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Flashback Friday: Setting Race Goals

The Twin Cities Marathon calls itself most beautiful urban marathon in America. Hard to argue with that.

We're heading back to this post today since we're feeling Minnesotah. I—Dimity—am in Duluth for Grandma's Marathon Expo. If you're reading this and happen to be in Duluth, please stop by at our booth and say hi. Also, I'll be speaking at 2 p.m. today about maximizing race performance and enjoyment, so if you need a few tips on everything from taking a good race pic to pacing yourself well, I'm happy to oblige. 

Sarah and I are taking to the Twin Cities streets on Sunday; Sarah will be running the full 26.2, while  I'm running the 10-miler, aka The Shortcut to The Capitol.

We thought this would be a good opportunity to talk about how to set race goals for yourself. It can be tough because you don't want to set them so high, you end up feeling like a failure at the finish line, but you also don't want to short-change your training and effort.

We're fans of multi-tiered approach--some time goals, some race-related goals, and maybe even some more personal goals--you are pretty much guaranteed to hit at least one of them, no matter what the clock reads  or how you feel when you cross the finish line. Which means you have the respectful answer, "I met my goal," to use on anybody who asks about your race but you don't feel like digging into the nitty gritty.

This is the nut roll we met last time we were in the Twin Cities. It doesn't really belong in this post, but I'm nutty like that.

Our Goals for Sunday
Sarah: Time Goals
Everything is perfect: sub-four hours. (Shocker, right?)
Everything is normal: "I'll be bummed if I go over 4:08," she told me the other day.

Dimity: Time Goals
Everything is perfect: sub 1:30. (Highly unlikely, since I haven't seen many splits under 9:00 in the past 5 months; you have to train the way you want to race. And I really haven't formally trained for this at all. But I'm going to sea level, and it's a fairly flat course. Stranger things have happened.)
Everything is normal: 1:35 (Barring intestinal catastrophe, I know I can hold 9:30 splits at sea level for 10 miles.)

Sarah's going to let her's shine on Sunday. For no more than four hours, eight minutes.

Sarah: Race Goal
To embrace the pain.
"When I am at mile 19, if I'm hurting, I want to hang in there and not let myself ease up. I've had a perfect training cycle, and I'm more than two-thirds through the race. Why toss all that hard work away? I really want to leave it all on the course."

Dimity: Race Goal
To start slow and gradually get faster.  I am going to monitor my heart rate and get my mile splits. My soon-to-be-coach (for the Iron de Man training, which commences on 11/1!) wants me to run the last mile the fastest, if that's possible. Even when I'm super trained, it's super hard for me  mentally to empty my tank, so to do so on Sunday would be a huge victory. I have no desire to embrace any pain. Regardless, I am going to take the first 6 or so miles at an easy, I can-hang-here pace.

Sarah: Personal Goal
To soak it all in.
 Ever since she got a course preview (in a car) by another mother runner last spring, she's been drooling over the beautiful marathon course. So she wants to take in the lakes and the leaves and, most importantly, acknowledge and thank at least a handful of people cheering.

Dimity: Personal Goal
To get to the starting line feeling energized and happy. As I've written about before, taking care of myself on the road is not my forte. I am going to be sure to hydrate, sit down when there's nobody at the AMR booth, eat well (I've already packed snack bags of almonds), and be asleep before 10 PM both nights (which is, yes, 9 PM my time...).

We'll have a post next week where we grade our goals, but we want to know: do you set a range of goals for your races or focus on just one?

25 responses to “Flashback Friday: Setting Race Goals

  1. I think to soak it all in is definitely always a priority goal for me….. but I really think what I need to add is the “embrace the pain”…. because I think sometimes fear of at some point it’s going to be painful really inhibits me, and if instead I just embrace that at some point there is probably going to be pain, and it just means I’m doing the thing that I have been training for for months, then I will do much better…. just accept that there may be pain and move on… don’t fear it… embrace it… That needs to be my new mantra.

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  3. I never had A,B and C goals during a race until this weekend. Only been running for a year this month and I wanted to do my 5K this past Saturday in 29 or less. I had a crappy week of work/runs/family drama that come this past Sunday, I didn’t know if I had it in me to do it in under 30 and for the first time, I was ok not doing a PR or bust run…I had my 3 goal times for myself in place. But what I did do was glitter tattoo “29” on the outside of my hand to look at during the race in the moments that I didn’t think I could pull it off…not sure what happened but I ran it in 28:56!! A huge PR for me….first 5K last October was 43-something so I have come a long way! I learned that you need to write things down that you want, look at them and make them happen!

  4. As a first timer at the upcoming 13.1 rock and roll in Savannah, I found myself stressed like hell about goals. I would think to myself, well – so and so did it in this. Guess what I found out the last few weeks – I’m not so and so. I am me. I need to do the best I can do. I need to remember this is my first. I need to remember that since I have signed up for this race a kid a week has been sick (4 kids in this house). My goal is to not quit – to keep going! This race will give me a place to improve upon. Thanks for the inspiration gals!

  5. I’m new to racing so I’m still working on setting goals. For the last race (and my first 1/2 marathon!) I set a reach goal and a goal and then a bottom line. Unfortunatly I wasn’t using any training plans for it and didn’t even make my bottom line (don’t walk)! I’m 4 weeks into the 10K own it plan and feeling much better about my turkey day race!

    I’d like to ask though – for those of you that use a watch or GPS how much faster do you race than on training days? Without training I was just doing slow easy runs and averaging around 11 min miles but race day I’d do 9-10min mile finishes. Granted…it hurt.

    Now I’m following the 10k Own It plan and have a GPS watch and can see my averages but I’m not sure what I should be shooting for?

