Execution: An Effective or Destructive Action…

That is the archaic definition of the word execution, and the one that suits endurance and multi-sport athletes best. The ability to execute in an effective and not destructive manner is more often than not the difference between success and failure, in training and especially on race day. If you have spent any time around me, than you know I love my mantras. I try to create and / or use mantras or sayings that encapsulate a larger philosophy or methodology into a small and direct phrase that athletes can use, refer to or draw from when they are in the midst of their suffering. When it comes to mantras or phrases that revolve around execution, here are a couple that come to the front: ‘start strong, finish stronger’ – after all, endurance sports are not about who goes the fastest, but instead who slows down the least! Another favorite is: ‘stay within yourself’ – controlling what you can control and staying within your abilities (not limits!) at all times.
The majority of times a training session or more importantly a race goes ‘bad’ – we are able to look back at the data and see that in fact the true cause of the failure was not a lack of fitness, but poor execution. Most mistakes are made within the first few minutes and if not realized very quickly, will ultimately be your undoing as the session or race progresses. In our preparation and training for races, we must stay in touch with and tuned into our strengths but more importantly our limiters. Identifying how, where, when and why things breakdown and working hard in all respects to plug those holes in our armor to minimize their frequency and severity. Those first few minutes (when most mistakes are made) of a hard training session or race will always lie to you, always. The effort feels easy, almost too easy so you just keep going and pushing. But once the effort required to produce those splits, watts, paces, etc. has had a chance to catch up with you, it’s all too often too late.
In training, we encourage athletes to operate as both scientists and as artists. Using the technology and metrics available to them as targets or guides to create specificity in their training but also to be able to relate those things to how they feel and how they best produce those desired outcomes. When an athlete does this in an effective manner, they become auto tuned to their measurable outputs and can tell you with a scary degree of accuracy how fast they are swimming, how many watts they are pushing or what pace they are running – without even looking at their Garmin. And on race day, this is the goal – to have created a scientist that can execute effectively as an artist. One that has a full understanding of how hard they can push and for how long they can maintain levels of effort without undermining or completely sabotaging their overall performance. Being able to self assess often and to adjust to the circumstances that present themselves as they encounter them.
On race day, execution is perhaps the most critical skill you’ll need to bring to the start line. All of the training and fitness in the world won’t pull you through a poorly executed race. Hope is not a strategy and simply going out and trying your best will not result in your top performance. We want athletes to race with controlled aggression and not reckless abandon. Yes, there are times when you compete against your peers for that overall or age group win, but even at the very top levels of our sports – you will here the best talk about racing their race and sticking to their plans. Not succumbing to ego or responding to the moves made by others unless they are confident in their ability to match or beat them. Going into your races – especially the major events – with a solid race strategy is key. That does not mean that the plan cannot ebb and flow as the day unfolds, but you need to have more than just hope and will to get you to the finish line in the desired time or place. Remember, execution is the difference maker between realizing your goals and facing the prospect of under performing…
Jon Noland