Coming off of the games, Dad asked me to do a talk for the HTB team about some of the race day strategies I used. Still high off of the trip, I definitely talked more about my adventures than the racing and left out some important strategies that I now wished I did talk about with the group. So, I would like to quickly touch upon one that I found to be the most important for the games, and athletic career.
One thing that I believe athletes struggle with is their definition of success. Many have too specific of a definition, or one that they can’t control. For example, having the perfect race is a very specific definition, and winning gold is one that isn’t necessarily within the control of an individual athlete. A strategy that I used this past year, that got me through the tough times, was redefining my own success.
When I had mono I was unable to walk properly for three months. At first, it was incredibly frustrating to not be able to perform such a simple task that I had rather excelled at for 21 years. With time, I realized that re-training my steps was not going to be easy or quick. So, I decided to mark my progress by a few things:
- How I felt mentally and physically. Did I feel more in control? Did I feel better? Did it feel easier?
- How far I made it. I would go into my backyard and walk the same loop, holding myself up with an old broomstick handle, and see how far I could make it before complete fatigue. Each day, I would take a few extra steps.This was an easy way to mark my progress.
This strategy helped me to feel satisfied, and find success in myself everyday even though I was still a long way from the top of the mountain.
I ended up adopting the same strategy for my racing, in particular for the games. I had no expectations going into the games, no idea where I would place, so I based my daily success off of a few similar measures:
- How I felt mentally and physically. Did I feel in control? Was I able to push hard when it got tough? Was I able to maintain technique and form? Was I mentally aware and focused?
- If I did something I hadn’t done before in a race/if I applied training I’d done to the race. For example, I’d never been able to maintain diagonal stride technique in a 15km race before (this applies to a race, not training) but I did in the last race so that was a success. I did numerous one skate intervals on college drive and there was a similar long grinding hill in the skate race. I was able to apply the same technique, form and power to this hill and I kept telling myself ‘you’ve done this before, you can do it now’. When I was able to use that fall training to my advantage in a race, I considered that a success. This was how I measured my racing progress, similar to my walking progress when I had mono.
These two measures told me at the end of my race whether or not I considered my day a success. And this really helped me to have a healthy outlook on my races.
I’m not saying that you can’t have results based goals, you absolutely can. I wanted a top 30 more than anything at the games. But, in the first two races when that didn’t happen, I made sure that not meeting this goal didn’t define how my day went. I can’t control the results, so even though it was a goal I wanted, it wasn’t my ultimate determinant of success.
I really truly advise all athletes to take a look at their definition of success. At the end of the day, success is a perspective. The results list does not determine what you have accomplished, it is up to you to decide what your successes are, and celebrate them.