When you set your goals, set them conservatively – not boldly! It’s a fine balance: push yourself, but not too far!
Recently participated in the half marathon across Storebælt in Denmark. It’s interesting – when you sign up for these kinds of races they always ask you what kind of time you have in mind that you’ll do. That’s done in order to let the fastest runners start first, then the 2nd fastest, then the slower and so on… and that’s all good and great.
The fun part is that it makes you think about your goal time amd then gets you thinking about how to get there. Trouble is that the sign up is so long before the actual event that – unless you know your own build-up very well – predicting how you’ll do becomes a somewhat difficult matter. I signed up for Broløbet 2011 almost 6 months in advance. 6 months out there was no telling what might happen in-between the date I signed up and raceday. All sorts of stuff could have happened that should have led me to change my goal time up or down.
In addition, if you’re on a new course, that might make the task even more complicated. How steep are the hills and how long? Will you have long stretches where wind might play a part – oh – and how will the wind be on raceday?? What if it rains, snows, is just really cold or just really warm???
Admitted the latter wasn’t much of a concern in Denmark’s late May, on bridge in the middle of the ocean. It could get pretty cold…
Now, I set my goal time in December and as with the ironman I’ve been testing myself to see if I could at all do that kind of time in a half marathon. I was pretty set to go and do my goal time and had actually officially taken on a challenge with my brother in law that if he’d go for a personal record, then I’d do then I’d do the same. But even if I was all set external factors could still screw it up.
Take a good friend of mine, Lasse. He had been training for this race in his first full running season after putting the running shoes back on. He’d set a goal and training went well – but then he got injured; running in the wrong type of running shoes did that to his training. Some time went by for recovery, he got himself some good advice on running shoes and got back into training – which went really well.
After a training session he and I had in February he started adding kilometers to get to half marathon distance. It went well, but fairly soon he had another injury, prompting him to consider whether he might even have to abandon the race. Eventually he did the race and performed better than he had thought in the beginning of the year, but maybe not as he could have been had he avoided injury.
My point is this: When you are an endurance athlete with jobs and parenting to be done, both of which will take priority over your sport, you can benefit from setting conservative goals and be happy when you reach them. Conservative goals will largely ensure you don’t over-train, over-reach or get injured. They will make sure that you will be able to get better, reach your goals, stay healthy and fit to set new goals for the next season, where you can set new goals – conservatively improving on the year before.