Two Paths to the Same Finish Line

Sign with 2 arrows

That sounds deep and symbolic of life’s journey, doesn’t it? Well, it might be, but today, I’m actually thinking about it literally.

Jennifer and I are in the midst of training for the Sawtooth Relay, and I think it’s funny, and awesome, that we will both be fully prepared by the race, but we each have very different goals and training plans. (FYI: our personal Sawtooth Relay training plans are at the bottom of this post, should you want to take a peek at the specifics.)

Sometimes, people try to follow regimented training programs and plans… and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Just because a specific training plan works for your friend or colleague, does not mean it’s going to work for you.

(VERY IMPORTANT SIDENOTE: If you are doing a new type of sport/race, using a very structured plan may be essential for success. I’ve witnessed many a woman totally freak out at their first triathlon because it was the first time they swam in open water…never go in to an event without proper preparation.)

Now, that the side note is out-of-the-way, let’s chat about preparing for events where you are not a complete newbie. There are 3 things to consider when developing your personal preparation plan.

3 Training Plan Development Steps

First: Identify Your Goal(s)

The more races and events I do, the more I realize that people have VERY different goals. I do a boot camp exercise class with a couple serious runners (Boston Marathon-types), they are driven, motivated, and see absolutely no reason to do a race if you aren’t going to give it your all. They push each other, they are competitive, and they are having an absolutely great time. On the other side, I did my first sprint triathlon with two very special friends who were also my neighbors. Our goal was to finish. Period. Our experience included a ton of camaraderie, shared experiences, and lots of laughs, and quite honestly, not a lot of stress. Both extremes are fine, as is, everywhere in the middle. The most important thing is identifying what YOUR unique, personal goal is going to be. Here are some examples:

  • Finish the race
  • Beat my personal record from earlier races/events (When you hear the term “PR”, it stands for “Personal Record”)
  • Complete the race in X minutes (Maybe a little faster than before, maybe a lot faster, maybe just some number you have in your mind that you want to meet.)
  • Have fun training
  • Bond with a group of friends
  • Feel good about myself/build confidence/say “I did it” (Base Camp, anyone?)
  • Jump-start your fitness/weight-loss regime
  • Have great pictures to share on Facebook/Pinterest/Instagram
  • Try something new
  • Mark off something from your bucket list
Post-event fun is why I do races! Jennifer and I after last year's relay.

Post-event fun is why I do races! Jennifer and I after last year’s relay.

Second: Identify Your Training Style

Are you super busy? Do you have a lot of commitments on your plate? If yes, training for an Ironman may not be the best choice, at least not right now. Are you in a new community and hope to meet like-minded people? Then a group training program might be great. Do you have 3 kids and a home-based business? Perhaps a little solo time and individual training would feel awesome. You get the point—once again think about what makes YOU feel good. There are many ways to skin a cat, and the way you do it today may differ from the way you do it next year.

A 10K training run we did last year in week 18; we wanted to "test run" the 6,500 ft elevation.

A 10K training run we did last year in week 18; we wanted to “test run” the 6,500 ft elevation.

Third: Make a Plan and Put it in Writing

This may require some reading and homework. Talk to friends who have done the same or similar event. How did they prepare? What plan did they follow? Look at the event’s website; many times it lists suggested training programs and groups that provide training support. You can also do a Google search and see if you can find some blogs where people share their experiences, training schedules, and tips for success.

Next you need to put your plan in writing! This makes sure you commit to it, and will also help you notice if you are falling behind schedule. Just like the gals who enter the triathlon water without ever practicing in open water, you don’t want to try a 30-mile bike ride for charity without ever riding close to that distance. The general rule of thumb that I’ve heard (though I have absolutely no scientific proof) is that on race day, you can always increase your previous longest distance by 15%. So if you are running a Half Marathon, and the furthest you’ve run during your training program is 12 miles, then you’ll be fine. For some, that type of fluidity is acceptable, for others, they will want the confidence to know that not only have they gone the race distance previously, but they’ve gone farther than it. These are things to consider as you put your training plan on paper (or in your computer!).

So, what are Jen and I doing for our Sawtooth Relay Plan?

Jennifer is generally following the Training for Relay* Intermediate plan. Her goals are bigger than mine for this event (#1 above) and her training style tends to be more methodical (ok, not necessarily methodical, but less haphazard, see #2 above). Due to those 2 things she will run faster than I do and will do the run segments with more elevation change. (Yes, she rocks!)

This is the plan Jennifer generally follows, though she runs 3x per week, not 4, and she sometimes does her upper body work at the gym instead of what is listed in the plan. Jennifer also does Classical Stretch 6 times per week in the morning. (I told you, she is an animal!)

Jennifer's Training Plan

Jennifer’s Training Plan

Now, my Sawtooth Relay Training Schedule looks like the below. Due to my current schedule, it leaves a little more room for “fitting things in”, and it won’t result in quite as many running miles.

Susan's Training Plan

Susan’s Training Plan

As you can see, we are following two paths, but plan to successfully end at the same finish line.

Wishing you a successful, healthy, and enjoyable event season! (regardless of which path you take get there)



* I tried to hyperlink to this site, which used to be, but it doesn’t seem to be working. You might do a little internet searching if you want to get the full plan Jennifer is following.


One thought on “Two Paths to the Same Finish Line

  1. Susan, I enjoy your perspective about how there are multiple ways to prepare for an event. The most important thing, as you say, is to be prepared. Do the work and you will see results. Oh, and have some fun along the way, too! 🙂

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