The Dream Season - Page 2
Photo by Patitucciphoto.
1. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses
“I used to create my own plans based on what others were doing, what I saw in magazine articles, an inflated sense of self and a need to overachieve. My plans were always beyond my abilities and always resulted in injury,” laments six-day TransRockies Run finisher Carey Martin. This is a time to be both self-critical and honest with yourself. Review your running history to determine your strengths and weaknesses.
How do you recover from long runs and speed work? Are you often sidelined by lingering or recurring injuries, like Las Vegas-based trail half marathoner Kimberly Kanitz used to be? Says Kanitz, “I was repeatedly on the road to an injury by do ing a lot of the same training week after week, unable to complete a training cycle.”
Do you sign up for events in advance only to find yourself unmotivated to train as the event draws near? Adam Towle, who recently finished his first trail ultra, experienced just this. He admits, “Before using a structured plan I had goals but there weren’t any teeth to them; there wasn’t an investment. My path to various goals was hit or miss. I had a string of ‘did not starts.’”
An optimal schedule will maximize your strengths and intelligently address your weaknesses so that you can improve.
2. Identify your race distance and venue
Do you gravitate to ultra-distance or multi-day events or do you prefer trail races that are over in a few hours? Are you satisfied with your placing at these races? Brazen Racing race director and frequent San Francisco Bay area trail racer Sam Fiandaca says, “I’ve recently found strengths with distances I didn’t know I’d be strong in. In my case, this is mid-distance trail running. I’m not winning these races, but I tend to place higher in them and that’s something I can continue to work on.”
You’ll need to prepare for the physical and mental demands of the event you’ve chosen. Excelling at shorter races means incorporating speed training and some knowledge of clever race tactics. Longer events emphasize stamina and endurance training and the ability to execute proper race-day nutrition and hydration routines. Specificity is important. Become familiar with and train on terrain similar to the race course.
3. Identify your goals
We all have our ultimate goal, but be prepared for the bumps in the trail that could keep you from reaching it.
“This year I’ve been unable to run,” says Seattle’s Cougar Mountain Trail Run Series contestant Mark Burke. “The mental frustration of not being able to achieve my original race goal has put me in a state of limbo.”
Having a tiered goal system in place will foster your commitment to training and ensure you give your best on race day. Select not one but several immediate and far-reaching goals even if they aren’t specifically related to the race.
Burke continues, “However, in an effort to identify some new mini-goals until then, I am going to focus on losing weight and doing as much non-weight-bearing exercise as possible. It is easy to give up on my goals when I cannot run, but these tricks will keep me engaged.”
Strive for your primary goal, but use the others along the way as yardsticks of success and something to fall back on if you encounter a setback. Also, don’t be afraid to decide that you may need not one but two or three years to achieve your ultimate goal. Two-time JFK 50-Mile finisher Emily Malloy explains, “I have underlying goals of becoming a better runner from a year-to-year perspective. And by ‘better’ I don’t necessarily mean faster; I mean learning more about the sport, about running different distances and in different conditions. When you train through a few cycles, you know you are generally becoming a better runner, and that is what I strive for.”