As an erstwhile golfer for much of my life, I do confess to feeling no greater joy than the exhilaration of a drive hit right on the sweet spot. There is something about the pure adrenaline rush brought on by that perfect contact that is at once addicting and fleeting. So it is with running and in life that finding the sweet spot can be so alluring and capricious.
I have found in my running career that the search for that sweet spot can be a tricky one. There at times when I seem to find it without really trying, while at other times it seems as elusive as a cougar. For me, I tend to focus on three areas that I believe to be essential in having it all come together: training, racing, and mindset.
- Training. As every runner knows, the foundation for running success lies in a sensible, vigorous, and thoughtful training plan. That said, planning and execution are two entirely different things and the necessity of patience, focus, and grit in executing a proper training plan that is at once deeply rigorous and appropriately balanced can be the difference between driving the ball straight down the fairway or shanking it deep into the woods.
- Racing. Runners the world over know that performing on race day requires a delicate combination of discipline and risk. Small errors in pacing, nutrition, or gear can be devastating while being overly cautious and conservative can lead to complacency and failure. The sweet spot is typically found when the runner finds his or her way into that “flow” state where the act of racing becomes inextricably linked to the act of living. In that moment, amazing things happen and the purely struck drive flies over the sand trap by 30 yards.
- Mindset. As much as training and racing lay the groundwork for the sweet spot, it is the mental side of the equation that allows us to achieve greatness. No training plan or race strategy in the world can be successful without the proper mindset. Resilience, commitment, and drive are essential components of the runner’s toolbox and require relentless attention to detail. Some people just have more than others, but experience suggests that focused effort on the mental side of running can keep us hitting the sweet spot again and again while lapses in this area will most often have us flailing around in the bushes.
Truly, the ultrarunner’s craft is both an art and a science. And, like golf, it can be extraordinarily frustrating and passionately addicting. Accepting what is and remaining content with what isn’t can help us as we seek ways in our training, racing, and mindset to become better versions of ourselves every day we lace them up. In the end, that’s really all we can do.
AJW’s Beer of the Week
This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Stone Brewing Company in San Diego, California. A friend of mine gave me a bottle of their seasonal release Pataskala Red X IPA and it was outstanding. With the floral character of a typical IPA it had a malty kick that added to the complexity of this great beer. And, don’t be fooled by the 7.5%, this beer will hit you in the face.
Call for Comments (from Bryon)
- Share an experience in which you hit the sweet spot on a run or in a race!