commitments by all parties. The commitments need to be legitimized with a symbol of some sort. I use goal tiles at camp but you can choose whatever you like. It could be in the form of a hand shake, a signed piece of paper, or signed goal tile by all involved to help guide that process. The symbol or piece of paper needs to be visible to the athlete and team on a daily basis. The individual and/or team might even travel with it. The symbol reminds everyone of each of their commitments. GOOD LUCK!!
CROSS COUNTRY RACING TACTICS
Tiger Woods, love him or hate him, he is one of the most effective golfers ever to play the sport. He prepares and plans better than any other golfer on the tour. Tiger has a goal shot for every green he plays and a back-up plan for every possible scenario that might happen. Tiger will spend hours, days and weeks with his planning so that the day of his match he does not have to think he just plays golf. The better you plan for your race the more effective you will be and the more positive you will react on race day and the less you will have to think. What preparations do you currently do on a big race day? Can you make them better?
Cross Country is a very different sport than track and field. Each course offers something unique and different and depending on the weather conditions the course can change yet again. Cross Country runners have to navigate a variety of different surfaces, terrains and obstacles. The individual runner’s perspective can hurt him or help him. Each course needs to be analyzed for individual runner’s strengths and weaknesses.
It’s 1982 and I just lost my state title and my course record. I was just a junior in high school. I was defeated. I was beaten by a very worthy opponent who smashed my course record with a time that was said would never be broken. I felt broken in that moment. Losing all that was the best thing that ever happened to me because it woke me up to the fact that I was made of more. Later it energized me and made me learn a very valuable lesson. Cross country racing offers so much more opportunity if you just sit back and take a different look at it. What opportunities are you missing out of?
The summer of my senior year I went out to the state championship course at Holmdel, New Jersey. I ran that course forward and backwards several times. I walked it, jogged it, stopped took a look at every angle from the front to the back, and sides. I analyzed every possible advantage it had to offer. I wanted to know 100 – 200 - 400 meters ahead of time where I needed to position myself so I could run that course faster than anyone ever has. I knew that not only did I have to know this course, and my strengths and weaknesses, but I also had to find a way to make it my playground and I did.
I broke the course up into sections and gave each section a name of something meaningful and fun to me. The start I called “THE FUNNEL” and I would picture a funnel cake because the course funneled into a tight trail leading into a wooded area. “THE ROLLER COASTER” came next. I named it that because it had lots of steep rolling up and down hills. I would visualize myself leaping from the top of one hill to the top of the next. The wooded area broke out into the “THE PRAIRIE. This area was more flat and open but you could get lost in the tall grass. “THE BOWL” came after The Prairie and this was and still is considered the hardest part of the course. In fact, it is so well known there is a facebook page called “We Who Ran The Bowl”. It is a giant downhill that leads around to an even bigger uphill. The whole thing looks like a big giant bowl. “TENNIS CLUB” came after and it offered slight rolling hills leading to a set of tennis courts we had to run around to enter “THE ENCHANTED FOREST” - my favorite. The course wound around into a wooded soft pine trail that offered a lot of strategic down hills. It was so quiet and peaceful because it was not a very heavily viewed section. It was silent but deadly and I would rock and roll through this section. The forest opened up to the last 400 meters which was fitting to call “THE FINISH”
By breaking the course up into manageable sections I was able to stay focused the entire time. Each section of the course offered something I needed to do as well. I would know each uphill and downhill, turn and footing. I would make sure I was running the shortest possible race in the most efficient way. I took advantage of every opportunity. I would plan for blind turns and take off on the other side. I would run the steep up hills and surge off the top for 20 – 30 meters. If I knew there was a bad footing in an area I would set myself up on the side of the trail that would get me through the fastest and safest. I would stay in the moment and not think about the end. I had to work each section. I left no stone unturned and prepared myself accordingly.
By knowing the course my coach and I incorporate things that were important into my training and racing. The overall goal was that on race day it was easy and I did not have to think, just react. I went into automatic mode. The plan worked and I ran a 17:35, took 6 seconds off the unbreakable record and that time still stands today – almost 27 years later.
HERE IS HOW YOU CAN ANALYZE YOUR RACE COURSE:
The Start Line is extremely important especially where you and your team are situated on it. Stand on the line, look out, and find your first target. It could be a turn, hill, etc. Draw a line from the start to that focal point either in your head on better yet on the map. Walk or jog down to that focal point. Stop turn around and draw the line back. Make a point to picture in your head the competition and where you need to be on race day. If you don’t know where you are on the line, than walk each section and know where you need to be and what you need to do. Once you got it, than do some practice starts and visualize it. Remember, if the course leads to a sharp turn you may want to position yourself a little wide so you have room to move. Float yourself to that position once the gun goes off prior to the turn. Don’t wait until that turn or it could be too late. You make things happen – don’t leave it to chance. On race day, when I was on the start line, I looked at my first focal point. I didn’t look at my competition. It kept my nerves down.
