My primary goal is to meet my clients where they are physically and mentally. I want the process of goal setting to start with their vision and then become a collaborative effort. Sometimes a client may have a goal race in mind that is only eight weeks out from where we start. In these cases, a training plan is modified to get them as fit and prepared as possible for their race.
There is an ideal order in which I would like to train an athlete up to a goal race. In situations where this is possible, we try to train specific running energy systems until adaptation is occurring. We would typically start with the VO2 or Interval workouts for 4-6 weeks, progress to Lactate Threshold or Tempo runs for another 4-6 weeks, and culminate in Steady State runs leading up to a marathon or an ultra.
In addition, there is great value in training for as much specificity as possible. This means trying to train in similar terrain or for the same percentage of vertical gain / loss as you will do in your goal race. This often presents some unique challenges for flatlanders training for mountain races, but the goal is always to get as fit as possible.
If a client has a chronic issue (something that continues to occur repeatedly), I want them to talk it through with me. For example, some clients become bored during ultras, feel guilty spending so much time running, have difficulty working through certain mileage points, experience nutrition issues, have a fear of running alone, or the millions of other negative intrusive thoughts that can take over. These thoughts can lead to emotional exhaustion on top of physical exhaustion and can end a race if not addressed beforehand. I believe that there are always solutions available, but we often fail to arm ourselves with proper resources.
In the weeks leading up to a goal race, I want my clients to have a race plan in place. This may include pacing strategies, aid station and nutrition plans, drop bag plans, and a positive, confident mental focus.