Even with finely tuned training plans in place, it pays to have a back-up plan.
By Krista Duchene
When things don’t go exactly as we expect, it can be very disappointing and frustrating, especially for athletes. We plan ahead, implement the training, and believe we’ll succeed. We’ve done it before and presume we can do it again. However, we all know that some things aren’t within our control. While we set our initial goals and don’t want to settle for anything less, sometimes we need to lean on a back-up plan. After ten marathons in 11 years with three kids, I’ve learned to be content—and sometimes have pleasantly surpassed my expectations—with the occasional execution of the back-up plan. Holding back on a workout, cancelling a race, or taking an un
planned day off may seem terrible at the time but we must control our emotions, be objective, and always remember the big picture. Here are three ways in which I’ve implemented a successful back-up plan.
Keep pushing the positive
When Lanni Marchant and I returned from running the 2012 Rotterdam Marathon and began the appeal process for a spot on the Olympic team, we needed a back-up plan should we lose the appeal. In preparation for a decent race, marathoners need a good 12-week build. Although we had to keep training should we win the appeal and get to race in London, we didn’t want hard work go to waste if we lost the appeal. As a result, we planned to run a fall marathon. Once we learned we would not run at the Olympic Games, I quickly dealt with the disappointment, took a
week of easier running, and focused on what was ahead.
The Result: Acknowledging my feelings and taking a break allowed me to move forward with more passion than before.
After collapsing with heat exhaustion while competing in the 2013 World Championships Marathon in Russia, I had a choice to make. On the one hand, I could dwell on the disappointment with the knowledge that I could have possibly achieved a decent placing if I had adjusted my pace to the sweltering heat. On the other, I could focus on the positive realizing that I recovered quickly, wasn’t injured, and was one of 23 who did not finish the race. As my first ever DNF, it was humbling but I decided that I was not going to let hard work go to waste. I was in the shape of my life, both physically and mentally healthy. After discussion with my coach and husband, the plan to run a fall marathon was set. With amazing food and great relaxation, I also opted to thoroughly enjoy a planned 10-day European vacation with my husband, which left me feeling refreshed and ready for the hard training ahead.
The Result: A few months later, at the 2013 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon Lanni Marchant and I broke the 28-year-old Canadian marathon record becoming the fastest two female marathoners in history.
Focus on the long run
In planning for a strong and fast spring for 2014, my coach and I decided that running a fast 10,000 metres on the track in California would be an excellent goal. That said, we also included the back-up plan which meant not risking injury. In the middle of a brutal winter, which included two weekly early morning runs in -30 ̊C temperatures, not to mention very poor footing, my body started telling me that it was pushed to the limit. Due to the conditions, easy runs became difficult, wreaking havoc on my legs. After discussion with my coach, we put the 10,000-metre race plan on the back burner.
The Result: I got in some speed work that will eventually benefit me, while avoiding the trap of pushing too hard too soon, which aligns with my long-term goal of making it strong and healthy to the 2016 Olympic Games.
Whether we fall short of a goal or succumb to an unexpected injury, we can all learn from our setbacks. And while moving forward may not always be easy, having a back-up plan can not only help you stay focused on your greater goals but it can also give you a lift when the road you’re on surprises you with an unexpected turn.