I have been self reflecting on my career recently and since writing this three part article I have been focusing on my good races vs. my bad ones. I was able to extract some aspects that really set the great days apart.
When I was healthy and my body allowed me to compete frequently, I would pride myself on being a great racer. That was ‘my thing’, one of my biggest strengths. I believed I could out-run and out-smart any of my competitors. I knew in the 2010 NCAA 1500m final that I wasn’t in my best shape (I was much fitter indoors and was still recovering from taking some time off with a calf injury when outdoors rolled around).
On paper and in that current form, I wasn’t meant to win that race. I had to train through the regional meet to be ready and I wasn’t sure what shape that was going to leave me in. I won because I raced well, I didn’t give in to the pain and I put myself in the right place at the right time. I was stubborn, competitive and on the start line I can vividly remember the burning entitlement in my heart pressuring myself to beat the gals standing next to me…
That confidence came from training, racing and my coach’s belief in me.
I have to say that this is THE most important piece of advice I can give that affects a race result.
We want the wins and the fast times, yes! But how do we get them? Thinking about the finish line isn’t going to help- Even if Ryan Reynolds is standing there shirtless with a balloon and a puppy…
Yes you’re technically testing how fast you can run in ovals on that day and yes there will be a result at the end of the day when you leave the track. But we must focus on the moment and focus on competing for that result to happen.
If I’ve learned anything about my good race days vs bad race days is that when I raced really well I raced in the moment. The finishing time or line never crossed my mind until I had actually crossed it, and I didn’t ever pre judge the ending before it had happened.
I focused at the present time on beating who ever I could see and covering moves and making moves. In my best races I was engaged, focused and extremely mentally resilient. I wasn’t going down without a fight.
It made a hell of a difference to my outcome.
In recent years, I’ve have seldom opportunities to race because of injury and I’ve put WAY too much weight on the result. I’ve walked out of my hotel room wondering about how I will feel when I get home that evening. Some sort of fixation on what the results will say.
As if the time frame between leaving and returning isn’t in my control. It will just happen?????
This is not how the process works. Racing in the moment used to come naturally to me, ⎌and it is something I’ve had to reset in my mind.
So my advice is to have goals but make them prior to the season, certainly prior to race day and then put them away in your sock draw and reevaluate them after the race is over, certainly never ever in the race. Fully focus on the physical and mental task in hand.
Things to focus on:
being competitive, racing people, racing smart, covering moves, making moves, using your body to the best of its abilities, being tough, not giving in to fatigue and being a badass.
Take advantage of every moment and every second of the race. Because that’s why you will get the results that you want. Not from last week’s great workout or from thinking ‘I should be able to run this time’ but from seizing the present race opportunity.
When you hit the unknown in a race (it gets hard and there is a lot of fatigue) your mind becomes like an over protective parent telling you to back off sending chemicals and signals to the muscles. Your body gets tired and tries to slow down. This seems like a physical problem right? Fatigue is actually researched to be a psychological mindset to protect the body not a physical one, that being said your body IS capable of doing more. You can outrun your mind.
Training your mind to push through fatigue (NEVER INJURY) in workouts can help prepare for this same situation in racing. So train your brain Ladies.
This past year I have been doing some mental training to handle adversity.
The New Rules:
In college my coach gave me super sonic confidence boosting workouts. Ones that were strategically thought out that I could complete with flying colors. This produced a mentally strong runner on the start line and I approached races thinking I was unbeatable. This was fab, it worked, my college coach was actually a genius.
When you leave college and hit post collegiate and pro track there are NEW rules. Someone really needs to write a handbook and hand it out after the NCAA track meet.
In the new rule book it explains the new (much harder) training, new (much harder) racing, and a whole new (much tougher) mental game.
You’re bottom of the barrel and pretty much swimming up stream your first year to prove yourself as a pro. (Flash back freshman year minus all the support)
I was just trying to complete the new crazy volume workouts I was being given while coming back from injury. They sure were a confidence zapper. This really reflected my progress and caused me to worry about the results.
This is why training through adversity and being adaptable to it is key to making that next level.
This is something you learn in training on what I will call those ‘disaster days’
Now that I’m healthy I am able to complete much harder and tougher workouts than I ever did in college with no flying colors but with a whole lot of confidence and more consistency. They have allowed me to be a much stronger runner both mentally and physically.
‘Disaster days’ happen still and I have learned to not falter and curl up into a ball like a hedgehog, but to survive them and make the most of the situation and adapt to it.
Some call these the most important days of your season. Moving forward through adversity is key to moving onto the next workout and building confidence in your training to then apply to races.
By training through adversity and being able to race well through anything is the real test of being a consistent and established athlete. Most of it is mental.
“Any day working towards your goals is a step forward”