I've been one happy coach these last few weeks. The Fleet Feet Training Team has been killing it in their races since the calendar tripped into April. Our PR rate is higher than the pollen count. One of the biggest keys to everyone's success has been a new attitude and outlook on taking on the half and full marathon. They've developed a healthy relationship with the tools they can utilize to achieve their goals.
And we do have a lot of tools to help us achieve our goals. In fact, there are so many available that we sometimes become too engrossed in everything they can do. Our GPS units, our pacers, and even our running buddies are there to help us, but none of them should constitute our set-in-stone game plan. Even tools are fallible when it comes to securing our best race.
They're all fallible, you say? Sure. GPS units are great. They can give us a ton of information. But we can't let their metrics tell us how we're feeling. Forcing a number when we're not ready for it is one of the most common mistakes we can make. It's like driving someplace at rush hour. Sometimes the shortest route isn't the fastest. The road with the least traffic will get us to our destination in the shortest amount of time.
A lot of people decide to run with pacers on race day. Pacers are a great tool, but even pacers have off days. Plus, every pacer has his or her own strategy: some bank time, some negative split, and some have bad days. Pacers are human. It happens.
Running with a friend is great, but it can also be tough on a relationship. Each athlete approaches a race with a different goal. When we're racing, we need to be a bit selfish. Relying on a friend to help us along when they have goals of their own usually doesn't work well for either person. If you chase two rabbits, you won’t catch either of them.
Racing is about feel. It's not something that can be forced or controlled. We have to be flexible. Remember Grand Moff Tarkin from Star Wars? “The more you tighten your grip, the more [the race] will slip through your fingers.” It’s less Grand Moff and more Lt. Col. Frank Slade: “If you make a mistake and get all tangled up, just [race] on.”
It's great to utilize the resources we have at our disposal, but we need to make sure we have a healthy relationship with them. By using them to help us rather than making them our primary focus, we will be able to optimize our performance on race day. The more we can learn to race by feel, the more successful we’ll be.
As Obi Wan would say, "Trust your feelings."
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.