Last week, I presented planning as an essential component of a cross country season. Knowing when and where you are going to run will give you clarity on how to prioritize your races and training over the course of your season.
The next essential step in planning your season is goal-setting. Most of us have have quite a bit of personal performance data, which can be helpful in developing our future goals.
In addition to our “personal inventory”, Dr. Jack Daniels, PH.D, one of the world’s leading exercise physiologists, provides a tool for goal-setting. In his book, “The Jack Daniels Running Formula”, Daniels includes a “VDOT Chart” (click here to view the chart), which provides a structure for formulating specific performance goals. The VDOT Chart allows us to compare performance levels across common racing distances and can easily be adapted to cross country goal setting.
Here’s my step-by-step goal setting process using the Jack Daniels VDOT Chart:
First, find any distances you’ve run across the top row. Then, highlight your best times under each column. You may find a performance profile developing, such as a straight line across the page, a “U” shape, an arc, or a random pattern. Most of you will have run at least 3 distances listed on the chart: 1-Mile (1600), 2-Miles (3200), or 5000m (the standard high school cross country distance). Each of your times will be associated with a VDOT number in the left column. The higher the VDOT number, the better quality is your performance at that event.
Once you’ve marked your personal bests on the chart, you can use the chart to develop your goals for the present season. For example, last year you may have run 19:30 for the 5k cross country distance. Here’s where you can use your personal inventory and the information on the chart.
Let’s say your mile on the chart has improved from 5:44 (51 VDOT) to 5:27 (54 VDOT) from last year’s track season to this year’s season. Let’s also say that your 5K PR from last season was 19:30. In this case, you may use your latest mile time as a good data point in predicting and planning your goal. Your improvement from 5:44 to 5:27 would “point to” 18:40 on the VDOT chart.
So, 18:40 may be a reasonable goal for you for the current season. Be sure to write this time down in your day-timer or in some other visible location. As your season progresses, your times should improve and correlate with your written goals. This assumes that your training progression is consistent with the proposed goal. weekly mileage, long runs, pace intervals, and speed work are progressing.* The 18:40 may also correlate with other objectives such as placing at state, qualifying for a post-season championship meet, or contributing to a team performance goal.
*I will present a model training program in a later blog.