Plan the Work, Work the Plan

It was deeply satisfying to track my coaching client Stacey G. as she ran the Boston Marathon yesterday. Stacey, a former division 1-A collegiate track runner, hired me to train her for this race after she’d been plagued with overuse injuries in her previous marathon training. Her plan involved a lot of focused running complemented with strength training, plyometrics, drills, swimming, and a weekly ride (now that Boston’s done, she’s making a transition to triathlon, which I know she’ll love). She consistently nailed her workouts, and while there were days when she felt sore and tired and a week when her foot hurt, she made it to Hopkinton free of injury.

Better still, Stacey lined up with a very detailed race plan. Her plan was based on what had worked for her in training, from clothing to nutrition to pacing. I asked her to write out the plan based on the prompts you see below. She provided specific answers to each of the questions, and her writing, whether intentional or not, revealed her faith in her training and her ability. It was full of “I will . . .” statements (“I will hold back at the start”), which made me feel even more confident in her readiness.
Yesterday, she followed the plan to the letter and wound up with a five-minute PR of 3:17. Pretty impressive!
You can do the same. As your peak race of the season approaches, take the time to write out a race plan of your own. Follow the outline here as a starting point for your own document. (You can even grab a Word file with the prompts in it on my downloads page.) If you’re a big list-maker, you might then make a packing list and a schedule for your race weekend. The more you reflect on your training and think through how you want things to go, the more likely it is that they’ll work out as you planned.

List your conservative goal:
List your public goal, what you’ll tell friends and coworkers you hope to do:
List your private goal, what you’ll tell your best friends you’d like to make:
List your super-secret radical goal:

What are you wearing?
What if it’s really cold?
What if it’s really hot?
What’s your anti-chafing plan?

What do you plan on eating for dinner the night before?
Breakfast on race day?

Please list exactly what you plan to eat and when (either by time or by mile markers).
Ditto for hydration.

What’s the plan?
How will you hold yourself accountable to this plan? (E.g., pace chart tattoo from the expo, stopwatch, GPS, etc.)
How will external factors such as terrain or crowds affect this plan? How will you alter the plan in response?

What mental strategies or tricks do you plan to use in the race?
List your fears about the race, and how you plan to cope should they materialize. Mark each one as either “in my control” or “out of my control.”

Include any other contingencies that seem relevant.