Having a hand in both the collegiate racing world and the life of a PA athlete, there's one specific element of racing as part of a team with a number of different focuses that is very challenging, and ultimately counterproductive to successful running if you're not careful and deliberate with your plans.
A college athlete has it relatively easy. Their coach makes a schedule in the fall and one in the spring, they do the races that are asked of them, and all have some clear and concise goal for each of those two seasons. Everyone else on their team has essentially the same goals, and they all, more or less, do the same races. They even drive or fly to each race in the same car or plane, and do most every run, workout, or weight room session together as one unit. The plan is mapped out for them, and they share that exact plan with 20-30 other women. Easy.
The life of a PA runner, however, isn't so clear, and the seemingly limitless options and opportunities can make it challenging to focus. The PA circuit is packed with races from cross country, to ultras, to short road and long. There are marathons, there are road miles, track races, 10k's, 5 milers, and relays. On and on the schedule goes, and that's just the PA portion, never mind the Olympic Trials, Boston Marathon, Tufts, Master's Track and Field Championships, Bloomsday, Chicago Marathon etcetera etcetera. For the typical PA athlete (psssst, he's talking about you!), the life of racing is not unlike a kid in a candy store with a $10,000 credit. If you're not careful you've eaten the entire store and all you have to show for it is type II diabetes. Have a goal. Eat the good chocolates and avoid those mystery Valentine Day chocolates filled with toothpaste that just put a bad flavor in your mouth and somehow make the combo of peanut butter and chocolate, which alone is probably the greatest combination of flavors ever, taste mediocre. Don't be silly. You don't need any candy that tastes like chalk. What's the purpose of eating those? The point is, I have a sweet tooth problem.
Lots of things work. The question is, what's the most practical and efficient way to train for a certain task? - Again to Carthage
Our training, as you've likely noticed, is set up into two six month training cycles. The intention of these cycles is to allow us to periodize our training, meaning we have an opportunity to create building blocks that lead to some season ending goals. The best time to pick your goals is at the start of each training cycle, allowing your racing schedule and training regimen to be dictated by that goal, giving the season and each training session a specific purpose. Running aimlessly without a goal makes it more difficult to focus on the tasks at hand, it makes it more difficult to be deliberate with your training, it makes it more difficult to race with purpose. The six month cycle should serve as a road map for your goals, and each race or practice functions as one of those building blocks to some greater end goal.
If your goal, for example, is to race fast at CIM, might it be useful to schedule a half marathon 4-8 weeks prior? Probably. Might it be useful to run all 10 cross country PA races? Probably not. Allow your goals to dictate the entire season of racing in a way that aids you in being your best during your goal races. While all running is seemingly the same, a 50k in the Headlands is probably not a constructive building block if your goal is to race fast in the Freedom Fest 5k and San Rafael Mile. Racing a half marathon one week before the NYC Marathon will probably hinder your performance. Racing every single weekend will probably create some staleness, which makes it difficult to run your best when it matters most. Map out a plan in advance so you can avoid mistakes like these. Talk to Tony if you want great racing advice or me if you want to talk about how good mint chocolate ice cream goes with Belgian chocolate (or racing goals too...I can be of service there too).
So, for most all of us, we are at the start of a new training cycle. New beginnings, and a new opportunity to dream of big things as an athlete. There are new goals out there, new opportunities. Take the time to examine the full schedule of races, and consult with coaches, teammates, friends about mapping out a racing plan that can be fun, challenging, productive individually and for the team, and ideally something a little new and fresh. Think ahead, plan, and allow yourself to be deliberate with your training. In conclusion, goals. They're neat.
- Pete Cushman