franzen on “the process”

“The process will never let you down, even when everything else does. The process is a thing you can control: how you show up, the promises you’ve made.”

– Jonathan Franzen

Recently, I wrote about marathoner Des Linden and her insane focus on daily training / practice. She approaches each session as if it’s is the most important training day of her life.  To borrow from Franzen, it’s the process of showing up for training day after week after month after year, combined with clear talent, that makes her an elite performer.

I don’t have her talent. I tend to linger in back third of most races. But I’ve learned in the past couple months that the adoption of a process for training could generate significant improvements. I learned this after a recent race setback that forced me to analyze historical training logs.

I noticed that what I thought I had done in training was different than what I actually did. In fact, the volume I completed in training was >30% lower what I was asked to do.

How was I not aware of the massive variance between expected and actual? Confirmation and recency bias played a part. I manufactured a story that I was doing the work and had cheap but logical justifications for not completing workouts. Those unfinished workouts add up over a year and I paid the price on race day. But the main driver for underperformance was lack of established daily and disciplined approach to training.

After an honest chat with my coach, I decided to sign back up for the race I failed to complete last year (Leadville Trail 100).

And I incorporated the following process for training:

  • Show up for every workout with a focus on both quantity and quality
  • Ensure gear prep, nutrition, other training logistics done the day before
  • Log my workouts immediately after and often text my coach a quick summary

To be sure, I still have days I miss and workouts where my hearts not in it.  Work and family can provide easy and legitimate excuses.  But, due to my newly installed approach, those off days have become the exception.  And as a result,  training has become more fun and my splits have improved.

My race is in 3 weeks. But regardless of result, I’ve witnessed the benefits that a process provides and I’m more confident than ever in the upcoming challenge.

Thanks so much for your time.