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January 03, 2011

Blake Russell - A Pro's Perspective on goals for the year ahead

Written by Dena Evans

BR_rnrBlake Russell is a former University of North Carolina All-American who has gotten better and better as her chosen distance has gotten longer.  She even has traversed one of the most difficult chasms in sports - after finishing a heartbreaking 4th in the 2004 Olympic Marathon Trials, she succeeded in making the team in 2008, where she was the United States' highest placing finisher in 27th. 

After becoming a mom for the first time in 2009, Blake steadily returned to form in 2010, winning the San Jose Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon in a personal best 1:11:57.  A calf strain derailed her plans to contest the ING New York City Marathon in November, but she plans to be ready to go for 2011 and beyond.  Read on to hear about her goal setting for the year ahead.

Coach:  In January, many FNF trainees are going to be setting new training goals and picking a goal race or two for 2011.  How does your goal setting process work?

BR: Since moving the the marathon, I have found that it is hard to target track and cross country as well. The last few years I have been aiming for one or two marathons a year, so that usually means deciding on what marathon I want to run and working backwards a few months to see how other races will fit into a marathon training block. This past year, my goal was to run the NYC marathon because I wanted to run an interesting course and practice tactical racing. I had also never run that marathon, so I was looking for a fun race back since I had not run a marathon since the Olympics. Unfortunately, I had a minor injury that kept me out of the race, so I was not able to reach that particular goal.

After weighing a few options for 2011, I decided I want to run a spring marathon verses aim for some fast track times since the Olympic Trials are just over a year away. The most important thing for me is to take a few weeks, particularly after a disappointing end to 2010, and look at all my options and goals. I usually rely heavily on my coach's input, because he is the best at seeing the big picture and getting me to my goal of being as fit as possible for the Olympic Trials marathon. He is not big in setting time goals because sometimes that can lead to disappointment or even limitations. Rather, his main goal is to put in really consistent training blocks knowing that confidence is always built  with consistency.

Coach: How have your goals (both short and long term) changed after experiencing the Olympics, the grand stage, etc?

BR: Once you have been to the Olympics, you see why everyone wants to keep getting back there. It is such and honor to wear the USA uniform and know that you are one of three people to represent the United States in that particular event.  My goals, however, have not changed too much. I took a planned pregnancy break and have always been planning to try and make the marathon team again in 2012. I have always had aspirations of running a mid-2:20s marathon, but there are not that many more opportunities to do it. If I can make the team again, I know that I will need to be a mid-2:20 marathoner to be competitive.

Coach: With the Olympic Marathon Trials basically in about a year, you have a significant task to look forward to (assuming this race is on your radar screen).  Do you find it important to have intermediate goals so you can build confidence on the way to huge task like that looming on the calendar, but far away?

BR: In 2008, I was the only athlete that used the 10k to qualify for the Trials because I was not healthy enough to run a full marathon thanks to a broken metatarsal bone. This time, things have still been a little difficult after a baby, but I do plan on running one marathon before the Trials. I would like one more marathon as a confidence boost, not to mention training for a marathon is a great way to get in a huge base of work and get really fit. I do not usually race much before a marathon, so I don't need to have a race to let me know I am fit. I have been running long enough to have certain key workouts to tell me what I am ready to run. My coach is also good at predicting my fitness level based on years of formulating charts.

Coach: Do you find that you actively use the motivation of your long term goals while taking on tough daily workouts?  If so, how?

BR: Yes, plenty. On the cold, rainy and wind days when I don't want to get our the door, my long-term goals are usually the only think getting me out the door. I know that missing just one day will effect my training and confidence. Often, when I am facing a particularly hard marathon workout, I try and remember that the more hard workout I do, the better I will feel on race day. Knowing I am building confidence and putting hay in the barn for race day always gets me through.

Coach: What are some things you tell yourself when you get temporarily off track with training (injury, pregnancy, sickness)?

BR: My coach always says running well is all about getting on a roll and picking up momentum. You never remember how hard it was to get in shape once you are there, but once you loose momentum, sometimes it is hard to pick up steam again. If I have been sick or getting over a injury, I usually give myself about a week or two to get back into a routine and then pick a day where I know I officially need to start training hard again. Sometimes a little mental downtime is good as well, but I usually need to give myself a drop-dead date of when I am going to be back into full training mode both physically and mentally. I usually start on a Monday which the first day in my mileage week.
Coach: Who are some people you look up to as athletes or individuals who set goals and follow through.   Why?

BR: I have to confess I don't have any athlete mentors or idols. I have found running to be such an individual sport that I seem to do better if I am motivated to beat myself and my own PRs.
Last modified on March 31, 2011
Dena Evans

Dena Evans

Dena Evans joined runcoach in July, 2008 and has a wide range of experience working with athletes of all stripes- from youth to veteran division competitors, novice to international caliber athletes.

From 1999-2005, she served on the Stanford Track & Field/ Cross Country staff. Dena earned NCAA Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year honors in 2003 as Stanford won the NCAA Division I Championship. She was named Pac-10 Cross Country Coach of the Year in 2003-04, and West Regional Coach of the Year in 2004.

From 2006-08, she worked with the Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative, helping to expand the after school fitness programs for elementary school aged girls to Mountain View, East Menlo Park, and Redwood City. She has also served both the Stanford Center on Ethics and the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession as a program coordinator.

Dena graduated from Stanford in 1996.

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