One of the most important parts of enjoying a successful race is flexibility. No, I'm not referring to the ability to touch your toes (although that type of flexibility is beneficial as well). I mean you've got to be adaptable to the monkey wrenches that will inevitably be thrown your way. No race or training season goes according to script. Your ability to make like a Marine (improvise, adapt, and overcome) goes a long way towards whether or not you have a successful race day.
To reach your goal, you must first know where you are going. Being adaptable does not mean flying by the seat of your pants. You need to come up with a plan to help you prepare, a plan that will help you stay focused on your goal but will also be adaptable as unexpected situations arise.
For instance, what do you do if Snowmageddon hits on the same Tuesday as your scheduled hill session? Be comfortable with adjusting your training program. Remember: just because it’s written down doesn’t mean it’s etched in stone. Keep a "forest through the trees" mindset so the big picture is the primary focus. Let that guide you on daily concerns about how and when to switch things up, and you'll be able to ride out much of the turbulence of training.
Race day always begins with the best of intentions. But those that walk away the happiest are not the ones with the most elaborate, intricate game plans. Race day never goes exactly as planned. It just doesn’t.
I often give athletes loads of advice as we prepare for a goal race. But when the anticipated day arrives, I tell them to pick only two or three things to focus on and cast the rest aside. We need to allow ourselves the ability to adapt to the fluid nature of racing and not get mired in “paralysis through analysis.” By keeping things simple yet focused, we can stay on target as we alter our plans to fit our needs.
Learn to let go of things that are out of your control. Learn not to trip over the rock that's behind you. And learn to do the best with the cards you've been dealt. (And might I add that if you can conquer those three things, you will be the freaking yogi of racing.) By working on becoming more flexible with our training and racing, we are preparing ourselves to be more successful on race day.
Good Luck and Happy Racing!
Tim Cary is FLEET FEET's Assistant Training Manager, coach of the FLEET FEET-sponsored Runnababez Elite team, and manager of the FLEET FEET Racing Team. Over his 20 years of coaching, Tim has coached athletes to three national team championships, five national individual championships, two national records, and numerous All-American and All-State honors. Click here to receive Tim's weekly article via email.