Conquering Goals (Part 2 of 2)

Many people have asked me if I have a goal in mind for my marathon.  Yes, I do... 4:59:59.  That's my goal.  That is what has been stuck in my head.  I had a fantastic 19 mile run a couple weeks ago that solidified that I can achieve that if I put my mind (and body) to it.  I had a very intense and hard 21 mile run yesterday that told me perhaps that goal was way out of reach.

It is amazing how we can talk ourselves out of victories.  Should it really matter how much I creeped through those 21 miles if I had the mental stamina to keep pushing despite every fiber of me saying stop?  It immediately had me re-evaluating my goals, minimizing my accomplishment, and wondering if I really could pull off another 5.2 miles in just 6 weeks.

My friend, Robin, has a goal... she wants to Boston qualify.  She is very focused on it, and she is truly doing everything she can (including taking rest on the appropriate days) to make sure that it happens.  She is an inspiration.  I know she'll have to really push to reach that goal, but I honestly think she can do it.  I'm just sad that I'll be too slow to be at the finish to cheer for her.  (Passing that duty on to my friend, Jenn.)

But sometimes there are factors that are out of your control - legs cramp, digestive systems rebel, weather turns bad, crowds of runners block the way... whatever it might be.  There are conditions of each race day that make it impossible to predict.  All you can do is train to the best of your ability and then bring it all with you to the starting line. 

The timing of all this in my head is perfect, because guess what was in Runner's World this month?  There was an article about setting goals.  And, honestly, I think this article was right on.  Here's an excerpt from the article "Good Targets" by Jennifer Van Allen in the November 2010 issue of Runner's World:

BEST EFFORT

You can't PR every time you race, and once you've completed a distance, you know you can finish. That's where having goals not tied to times comes in. These targets reflect the effort you put in to do your best given the circumstances. For runners dealing with injury, it may be to get to the start healthy. Those with a history of bonking might try to take in 30 to 60 grams of carbs every hour. The goal can still be performance-related—for instance, aiming to finish each mile within 10 percent of a reasonable goal pace. "If you maintain it for most of the race," McGlynn says, "you'll feel a sense of accomplishment."

A GOOD GOAL?—When you're establishing a performance goal not tied to times, make sure it's measurable, so you can tell if you've met it, says Brown. And don't be afraid to change your mind—even on the fly. "Psychologically flexible runners who give themselves permission to reset goals are often more content with their performance," says Brown, "knowing they've made the most of what they had to offer."

I am officially editing my goal #1 to
1.  Finish the race while still in an upright position.

But despite my doubt, I am going to keep my head on straight and retain my original goal as #2, but with a little side note...
2.  Finish in 4:59:59, but re-evaluate this goal at miles 13 and 20 and stay realistic.

And I'm also going to add some non-time related goals:
3.  Start and finish the marathon un-injured.
4.  Do not start too fast, and maintain a steady pace.
5.  Eat something every 4 miles (I really think this was part of the problem yesterday... you should've seen the pile of rice I packed in post-run.).
6.  Hydrate properly, eat nutritiously, and sleep sufficiently during both weeks of taper.

Surely I can check off a couple of those!  6 weeks and counting until the big day.