Posted On:
Tuesday, January 31, 2023
Updated On:
Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Coach Tip Tuesday: Today is NOT Race Day

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Jacquie Craggett smiles as she crosses the finish line of IRONMAN 70.3 Memphis in 2021. It took many years for Jacquie to be able to perform as she did that day. Most of her workouts for those years leading to race day did not resemble what she was ultimately capable of executing on race day. By doing the work and executing a solid plan, she did get to where she wanted to go.

“Based on my workout today, I’m worried about my pacing with the time goals I’d like to meet.”

“Based on my workout today, I’m worried about being able to do the distances in my goal race.”

“Based on my workout today, I’m worried about being strong enough to hit my goal.”

How many of you have ever said something resembling any of the above statements to yourself or to your coach (or both!) after a workout? This week’s topic builds on the conversation we had last week about how athletes should never, ever set secret goals. Now, we’re going to talk about how today is NOT race day.

I have daily discussions with the athletes I coach about managing expectations. After all, managing expectations - both day-to-day in training and on race day - is one of the most critical components (along with accurate self-awareness) of goal setting (and achievement). While it does apply to the broader topic of goal setting in general, this week’s conversation specifically pertains to managing expectations on a day-to-day basis in training.

When you set a goal in endurance sports (a goal that you’ve set out loud and written down in real words), two related but distinct things are often true about that goal:

  1. Your goal represents a target that is beyond your current abilities.
  2. Your goal represents a place and/or ability level that you would like to get to.

Even if you haven’t thought about this specifically like this before, I think we can all agree that these two things are true.  Athletic goals almost always simultaneously represent a place where we are not and we’d like to be.

Where we’d like to be.

This is super important to remember. By definition, if we’re aiming to get somewhere, we are not currently there. What then follows is super important, so pay attention:

If you’ve set a goal, where you are now is not where you want to be.  And therefore, you should manage your expectations of your current self in your training and performance; it will take time before you get where you want to go and before you can perform at the level you want to be performing at.  In other words: You will not be hitting those numbers or be near those performance levels for almost all of your training leading up until race day.

Yes, my friends. For most of you out there: Today is NOT race day. For many of you, since it’s January, race day (and especially your A-Goal Race Day) is likely many months away. I know, I know. Many (most) of you out there are Type A personalities who like to be in control of almost (if not every) aspect of your lives. But I’m here to tell you (based on my experience as a coach and as an athlete) that the best performances come when you let a training process unfold organically: when you trust the process, show up and do the work consistently in training, and execute a smart plan on race day that is informed by what we learn about ourselves in training.

In training, we must be honest about what our current abilities are, and use our awareness of that to help set our goals. Only by fully acknowledging where we are can we get to where we want to go. If you catch yourself worrying about how you are not where you want to be, stop. Assess the timeline left to your goal. Remind yourself that you are where you are, and that you need to focus on what you’re able to do today if you want to achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself.

So this week in training, of course you will not be able to do what your ultimate goal is.  It is beyond your current abilities and beyond where you currently are at.  If you were able to hit those paces, complete those distances, and/or perform at that level, your goal wouldn’t be what you set it to be.  You would have picked something else (a faster time, a different distance, a different performance, etc.) to be your goal.

The longer you have left until race day, the more true all of this is.  If your race is six months out, it will be several months before you’re close to where you want to be.  If your race is a year away, well.  Get ready for almost a full year of not being where you ultimately want to get to.  And even if race day is relatively close: You may not actually hit the performance you want to until exactly race day when the adaptations expected from training will be their most potent.  At that point, you’re tapered and ready to reap the full benefits of your consistency and the many months of training that led to race day.

Today is not race day; don’t pretend or expect otherwise. Don’t worry about it or lament it when this turns out to be true. Expect your training today to accurately reflect where you currently are. If anything, thoughtfully compare your current results/status to workouts in the past so you can gauge progress. Then, keep showing up so you can get to where you want to go.

About

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.

She can be reached at laura@fullcircleendurance.com.

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