With Fall goal Marathons wrapping up for my athlete roster as well as tons of runners around the globe, I wanted to focus on Goal Races and the Lead up to them...including Pre-Race Jitters. Something we all can get as runners. Sometimes you may not even know you have them, but guess what? They happen!
In the interview below, I asked my dear friend (I do not coach her), and Elite Masters runner, Rebecca Trachsel (Skechers Performance, Oiselle) to chime in on how she handles a training cycle and what goes on in her head before a goal race. Enjoy!
Topic: Goal Races and the Build Up to Them
Q: How many goal races do you peak for per year?
A: I typically focus on 2 goal races each year, a spring and fall marathon.
Q: What goes through your mind as now an Elite Master, in deciding which races will be key focus points during the year?
A: First, I’m a working mom, so I need to make sure that I can manage the race I choose from a logistics standpoint. Meaning, I can’t miss a week at home for a West Coast marathon. Then, I focus on the course itself. My current goal is to break 3 hours so I’ve been picking races with faster courses lately. If the races is smaller, than I’m usually able to qualify for an elite bib, which means I don’t have to pay the entry fee. That’s always a huge bonus. And, finally, I take a look to see if there is prize money in the Masters category (40+) as it’s always nice to come home with a little extra cash if possible. Though, this is just a “nice to have” and doesn’t ultimately determine my picks.
Q:How long do you Taper and what do you do during your down time during the taper? Many runners struggle with this and we would like your perspective.
A: I really only taper for about a week and a half. I try and save as many of the bigger items on my “to-do” list until this week as possible. Things like servicing our heat system. We need to get this done but it requires my being home for a 3-4 hours window of time, which I otherwise never have. I also try and do a lot of writing, reading, baking, catching up with friends I haven’t seen in a while; things that I don’t have as much time to focus on when I’m training. And, finally, I tend to miss some of my kids’ activities during peak training so I make an effort to go to all of their games and meets (soccer and gymnastics) and just spend more quality time with them in general. I do struggle with the down time, but I know it’s good for me to slow things down every once in a while and try stay relaxed and be in the moment when I can.
Q: If you were to describe the final week leading into a Goal Race, what goes on and how do you structure your days so you mentally do not freak out!?
A: I’m lucky because I’m pretty busy outside of my training so the freak out factor is relatively minimal. I still run every day during my taper week, just a lot less. Then I try to spend some extra time rolling, stretching, even getting a sports massage if I can. I also coach high school XC, so I’m closing out my afternoons at practice or at meets. And, finally, the end of my day is focused on my family. So, really, I manage to keep a pretty structured schedule despite the extra time.
Q: What is your gameplan the night before the race and the morning of? Any rituals?
A: This will be my 18th marathon next week, so I have definitely figured out what works and what doesn’t. For example, I now bring my own dinner if I’m staying in a hotel as there is no guarantee that I will be able to find the food I need when I’m there. I lay out all of my gear the night before and pin my bib number to my singlet so I don’t have to fumble with it in the morning. I also make sure to hydrate really well. And finally, even if I’m not super tired, I just get in bed and read on the early side so my body is getting plenty of rest. The morning of, I drink a cup of coffee, which I have also learned to bring with me because there are no guarantees that the coffee shops will be open at the crack of dawn, and eat a bagel with peanut butter and a banana. I don’t have any lucky socks or special charms, but I do like to write my mantra on my arm which is ALWAYS BELIEVE.
Q: What are your final thoughts before the gun goes off?
A: I try really hard to remind myself that the work is done; that I have done everything I can to get to this point. I’m always nervous, but I work hard not to be stressed because it’s just wasted energy. I focus on the fact that I’m excited to see what I can do. I tell myself multiple times to trust my training and to believe in myself. And, at least once, I try to remember how lucky I am that I get to do what I love and to be grateful that my body allows me to push it as hard as I do. Basically, a lot of self talk. But for me, it keeps the nerves at bay.
Q: How do you analyze a Goal Race or for that matter a training cycle after it is over?
A: There are a few different phases of analysis post-race. If it goes well, that’s one thing. But, if I don’t hit my goal, that’s a whole different process. No matter what, every time I cross the line I’m relieved and insanely happy to be done regardless of the outcome. If I’m disappointed, I may go through a stage immediately following the race where I question what I’m doing and why. I probably throw in an “I quit” or “I hate running” because, when you’re tired and frustrated the worst tends to come out. But, once the dust settles, I take some time to analyze my splits, to see where things went well and where things fell apart, if they did. No race is perfect and there is always room for improvement. What I’ve learned is that I can’t focus on the negative every time or it’s just not worth it to keep pushing at this level. Running is such a hard sport and races rarely go as planned, even when all our ducks are in a row. Ultimately, I have to ask myself if I’m still happy doing it and if I want to try again. If this answer is “yes”, which up until this point it has been, then I dust off my boots, take a little break and start over. Because, in the end, chasing the goal is what keeps me going. The goal has been the same for a while now, but it will eventually shift and if I’m still excited about it, then I’ll keep at it as long as I can.