Your Race Result May Hang on One Word (PodiumRunner)

I do a lot of prep for my podcast interviews in order to try and find some unique angles that--hopefully--my guests haven't been asked about too often. I want our conversations to hit some new notes, and be something that resonates both with the guest and the listeners.

In researching Carrie Tollefson, I was struck by her 2004 Olympic Trials 1500m victory because of the way she did it. She led from the front the entire way, got passed by the favorite with 50 meters to go, then fought back in the last 10 meters and surged back for the victory.

Most athletes don't lead championship races if they don't have to. Most athletes don't win races they lead from the gun. And most athletes don't come back from being passed in the last 50 meters when they've led the whole way. 

So I asked Carrie about it and her answer to how she was able to maintain her composure, execute her race plan, and ultimately win the race centered on her use of "word cues": simple words or phrases she focuses on to stay positive at each stage of the race.

I wrote about word cues in my latest newsletter but I decided to dive into them in more detail in my latest article at PodiumRunner. I break down what word cues are, the two types you should consider using, and how they fill a hole in most of our race preparations.

Here's an excerpt. The full article is here (subscription required).

One of my favorite quotes is attributed to former US President Dwight Eisenhower: “Plans are worthless but planning is everything.” He was speaking of military campaigns, but he may as well been speaking about racing. No matter how many scenarios you’ve played out, reality always turns out different than you expected.

But just because your plan doesn’t work doesn’t mean planning isn’t critical. The act of preparing, of considering possible outcomes, situations and scenarios, is what gives you the tools you need to overcome unexpected challenges. Preparation is the act of identifying the tools at your disposal and figuring out how and when to use them.

We put a lot of emphasis on our physical tools: our sense of pace, our aerobic capacity, our finishing kick. And we put a lot of emphasis on anticipating who will do what: Runner X likes to go out hard; Expect Runner Y to sit and kick. And of course we do things like visualize our performance and use mantras and positive self-talk to build up our confidence and decrease anxiety and stress.

But there’s one area that many athletes don’t actively prepare for, and that is the thoughts and feelings they will experience at various stages of the race. We don’t actively train ourselves to re-focus when our attention slips, to block out negative self-talk when it starts to creep in, or to reduce the strain on our minds as we hit periods of exhaustion.

Word cues are a great tool for just these situations.

Continue reading here.