Coach Tip Tuesday: A Photo Finish is Much More Than a Photo Finish
2022! Can you believe that it’s 2022? We’re back for the first Coach Tip Tuesday of the new year!
This week’s Coach Tip Tuesday is very intentionally timed, as your social media feeds are likely about to be inundated with photos of folks participating in Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend this coming weekend.
If the photos you see make this weekend look magical, wonderful, delightful, and fun, your assessment of this weekend is correct. Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend is all of those things, and more. It’s such a ragingly fun weekend of racing. The Walt Disney Company knows how to create good experiences, and their running events are not an exception to this.
There is, however, something very significant and important to note about Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend:
It always falls on the first full weekend after New Year’s in January.
Why is this so noteworthy? Well, the race date itself probably seems great. It’s Florida in January. Temperatures are mild (a welcome respite from the oppressive heat and humidity of Florida summers), and if you’re from a colder climate, this sounds like a great “break” from Winter, right?
Well, that may be true. But the specific timing of this race weekend on the second full weekend in January is incredibly important, because it means that the Peak Weeks of training for it will, always and forever (as long as these race dates stay the same), fall during what is usually the busiest time of the year for many people: the holidays.
Yes, indeed. The longest, toughest, and most critical training weeks for Walt Disney World Marathon weekend fall during Thanksgiving and Christmas. That also, of course, coincides with the end of the year, which can be a very busy time at work for some folks, depending on their respective careers and industries.
These critical weeks of training cannot be moved or modified, since they are timed relative to race day itself. These weeks of training (when planned properly by a professional and caring coach) are designed to prepare you to be in your best shape to race exactly on race day. Not the day before, and not the day after. Exactly on race day. This means that if you miss training during this time, you miss it. You can’t get that back. Contrary to what many people think, you cannot double up to make up. Your performance on race day will be impacted if you are not able to properly train through this time period. No amount of “mind over matter” and mental toughness can change this.
This is really important to note and embrace if you ever consider signing up for Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, or any race that falls within the first three weeks of January, for that matter.
While the importance of Peak Weeks and these final training blocks matters for any goal race, no matter the distance, I have observed that athlete performances at longer races - such as a half marathon, marathon, IRONMAN 70.3, or IRONMAN - are more impacted if they do not train as they really should during this time period. This is especially true if the athlete has a performance-based goal (read: a time-based goal) for the race. If you don’t do the work, you won’t be prepared on race day to execute a race that yields you the result you are seeking. It’s as simple and as tough as that.
Over the years, I have coached many people to January goal races, including many athletes who have run at Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. When they tell me that they have a goal race in January, I make sure I tell them that their most critical training workouts will be taking place during the holidays - a time period where there are usually many family, work, and social expectations and commitments that they will also be trying to manage.
While many people will tell me, “Oh that’s fine, I can handle it,” I’ve observed this: In theory, it may sound fine, but when it comes time to do their hardest, longest, most intense workouts while simultaneously cooking for the holidays, buying gifts, going to parties, traveling, finalizing year-end contracts and work obligations, and getting together with family, they get stressed TO THE MAX. Many end up breaking down, getting very emotional, being grumpy to those they love, and even crying (more than once) about this. For many, something that was supposed to be fun becomes downright stressful and unpleasant. This isn’t what I like to see for anyone. As you all know by now, my greatest hope is that endurance sports bring joy to everyone who chooses to participate in them.
I share all of this with you all during this particular week because I want to encourage you to really, truly think through what you have going on in the weeks before the race that you’d like to do before you spend your hard-earned money and sign up for it. (Especially if it’s a big-ticket item such as an IRONMAN or the Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge that costs a lot.)
Will you actually have the time and mental bandwidth to dedicate to your training during the final 4-8 week window before your race? If you have performance-based (read: time-based) goals that you are aiming for, you really need to be clear about this. If you don’t do the work, you won’t get the result you want. If you think that you may not have the time or mental bandwidth to dedicate to your training to achieve that A-Goal, are you willing to accept a different, modified goal for the same event? If so, doing the race for fun may be a great thing to do. But if you’re going to be upset and lament that the event wasn’t what you wanted it to be, it may be best to forgo that race and to choose a goal race that falls during a time period that works better for you.
If you remember nothing else about this post, remember this: The finish line photos you see of people achieving their goals are literally capturing one moment in time. They do not capture the sweat, tears, work, and sacrifice that it takes the person to reach that one moment in time. Be sure you understand and embrace what that path of sweat, tears, work, and sacrifice will look like for you before you hit “Pay Now” on that registration page. :)
Coach Laura Henry
Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.