Hitting It On The Sweet Spot

AJWs TaproomAs 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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

2016 Stone Pataskala Red X IPAThis 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!

There are 2 comments

  1. Nelson Prater

    Thanks for another great Friday morning, and for the golf analogy. I had to give up 1-handicap golfing for long-distance running. My wife could not be both a golfing and a running widow, and golf got more expensive and more time-consuming than doing long runs. And, you really can’t get in 9 holes at 4 a.m.

    I heard a homily a couple of weeks ago about Jesus taking the disciples up the mountaintop where everything culminates, where it all comes together, where all the work pays off (the race) – God makes everything bright and shiny and clear on the mountaintop. But, it’s back at the bottom where all the work gets done, all the grinding out and unromantic effort. We spend way more time down at the bottom than we do on the mountaintop. I need to take better notes during Mass because it made perfect sense to me for about 30 seconds. Now, not so much. But, when you start to take a bunch of notes at Mass these days, people think you are a reporter working on some kind of scandal article.

    The mindset thing is killing me now, though. I ran for years (19?) without a DNF. Not finishing wasn’t even something that crossed my mind. You started and you didn’t stop until you got to the finish line. Until my first DNF. And, now instead of focusing on how I’m going to finish, I’m focusing on how I’m not going to not finish. It’s a handicapped place to be. Like those people who get into a state of taking a backswing in golf, and not being able to bring the club down. Have you ever seen somebody with that condition? It’s excruciating to watch.

    How does one change the mindset to envision a strong finish?

    1. faithdoesmatter

      I believe this mindset can be changed but it requires a focused effort on two things. Thing 1) accepting that a DNF was an event and not who you are. Thing 2) focus on the small successes in your training and take pride in them and remember them. Focus there and have trust in your training and remember; a DNF didn’t probably affect your sponsorship any more than placing in the top 10.

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