A.B.C.- From www.Tri-Magazine.com 8/5/11

In the movie “Glengarry, Glen Ross,” Alec Baldwin’s character gives an inspirational speech to the other sales people in which he uses the phrase, “ABC- Always Be Closing!”  I was a salesperson for too long, but one thing I can tell you is the most important part, and the most uncomfortable part, of the sales call is the close.  The close is where you actually ask for and gain the commitment for the business.  Racing is no different.  The most important part of the race is the closing section.  This is where champions are made and championships are lost.  Obviously we want to relate this to triathlon, but you can actually relate it to any sport out there.

In horse racing, for example, you rarely see a horse lead wire-to-wire.  Ninety-nine percent of the time the winning horse makes his move down the home stretch and out races it’s opponents.  How many leads in baseball are blown because the closer can’t finish off the other team.  You hear about it all of the time.  I could go on and on with examples, but I think you get the point.

The same goes for racing.  Triathlon, running, swimming,biking, etc.  You have to know how to close.  Look at the 2010 Ironman World Championship in Kona.  Chris McCormick and Andreas Raelert were neck and neck throughout the last 5k until “Macca” dug deep and finished out the race strong.  He knew this was going to hurt, but he knew he would survive it.  He had confidence he could close strong, outlast Andreas, and win the championship.

Macca raced a perfect race.  He positioned himself the whole day so he would be able to close on the run.  He got off of the bike a little ways off of the lead, but one by one he reeled in his competitors in front of him.  He didn’t go out too hard in the swim, he had a nice pace on the bike without over exerting himself, and, because of his strategy, he had juice left in his legs to close hard on the run.

The problem with a lot of athletes is that they let their adrenaline/ego get the best of them.  They don’t have confidence that they will have what it takes in the end,so they go out hard in the beginning.  An Ironman, Half-Ironman, Marathon, Half-Marathon, 10k, etc. are long races.  It takes an incredible amount of energy to complete these events let alone win them.  You must pace yourself because if you go out too hard, you will be the one getting passed in the end.

So how do all of these winners know how to pace themselves and close hard?  One word, PRACTICE!  That horse coming down the home stretch knows he has another gear because he has practiced that a thousand times and knows the suffering it is going to take.  Macca knew he was going to hurt, but I guarantee when Chris runs a track workout, he descends his intervals so the last one is killing him, but it is also the fastest.  This teaches him to close hard in a race.

I once read an interview with Andy Potts in which the interviewer asked Andy how he keeps winning all of the sprint finishes at the end of races (at the time Andy had won 4 or 5 events in a row in the last 200 meters).  Andy responded, “Practice.”  He said that he never stops doing track workouts and he always finishes those workouts strong.  So when it comes to the race, he is familiar with what it is going to take to out sprint his opponents and close hard.

I was running with Mammoth Track Club athlete Mike Mckeeman the other day and we were talking about the Boston Marathon.  He was telling me that the problem with Boston is that runners go out too hard and by the time they get to the last uphill 10k they have nothing left.  It should be opposite.  The runners should go out conservative and close the last 10k hard.  They would not only finish strong and feeling good, but they would also reel in countless other runners who did not strategize correctly and were suffering to the finish.

I have been notorious for going out too hard and doing everything within myself to hang on until the end.  I will tell you this was because of a lack of confidence.  I knew I could start fast, but I wasn’t sure if I could finish strong.  After a few races in which I fell off towards the end, I got serious about learning to close.  I paced my workouts and always made my last interval my strongest.  On the track, on the trainer, in the pool, on long runs etc. I was finishing strong.  I cannot tell you how much success this has brought me.  I find myself now reeling in athlete after athlete because I have taught myself to close hard.

A workout I did the other day was 4 x 1 mile followed by a 4K tempo run.  I ran my mile repeats at 5:10, 5:08, 5:07, 5:04(at 8000ft so don’t think I am slowing down!), then I finished off with a strong 4k tempo run so I get used to the feeling of hammering on tired legs.  This prepares me to know that feeling in a race.

Closing is a hard tactic to master because it hurts.  It hurts to dig down and get another gear that deep into a race.  The only way you know how to close is to “Always Be Closing.”  Descend you track workouts, start conservative and finish strong.  On long runs, do the same.  Start easy and finish the last portion as you would finish a race.  You must know the feeling of closing before you can actually do it in a race.  You will build confidence in yourself and you will know that you can close the way a champion can.  RACE HARD!


For Coaching inqueries, contact me at jim@jimlubinski.com or call me at 310-775-7278



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