In the end, training and racing are two different things
Coach Tip Tuesday has come around again!!
One of the athletes I work with recently asked me the following question after a goal race: “Why does it feel so hard in training and so great on race day??”
My answer to this athlete is the heart of this week’s Coach Tip Tuesday: Because the athlete was properly prepared to meet the demands of race day. Not to toot my own horn, but this type of question/feedback actually lets me know that I’m doing my job well and that the athlete and I are working really well together to accomplish the goals that the athlete wants to reach.
If you are prepared well for your race (and assuming that no external factors outside of your control are at play), you should feel strong and good (mentally and physically) on race day. Such a feeling represents the culmination of a lot of focused work and a very solid taper/race day lead-in.
A coach’s number one job is to keep athletes from getting injured due to poor training choices or overtraining. Second to that, it is the coach’s job to ensure that the athlete is prepared for their goal with the exact amount, frequency, and specificity of training needed in the training cycles leading into the goal race. Not more, and not less.
The demands imposed in training should mimic those that you will encounter in a race. Of course, these should be timed appropriately for where you are in your training cycle (i.e. someone training for an IRONMAN in six months shouldn’t be riding a 100-mile long run every week right now). Additionally, your training workouts should focus on all areas - your strong areas AND your weak areas. If you dislike something, it’s often because it’s hard, right?? And for most athletes, the things that they struggle with (and the corresponding skills work) are hard for them. If they were easy, they wouldn’t be areas that need as much improvement.
By following a plan that includes all of this - progressive training load build-up, race-specific skills and training, focus on weaker areas, complementing areas of strength, appropriately-timed does of frequency and load, and well-timed recovery - an athlete should feel strong and ready when race day comes. All of these things, along with some focused mental skills training, make the athlete confident in their ability to execute a smart and solid race. And then, if things go well, the athlete DOES execute a great race.
Preparation is the key to success, my friends. And in the end, training and racing ARE two different things. Training is the work you do to get to race day, and race day is the celebration of all of that hard work. So put in the work day-to-day, and celebrate you will come race day!! (And depending on which race you do, you might get to high-five Minnie Mouse as part of that celebration. ;) )