  6. Thank you…I needed this. I’m kind of freaking out over my 1st full marathon in Baltimore Oct. 13th. I feel ready as far as the running goes…it’s more all the other stuff. getting to expo to pick up race packet. I so wish races would give you an option of paying for your race packet to be mailed to the house. the making sure I eat all the right stuff next week so my run goes well, planning on what the hell to wear, getting all family packed so hubby can hang out with all kids at the race. Ok…I need to take a deep breath. I know this will be fun, but right now I’m stressed. Have a great race ladies!

  7. Great suggestions ladies! I am a bundle of nerves running Chicago tomorrow morning as my first 26.2. A lot of my nerves stem from me internalizing my own personal goals, and wavering by the lofty ones and the wimpy ones (just finish… come on!) I’m glad you guys are so good at putting the big picture in perspective, and I’m determined to “empty my tank” tomorrow and not be as scared to do it!! BEST OF LUCK on your runs tomorrow!!

  8. You guys are in my old home turf I grew up in White Bear Lake- just outside of St. Paul. Wishing you both great races!! I love the A,B and C goals and, like so much from running, I am finding I am using this approach to setting goals in other areas of my life!

  9. You guys are in my old home turf. I grew up in White Bear Lake- just outside of St. Paul. I love the A,B and C goals and, like so many aspects of running, I find I am using them in other areas of my life as well! Best of luck to both of you! We will all be with you in spirit!

  10. Good luck ladies!

    I set like 4 or 5 goals per race. The easiest goal is alway “finish”. Then it’s the “finish in the same time it took me to do a training run”. The ones I KNOW I can complete barring any issues. Funny thing is, I’m way to easy on myself for the goals, at least for the longer races. You might remember the “Oh crap, ZOOMA Cape Cod had hills!” conversation where I added 10 minutes to my original goal. I beat that goal by 12 minutes. I think part of me still isn’t convinced I can run a half.

    Although, I need to understand how the weather affect me more. I “missed” my goals for a few 5Ks that were in some serious summer weather (mid to high 70s and lots of humidity). When I compared the weather between the 2 years, it was a 15 degree difference, and I lost 3 minutes off my time. I know that’s only going to come with experience, though.

  11. Yes, I always and A, B, and C goal. I think this keeps things in perspective. First goal is always to finish the race in one piece. I mean not needing to drop or seek out a medical tent. My second goal is usually a more realistic time or simply trying to better my last time at that distance or at that particular race. Top level goal is always something a little more dramatic that I might use to push myself the last three miles.

    FYI-I did the TC 10 miler last fall, and I thought it was extremely hilly. Sure we aren’t in the mountains around here, but climbing up from the river was challenging. At least the last bit is downhill towards the finish line. Have fun! I hope to be there cheering and maybe spot you two along the way.

  12. Great tips, ladies! I’m training for my first race and was unsure about what was realistic for me. Now I’ll just set a bunch of goals and be happy no matter what!

  13. Thanks to my ‘couch’ Erica, I’ve been going into most races with A, B & C goals. Really helps take the pressure off, like Michelle said, of always shooting for a PR. Good luck ladies!

  14. Right in my backyard and I won’t be able to check out your booth…I’m so bummed. I’m running a 5K trail run just north of the Twin Cities at a state park this weekend, and I signed my daughter up for her 1st Kids Fun Run. I’ll have to try and check it out next year…or train to run the 10mile!

  15. I love the multi-tiered approach to setting goals. I agree with one of the other comments: I feel happy when I finish – even if it was my C goal. 🙂

  16. you bet! I was just talking to my husband about races and he was saying how he would never run one because he doesn’t care about getting a medal. WHAT!? It is not about a medal for me. Sure they are on the wall in my office so I can count my races—much better than a tattoo for this girl—but it is all about the improvements I make and the new experience with a course I wouldn’t otherwise run, and living in the moment with some girlfriends. I appreciate a great medal as art on my wall, but my goals are what I work towards year round. And I share some goals with my running buddies. Can’t beat that friendship goal. Like this year I wanted to run in the “Beat Oprah” pace group in Grand Rapids MI. I was doing the Own It plan and really thought I was running strong, then I got injured. So that may not be manageable, but I am not giving it up quite yet. I need to: Prepare, BELIEVE, take in all my GUs ON-TIME, pickle juice and talk positive to myself. I need those mental brain-GUs that help me push to be right in front of me (maybe down my arm). And if I I have to deal with a flare-up or GI issue, then be prepared to cash in my “Beat Oprah” goal for the pull back and enjoy the moment goal. For me, being a runner has one mission—I don’t quit.

  17. My goal for Chicago is to finish stronger than I have the last 2 years and not end up in the bed tent like last year. Time, to me, is numbers on a clock. If I do well on the clock great, but my main goals are to run strong and have fun.

  18. Yes, it was AMR that taught me to set an A goal, a B goal, a C goal, and sometimes 4 or 5 more letters worth! Since I started having a super lofty goal, a lesser goal, and a “wheels fell off the bus” goal, I’ve stopped leaving races in tears because I missed the only mark I set for myself. It has made me a much more SANE runner mother! Have a great run this weekend!!

  19. Hope both of you have a great day out there! I had a great running coach (Coach Mindy, of the Running Center in NYC) who tells her runners to shoot for a dream goal, a reach goal and a realistic goal – but I think adding some underlying thoughts to the numbers is a really good idea. I set a range of time goals for running races (like, main goal sub-2:00 for half-marathon, reach goal 2:02 and acceptable goal 2:12), but I like triathlon partly because it makes it easier for me just to say “I am going to do as well as I can on the day!” Swim courses aren’t measured exactly, weather makes a huge difference, it comes much more purely down to me doing my best out there with what I’ve got on the day of the race. Lets me circumvent the self-criticism that running sometimes induces!

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