Training for a Race IS a Project

The Wooden Wolf.

There it was, the finish line. After thousands of feet of climbing up and down countless hills, I rounded the corner and saw the blow-up arches with the word “FINISH” emblazoned across the top. Beyond the arch was the large wooden wolf that race organizers always have at the finish (you “Kiss the Wolf” when you finish).

The Moose Mountain Marathon is a 26.2 mile trail race on the Superior Hiking Trail in norther Minnesota along Lake Superior. Though I participate in a number of races and events each year, this is by far my favorite, not to mention one of the toughest! I entered the lottery in January and got confirmation in February I was accepted. Project Trail Run – BEGIN!!

When we think of projects, we think of tasks we do at work in support of a bigger picture. Or, a project can be something we need to get done around the house. We seem to be doing projects all the time. But, especially for those who compete in various sports, have you ever thought of participating in a race as a project?

In my opinion, yes, it is a project. The definition of a project is a temporary endeavor to create a unique product, service, or result. Let’s get into what makes racing a project:

Temporary: Projects have a start and end date. My project starts when I click the “Submit Payment” button when signing up for a race. When I pay, the clock starts. The end date of this project is when I cross the finish line. Sometimes that’s a couple months from the start, other times it’s almost a year away. In any case, I have a start and an end date. Yeah, it’s temporary.

One of the many views from the trail marathon along Lake Superior in northern Minnesota

Unique: Since I’m not creating a product or service, we’ll go with result. When you finish a race, you’ll have a result, usually measured in rank of how you finished and time. But in addition to result, I would also include experience. At least for a lot of the races I do, I love to experience the sights and sounds of the course (i.e. I just climbed a 200′ hill and got one hell of a view!). My time and my experiences during the event are unique to me. Yeah, it’s unique.

Now that I’ve made my case for a race to be a project, let me share some of the functions I perform during my temporary endeavors.

Selection and Initiation: Every year I make a list of events I’d like to do. Out of the 20+ I list out, I get to choose about 5-8 (depending on location and race distance). So, I need to prioritize. Once prioritized, I find out when registration opens and am Johnny on the Spot to sign up (most of them fill up within a half day).

Plan: When people tell me they can’t find a training plan I laugh. Google just about any event and someone’s created a plan. Use that as a baseline to create your own. Just about every plan I’ve seen or used talks about modifications. At the end of the day, have a training plan you can align and commit to.

Risk Mitigation: I’m in my late 40’s. I don’t bounce back from injuries like I used to. Any soreness or small problem is quickly addressed. Stretching is a requirement before and after every workout. A massage gun has become a necessity. Strength training is vital. All in the name of mitigating risk and injuries!

Execution: Once you have a plan, time to execute. Check off the days and keep track of the miles. Plot your progression, understanding some days are going to be a lot harder than others. Rain sucks, but get out there anyway. It may rain on race day too. Continually execute and monitor your progress.

Go-Live: I say my last day of training is race day. It’s also go-live. You’ve trained for this. All those hours (probably many of which were alone) boil down to this moment. Enjoy the excitement of the start, the experience of the event, and the celebration of finishing.

Close-Out: After the race, take time to reflect. What went well? What didn’t? What happened that was unexpected and didn’t occur during training? How will you handle it differently next time? These lessons learned can only make you stronger in the future.

Finally, don’t let anyone tell you this isn’t a team event. Sure, you’re putting in the miles training and on race day. However, without the support (and understanding) of family and friends, events like this would not be possible. Give kudos to those who’ve supported you along the way. Without my team, success would not be possible.

Next time you sign up for a race, think of it like a project. Maybe even give it a name (i.e. Project: Marathon or 13.1). Initiate by signing up, put a training plan together, train, and successfully complete! These temporary and unique endeavors will test you, but you got this!

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