I table these thoughts for the most part though, the race is so far away and I have two other races planned in between that will also need goals. After all every race should be for a reason, no matter what that reason is. I'll admit I put a lot on my plate for the year but twelve months is a long time and there is a reason for every race a picked.
The topic came up once again in the middle of my Saturday morning 8 mile run through Valley Forge Park with Team Challenge. As Coach Jack joined up with our group around mile 4.5 he began to ask about my thoughts and goals for Philly. Giving him a brief overview of my running history he stopped me when he asked where I had come up with my goal of 4 hours for Hartford. I stopped, at least in my head my thoughts did a double take. Because I wanted it? Because It was a nice neat and clean round number? Because I KNEW I couldn't train my body to be ready to qualify for Boston with 3:40 at my second marathon? But where had we come up with that number, had we just wanted to set some crazy scary goal? And how did I feel when I failed to meet it (don't forget Hartford was a PR in the marathon for me, but at the finish it didn't matter).
And then Coach said something to me that made so much sense and made me wonder if my goal for Hartford had been so off base it was setting me up for disappointed from the very beginning. He said your goals should match your abilities, and in the months before the race I should run a test race to see where my speed is at before determining what my finish time should be. Wait a minute, you mean I should make my goal logical and achievable? It all made sense so why had I not done anything like this before? Except I had. The UNITE half marathon at rutgers had been my most realistic goal setting experience of my racing life. I had put a lot of consideration into the kind of shape I was in at the time, and what pace I could actually keep up for the entire race. By being realistic about my achievements, I not only met my goal but I beat it. And even though it was eight minutes slower than my PR it didn't matter.
So let's review. In one race I set my goal too high and even though I PR'd I didn't meet my goal so I was disappointed. In another race I set my goal at a realistic point, beat it, and even though I PR'd I was very happy. Hmmm. At least on thing I can conclude from this research is that meeting your goal equals happy, and I like being happy, so maybe I really do need to set smarter goals.
Something else that Coach pointed out to me was that I could think about goals that had nothing to do with time. I know there are definitely things I need to work on. I need to learn how to deal with my asthma. There is a lot of trial and error involved in that. Knowing how far to push myself, how far I can go, when I need to take my meds etc. I need to learn to train for a marathon with out being so burnt out at the end that I want to quit running all together. I need to learn to pace myself better over long distances, which I am steadily getting better at.
I am a much smarter runner now, I don't need to let other people set goals for me, to tell me what I can achieve. Although I welcome the help of other more experienced runners, and this is not to say that I did not learn a lot from my time training with Larry. I learned to be a really tough person, and to push myself, and to believe I could achieve great things. But just as much as I need to learn to accept my body for the shape and size it is, I need to accept my level of running for what it is. This year so far has been the best year of running so far. I have achieved a lot, I have had fun, learned to be flexible, and am steadily getting into better and better shape. I am not expecting things to change overnight.
At the end of Hartford I honestly wondered I remember being so miserable and disappointed that I wondered if maybe I was just not the type of person who was able to do marathons. When I said these words to Coach his answer was, well if you have done two marathons, I would say you are more than capable. This made sense in a way that had never occurred to me before. So maybe my goals in the past have been a little high. I guess it is the same way as in my life, I just aim at the very top, and even though where I land is pretty high that little note of failure nags the back of my mind more than my achievements. From now on I vow to focus on the achievable. I predict good things in my future.