As of this writing, it is 11 days until the starting gun goes off on my third marathon, the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon. It is still too far away for things to feel quite real, but I can tell that I am in the taper because I have much more free time in the early mornings and when my son is in preschool. I have been making use of my early morning free time by getting up a little later to get my run in. I have mostly been using my preschool free time to eat and surf the Internet. Someone please tell my body that it’s not burning enough calories to eat like this — I’ve tried, but it’s not listening!
Even though I’m not officially taper-mad yet (that will happen next week, when I start stalking the weather), this is prime time to start formulating my race plan and setting goals. I have some experience with setting marathon goals, so I’m going to mix some tips into this dose of reality.
I subscribe to the philosophy of setting a Goal Alphabet prior to every important race. This practice originated in the business world, and this article summarizes it well. These goals can be either outcome goals (based on a certain quantifiable result) or process goals (based on how I work toward the goal).
My “A” Goal is my “stretch” goal — my finishing time if I have the best race day possible fitness-wise, weather-wise, fueling-wise, and good-juju-wise. My “B” Goals (I may have several of these, going from B through E or F) are more realistic goals that I will be happy to achieve. My last goal is always to finish the race upright. I find that my Goal Alphabet helps me maintain my focus, because if one goal clearly isn’t in the cards, there is always another one on the list to strive for.
Three days before the 2014 Chicago Marathon, I e-mailed my Goal Alphabet for the race to my husband and parents, who would be tracking me online. Since they are non-runners, I wanted to let them know whether to celebrate or commiserate when they talked to me post-race. My “A” Goal was 3:38:20. I based this time on my average pace for my marathon-paced 20-miler three weeks out from the race. My “B-through-D” Goals were times around my Boston Marathon-qualifying time of 3:45. My “E” goal was a sub-4-hour-marathon, my “F” Goal was a PR, and my “G” Goal was to cross the finish line upright, breathing, and with a shiny new medal! As it happened at that race, the weather gods smiled upon me and my legs did what I hoped they would, and I crossed the finish line in 3:38:09 — eleven seconds under my “A” Goal.
Now it’s time for some real talk: My goals for the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon are not quite as lofty. There are several reasons for this:
- Statistics. I have followed my training plan (mostly) to the letter and put in a lot of high weekly mileage and quality work. However, with the exception of my breakthrough half marathon in mid-April, most of my training paces and race results have borne a startling resemblance to my paces and results from my Chicago Marathon training cycle. It is true that I have seen an improvement in my top-end speed on some of my speed workouts, but it has not been a drastic enough improvement to predict a substantial PR.
- Elevation. Although the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon course is described as flat and fast, I have a feeling there is more elevation change than at Chicago, one of the flattest, fastest marathon courses in the world.
- The sights of the course and the Lambeau Lap. I barely remember any of the landmarks, race signs or spectators from my Chicago Marathon race. I had complete tunnel vision, and laser-like focus on reaching my BQ goal. I don’t want that to happen in Green Bay. Although I am a lifelong Packer fan, I have only been able to visit Green Bay two other times in my life. I want to take in all the neighborhoods, the City Stadium lap at mile 18 (where the Packers played from 1925 to 1956), and the final lap around Lambeau Field. I also want to wave to and communicate with my family, who will be there to cheer me on, without worrying that I am losing precious seconds.
My game face at the Chicago Marathon. I’m clearly having a blast. 😉
As a result, my new goal alphabet has some time-based goals, but I also have process goals, as well. My “A” Goal, in almost any race, is to PR, so that remains my “A” goal in this race, as well. However, between you, me and the Entire Internet, I think that in order to achieve a substantial PR, I will have to have the Most Perfect Race Day In the History of Races. My “B” Goal is another Boston-qualifying time, but this doesn’t motivate me as much as in Chicago. Since my Chicago Marathon result already qualifies me for the 2016 Boston race, a BQ at this race wouldn’t count for anything but bragging rights.
My “C” Goal, which I will hone in on if the first two goals go south, is to stay present in the moment and on top of my fueling plan. I will refuse to let time goals get me down and prevent me from enjoying this awesome race. I will not wallow in self-pity, but instead continue to fuel appropriately and run each mile to the best of my ability, making sure to look around and take in the sights and sounds. And if I just can’t keep my emotions in check, my “D” Goal is to finish upright, so I can collect the marathon’s super-sweet bling.
Running usually brings me joy, and this marathon is made for joyful runners. Although my Chicago Marathon result was joyful, the race itself was not. If you see me running at the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon, please wave, say hello, or give me the thumbs-up. I will likely be deep inside my head, and the social interaction will do me a world of good. Whatever the outcome of the race, I can’t wait to run in Packers Country!
The Mom on the Run,