One of the most stressful elements of training for races is that so much effort, time, and dedication are required to get to the starting line, and factors beyond your control—like the weather and work stress—can have a huge impact on your results. That’s why it’s important to set process goals heading into your big event. While an outcome goal focuses on a particular finishing time or placement, a process goal has to do with executing a specific racing strategy.
Here are four process goals you can set going into your next race. Master them, and your finish-line goals will take care of themselves.
Create a race-day nutrition strategy and stick to it. Inadequate nutrition and GI distress are some of the most common causes of race-day meltdowns. In the course of training, try out different forms of pre-, mid-, and post-run fuel to figure out which foods, brands, and flavors give you a boost without upsetting your stomach. If you stick to the nutrition that works for you on race day, you’ll have a much better chance of unleashing your potential and setting a new PR. Easier said than done. Outline your race-weekend fueling strategy ahead of time and stick to it. (Check out our post on how to avoid race-day nutrition mistakes.)
Run the hills. Hills can sap your strength and your focus when not done right. If you hone your hill strategy in training, on race day, you’ll attack climbs with confidence. Find hills that mimic the incline length and steepness that you’ll face in the race. Focus on form. Avoid hunching over. Let the road rise to meet you. Keep your eyes on the horizon. Push up and off the ground. Keep your palms loose. Drop your shoulders down away from your ears. Try to maintain a steady level of energy and forget about pace. Keep your breathing steady. As your strength and confidence grow, eventually you’ll be able to keep your pace steady, too. (Check out more quick tips on running form.)
Walk the water stops. Planned walk breaks provide an opportunity to stretch out fatigued muscles and mentally recharge for the miles ahead. Instead of thinking of walking as a crutch, consider walking an extension cord that allows you to cover more miles than you would be able to if you attempted to run nonstop. Plus, it’s easier to drink water and take down fuel while walking.
Run even splits. Running even splits—that is running each mile within 20 seconds of the previous mile or 10 percent of your goal pace—is a great way to work on managing your energy and, ultimately, logging a peak performance. This strategy will also help you focus on running your race, and avoid getting caught up in chasing the runners around you.