“It’s not where you start but where you finish,” “it’s not the result but the process of getting there,” “don’t become a victim of your potential result.”
All these chestnut sayings are true and I belt them out all the time. Though it’s good in health and fitness to have some perspective of where you want to finish and how you are going to get there. I call it – The Body Management Plan.
Most people know that I race marathons and it was during one of these races that I came up with this notion. See in the marathon, for the most part, you are not running hard. You just run for so long in that area just below threshold that eventually things start to drop inside your body and before you know it, things get real tough.
In my opinion, it’s a way of nursing your body to the finish line as fast as you can. If that makes sense?
Do you go hard in the first half and have some yards up your sleeve for a fade later on? Do you work the middle and burn off the field? Should you burn like a diesel fire, even and consistent throughout? These questions are the conundrums of athletes and coaches everywhere.
In the AFL, there’s much contention about when to activate the sub (substitute player). Should he go early and have impact off the bench, or do you release him late when the opposition are tired?
Do we hurt the opposition now or brace for them to come home hard in the final quarter? Often a good start will see a team coast home to victory, but other times it can be a false sense of security. Remember Australia leading 2-0 in the World Cup qualifier against Iran in 1997. Coasting but never confident, they drew 2-2 and missed the Cup.
What should you do? Fortune favours the brave and I love to front run, in the Steve Prefontaine tradition, but you’ve got to pick your fights.
If you’re feeling ‘up and about’ (in the fabled words of James Hird) maybe it’s your day to go early and throw caution to the wind, say “catch me if you can” and go for the throat. Sometimes though the war is just warming up in the early stages and you need to be coming good as the sun sets, shadows grow longer and mud marks the guernsey.
I can remember one of the greatest ‘sub’ blunders in history committed by Balmain coach Warren Ryan in the 1989 NSWRL Grand Final. Ryan substituted two of his best players, international forwards Steve ‘Blocker’ Roach and Paul Sironen, who until substitution were killing them up front.
They were relieved and Canberra were able to sneak back into the match, leveling it at 14-14 when the siren rang. The rampant Raiders overwhelmed Balmain in extra-time.
Was the coach to blame? We don’t know but what it does highlight is that anticipating the road ahead and the decisions you make now are vital.
Hindsight is 20-20. How many times have you come off the field of battle and thought we should have rucked it instead of kicking, I could have broken him during in the mid-part of the race but I hung around long enough for him to hang off me and ‘sling-shot’ past at the end? Other times we are just praying for a Steven Bradbury.
It’s all about maximising your result, whatever it takes. A legendary horse racing moment happened in the Melbourne Cup of 1983, when New Zealand horse ‘Kiwi’ sat at the back of the field, by up to 20 lengths last, for the first mile of the race. Then he started to turn it on and was well within striking distance at the ‘clock tower’ and galloped home to win. Watch the dramatic finish here.
Whether you’re running marathons, playing rugby league or just training to get fit you should look at your journey in it’s entirety and say, now what do I have to do to be peaking at the end. Your best to stick to something sustainable, in the marathon for example, I don’t go out thinking I’m Yobes Ondieki then fall in a hole after 5 miles. I sit in for the first 20 miles then have a crack in the last 6.
“But first you’ve gotta get there” (Famous quote by boxing trainer Darrel ‘President’ Ford).
Before you can have a crack in the last 6 miles, you’ve got to get through the first 20. In racing anything can happen so be prepared for that. Did Warren Ryan anticipate an extra 20 minutes of game time in 1989 without two of his biggest guns? I doubt it.
So before you roll the dice and commit a blunder remember that you want to be in the mix when the whips start cracking. Like Kiwi.
The goal is to drop dead over the finish line and there’s no sure fire way to get there. If you make it you’ll think you’re a legend, if you ‘blow up’ you’ll scorn your earlier decisions and chase retribution.
“Genius one day, mug the next” – Kenny Calendar.