Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Goal setting without numbers

A couple weeks before the 'official' start of my next training cycle seems like the ideal time to really think about what goals I have for the next 4+ months of running. There are the obvious time oriented goals. It's almost impossible to approach marathon training without some ideas of what kind of time you'd like to run. It's the simplest form of measuring progress. So of course, those exist. But this isn't about that, because there are things I want to accomplish in this cycle that go deeper than the clock at the finish line. 

Respect the easy day

This seems like it should be the easiest one to accomplish. Just... slow down, right? But it takes a lot of courage to trust that running slower will help me run faster. So far, I've failed at this on almost every easy run. I make the mistake of going medium hard all the time. I push on the hard days, but then... I push a little on the easy days. I think "yep, 8:00 should be my 'easy pace' and 8:20s should feel like a walk". Note to self: easy pace and goal marathon pace should not be the same. I know people who are masters of the easy pace, and race phenomenally. I've been on this plateau of race times/training paces for a while. While I've made some progress, it's obvious I have nothing to lose by running slower than the pace I think "should" be my easy pace. This includes running without a watch and focusing on a pace that someone could probably walk and keep up with, or getting on the treadmill to force an easy pace. 
My super speedy sister: master of the easy pace/fast race
Be proud of myself

Or you know, maybe I'll climb Mt Everest. I think they would be equally possible for me to accomplish. To be positive about a negative, I am amazing at beating myself up. Anyone who has run with me, supported me, or talked to me post race knows... I am hard on myself (understatement?!). I focus on the mistakes, the flaws, the failures. Even with my PRs, I am vaguely enthusiastic and then nitpick the reasons why I wasn't faster. But a bad race? A missed goal? Look out, I will cry, sulk, and tear myself down. This isn't fun for the people around me, who have to listen while I flip out over the fact that I am not having the breakthroughs I am working for, and it's not fun for me either. I am minimizing my achievements based on a time. The great races will come. Every run is making me stronger, even if it's imperfect. I ran in a 5k last month, on impulse. It wasn't a PR, but it was close, and I was so proud of that run because I had begun to believe I couldn't get there again. It was a big moment of being proud (ecstatic!) about an outcome that didn't require a 5 minute PR to make it worth celebrating. 
Nobody should look this disappointed at the finish line of the marathon! Come on!

Negative Self Talk... Stop it. 

This might sound like the last goal, but this is more about what happens in my head in the midst of the battle. Just yesterday during my speedwork I was running my 2 mile tempo at half marathon goal pace. I'd already run 1 mi at 5k pace and I was exactly on the pace I planned. But it was hard. I was hot. I was struggling, and constantly had to refocus and push myself back onto pace. In the last half mile it started to really spiral... "this is hard. there is no way I can run a half marathon at this pace, I can't even survive 2 miles at this pace. My expectations are too high. I'll just have to be okay with never reaching that goal". The same thing happens in races. "This is hard, those people are cruising, it looks so easy for them, I am dying. I sound like a gorilla. I feel like a manatee on land. My legs weigh 500lbs each." I focus easily on everything that feels bad. I tell myself I am not strong, this isn't my day, or simply "I'm not good enough". When I want to walk, and I ask myself that standard "do you want to throw away X miles of hard work and give up here?" .... "Yes, who cares, let's walk". I've made some baby steps here-my recent half marathon PR was a huge breakthrough mentally. It was a rare instance of managing the negative, turning it around and finding ways to talk myself into pushing more. It's a constant battle that, just like the physical training, needs to be worked on regularly. I can't expect to show up on race day and suddenly have a mental toughness that I haven't cultivated over the preceding months and miles. 
One of the few times mantras worked to keep me from quitting/walking/giving up! Progress!

Comparison is the thief of joy

Runners provide an incredible network of support and encouragement. That's a given, but there is also the problem of comparing to others. That can't be just me, right?? It's the downside to reading blogs, interacting on any kind of social media, heck, it happens in real life even. I am responsible for being the best runner I can be. But it is sooo easy to fall into a trap of "but they do their runs that fast, I have to do that too if I want to accomplish the same time goal they have. They are light years ahead of me... I can't run a 3:XX marathon because I am not near them!" It's not about that. Take encouragement, be inspired... but realize that every runner is different, and our journeys, what works for us isn't the same as what works for the next athlete. I want to focus on my own accomplishments and progress so that when I reach the starting line, I trust my training. I don't want to be thinking about how I didn't do workouts I read about, or hit paces other people did. I want to run the race knowing I trained the best for myself. 


I read runfargirl's recap of her incredible SugarLoaf marathon... and what resonated with me was her paragraph about how her goal was to finish feeling triumphant. I emailed that paragraph to a few friends, just thinking "YES! This!" I have time goals obviously, and running the race and PR I know I am capable of should equal a BQ. What runner doesn't want that? Of course I do. But it is not the reason I signed up for my next marathon. When people ask if a BQ is my goal, my response is a "...weeelllll yes... but..." because all I want really is to run the race I know I am capable of. I want to do justice to the 4+ months of training that goes into it. To celebrate the strength I built over so many miles. I know my dreams are within reach because the training has been there the last few times. The race just hasn't clicked yet. I trust what I can do for an entire training cycle as evidence that I will get the chance to finish a triumphant marathon. But these pieces will be large parts of the puzzle over the next several months as I prepare my body, mind and heart to be ready! 

I can't wait! 


  1. I am so excited you have a blog now!! How cool!! Can't wait to stay updated on your training and goals. I think we can all fall into the comparison trap, I do it all the time, especially now being pregnant and watching my times start to get slower!!

    1. Thanks Bry! I'm excited to write!! All kinds of ideas swimming around. Comparison is hard, even just with your past/present self. But you will come back SO STRONG post baby and trust me, babies give a different appreciation and meaning to the run. It'll be so great! And your times are still wicked fast :-)

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    1. Thanks sista!! You are famous, already in a pic!!