Tips for the Trail – Preparing for a Fabulous Race Year – Xterra – 1-20-2012

By Rachel Cieslewicz

published in Xterra 1/20/2012

It’s early in the year and for most of us the 2012 race year has yet to begin.  The New Year is the perfect time for setting new goals and dreaming big.  Believe it or not January is nearing its end.  How are the goals coming along?  What are you doing to make your plans a reality?  It can be tough to have a dream, but have no idea where to start.

For myself, I always do a few things when it comes to setting goals and preparing for a season. First, I reflect and write down the things that went well last year. I add what I would like to go well this year.  How do I feel now?  What do I want to feel like when the races are in full swing?  This goes for the physical, mental, and emotional aspects.

If injured or feeling run down, it may be good to work with a sports medicine doctor, physical or massage therapist, or nutritionist.  Taking care of any ailments now will help not only help your body be ready for a fun filled season of running enjoyment, but also help clear the mind for training and racing rather than worry if your body will hold up.

Next is the fun part. What is my big goal for the season?  Sometimes it is a particular race or series I want to do well at.  I also think about personal bests, working on perfect form, or having a great attitude.  It is never just about the races. Then I build out from there. Are there races I can do that can act as stepping stones to get me ready for a big day? Do I have friends with similar goals and ability I can recruit as running mates and cheerleaders? Family is important too! Goals to make sure they understand my vision can help with overall balance of training, racing, and loved ones goes a long way!

Thinking of all of these things helps to create the structure. I do suggest a coach. A great coach will create an annual training plan. They also help support week by week while keeping track of the big picture.  If you don’t have a coach, take the time to write out the ideal plan of training, racing, nutrition, etc., along with your reasons for wanting it. This way you always have a guideline to look to if things get off track. Know that nothing is set in stone and it is okay if adjustments need to be made along the way.

The other key for me is racing for a higher purpose.  Each year I dedicate my season to something greater than myself. Sometimes it is a family member I want to think of when the going gets tough. Others I have dedicated to people who can’t do what I am capable of right now. I, ,of course do what I do for me, but everything takes on a special meaning when racing for a cause or something beautiful outside of my own selfishness.

It is one of the reasons I love the XTERRA events so much.  It is a true community. The family atmosphere they create is unlike anything I have ever been a part of. Everyone in the XTERRA family is important and celebrated and appreciated.  I especially love the support and opportunity they give challenged athletes to race. They get it. Racing is fun. Racing is hard. Talk about incredible events and experiences that bring out a soul. It is about setting amazing goals and reaching your own human athletic potential.

With all that said, dream big. Set amazing goals with smaller goals to help you get there. Create a great purpose for your goals beyond yourself. With the proper plan and mindset in place, I promise you will have the greatest 2012 you could possibly imagine.  I look forward to learning about all of your adventures!

Rachel Cieslewicz is an elite runner and triathlete based in Salt Lake City, Utah. She won the women’s division of the XTERRA Lake Las Vegas and Santa Cruz half-marathons in 2011, and placed fifth at the 2010 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship at Kualoa Ranch, Hawaii. She is a talented sports massage therapist, Pilates and yoga instructor and is a certified running form coach. She can be reached atrcanyon1@gmail.com  or visit her website a twww.newageathlete.com or follow her onwww.twitter.com/newageathlete.