"A goal without a plan is just a wish" Antoine de Saint-ExupéryFrom training day one to that race on your calendar there is so much wiggle room, so many opportunities to fall prey to defeat."I will start tomorrow", or "on Monday.." All that negative self doubt that maybe "I cant...." Well, I believe you CAN and I have a couple ideas on how you can better prepare yourself and plan ahead. I try and think of my year of training as an ultramarathon. I try and plan for it similarly to an ultra in a couple of ways:
1. How to eat an elephant (ask my friend Reid!). It's tough for me to think of a 100 mile ultramarathon in its entirety, even though I have completed a few. Just standing at the starting line and thinking that I have 100 miles ahead of me is overwhelming. I really have to micromanage the miles into shorter chunks, 10-12 mile sections, or aid station to aid station. My annual training plan needs the same attention. I need to break it down to smaller blocks that allow me to focus on a specific section as well as check in with my goals for progress and alignment. I break it down to monthly blocks and create a working plan for that one month. I try and test myself with 2-3 challenges for any particular month. The first one I map out is directly related to my goal(s). It may be a distance for training or a particular amount of hours of training in the month. In peak season I have done speed challenges as well as vertical gain challenges. Whatever your goal, this first challenge is a good part of the direct work needed to get you there. The second monthly challenge is indirect- its a challenge that will test you. I like this one. I have tried 15 minutes of daily meditation every day in the month, a push up challenge for the month, drinking only water, a 30 day yoga practice, starting and finishing a book.. It's a challenge, and, if completed, will make the mental mind tougher. The obvious other healthy benefits are an added bonus. I have already forgot what I did a month ago today, and so it's easy to let even these monthly challenges slip by- I try and write down a quick note on how my day was vs my monthly map. At the end of my week I will put together a recap using the daily notes and check for alignment. All of this breaks the season down into bite size pieces. This is the ground level perspective.
2. Don't go out to fast. This is said at the start of every ultramarathon..and do I take heed? Not very often... I (sorta) redeem myself by practicing this within my annual goals at least. It is so easy to go lickety-split into these annual goals. They are fresh and you have a full head of steam! Remember, it's a long season. Training day 259 is quite a few monthly blocks away. Motivation is great but if you are diving into your training hard right now- can you sustain it? Can you make it to the finish, mentally and physically healthy? This one gives you the birds eye view, from slightly above. These monthly blocks can be created ahead of time to spread the training amongst them as to ensure proper proportion as well as building on each other. Next months training map will build on this current one, and so on. The idea is not to do July's work in January. Maybe I can take my own advice in my next ultra...?
3. Have a plan B, and a plan C. This is the window seat, the 10,000 ft view, peering into the big picture. Even in the most perfect of training seasons, events on race day can fall apart. There are so many variables in running 100 miles over 24 or more hours. So much can change, some within yourself and some external issues can arise and change your race. In ultrarunning as well as in your annual plan...and for that matter, in life- You have to be flexible. You have to roll with the punches and adapt to changes that life throws at you. This isn't your hall pass to walk away from your goals when your tired and lose motivation, when it gets tough, but more an understanding that things will not go according to plan. You may not get Tuesdays workout in- you better have a good reason, but it may not happen. Don't sweat it- move on and do what you can. Be willing to realign your goals if needed. Be willing to change the plan when it's not working for you anymore. It's ok.
There are so many ways to get to that starting line. My hope is that you get one thing from my suggestions that helps you plan your season, and finds you at the top of your game at that starting line. Enjoy the Journey!