Break the race into manageable meaningful sections. From this point forward, I recommend 4 – 6 sections total. Look for opportunities within those sections and other focal points. In the more technical areas stop and look forward, and backwards. Get a perspective. Walk it and run it out. Strategize the best possible position solution on the course to be in and look at an alternative, for the “just in case”? Think about, how far back you need to set up so you can move freely and float to that position. There is a lot more to think about than just letting racing come to chance. You make things happen.
Here are a few more things to take advantage of in racing:
RUN POINT TO POINT: Always look ahead and plot a course. If you are warming up on the course pick your path. Visualize your path with unknown competitors- The more you see it, feel it, and taste it, in your head the more likely it will happen.
GOOD PATH BAD PATH
HILLS: If the course is very hilly it is important to plan ahead. For example it would not be too smart to start running up the hill with all your effort or you are going to go into oxygen debt and your body will slow. The hill will hurt you. It is important to run the hill controlled and accelerate hard for 20 – 30 meters off the top to get you back into your race pace. A big mistake a lot of young runners do is run the hill hard at the bottom and slow off the top to catch their breath. It takes about 100 – 200 meters to get back into the race: Lost time. During your hill training phase work on running the hill controlled and accelerate hard for 20 – 30 meters off the top. This strategy gets you back into your race pace quickly and effectively.
BLIND SPOTS: using surges in blind spots - this will shock your competitors mentally. Blind spots are anything that takes you out of view from your competitors. They can be any of the following:
Even Crowds can create blind spots
FOOTING Check out the footing and choose your spike and path carefully. If it is hard you want to use a short spike. If the course is wet and soft you may need a longer one. Also, when assessing the course look for area's to run where you can avoid holes, ruts, and anything that will cause you to increase steps, work, or effort. We also don’t want you to go into a hole.
WEATHER: Be aware of the weather conditions and make adjustments. Be ready for all types of weather. If visiting the course before the race, make plans for all weather conditions. For example, it’s not smart to throw in a surge in a real slippery muddy area where there is little area for movement. The effort will be high and the gains short.
TRY DIFFERENT THINGS IN YOUR DUAL/PRACTICE MEETS: Do not be afraid to try different strategies in your smaller meets. You may want to try starting slower to see if you have more power at the end. You may want to go out faster and see if you can hang on. The time not to try something different is on your big race day. Unless you have nothing to loss.
KNOWING YOUR COMPETITORS STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESS: If you know your competitors strengths and weakness it can be very helpful. On one hand, work his weakness hard in those sections but respect his strengths on the other. It can be helpful but also remember to race your race and not get caught up into someone else’s. You can control what you can control. You cannot control what others are going to do.
SELF-TALK / POWER MOVEMENT: Make sure you utilize positive self talk and power movements - It will only make you better.
Below is a PRE RACE COURSE ASSESMENT form at the bottom of this document. Use it or make your own up.
There are so many things to take advantage of in racing but understanding that course is critical! I truly believe in making that race plan fun and interactive. The more positive laughter the more passionate you become with the course. The race is your monopoly game. Play it well and have fun doing it!! GOOD LUCK!
NEXT WEEK LOOK FOR “TRAINING WELL BUT RACING POORLY – WHY DOES THAT HAPPEN.”
Do you start well but tire around the mile to mile and half?
Has your performance taken a dive from one season to the next with no explanation?
GIRLS THIS IS A MUST READ FOR YOU.
PRE RACE COURSE ASSESMENT:
AREA (explain general area):
Remember to plan for all weather conditions:
START (explain start conditions):
Direction to head in:
Explain all the details of the first 400 meters:
How you plan on going out and what is around you:
Mile or SECTION IT OFF AND NAME IT___________:
Explain all the details?
Include obstacles, footing, surges, etc.
Where you need to be:
2 Mile or SECTION IT OFF AND NAME IT_______________:
Explain all the details?
Include obstacles, footing, surges, etc.
Where you need to be:
3rd Mile OR SECTION IT OFF AND NAME IT_________________:
Explain all the details?
Include obstacles, footing, surges, etc.
Where you need to be:
Where you need to start your kick:
ADD MORE SECTIONS IF YOU WANT MORE DETAIL OR SECTIONS