Can’t Lose – Goal Setting (Oh hi, Boston!)

This probably seems totally out of place for me right now, but sometimes as a cycle comes to a close, it’s helpful to reflect back to the beginning of this one, and also to previous cycles.

As mentioned in my AthleteBiz bio, and also as you can probably tell from my other posts, I’ve struggled with a lot of performance anxiety. Because of this, I’ve really enjoyed watching Flotrack’s The Trials Of: Shalane Flanagan and hearing all kinds of insights on what she went through in college, overcame to win Bronze in Beijing, and overall what makes her so badass.

It’s just good to know that everybody struggles at some point. Every struggle is relative (for Shalane, finishing 22nd at NCAA DI XC Champs was an eye-opening disaster), but we all can relate.

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Since today marks 10 weeks out from the Boston Marathon (and no, I’m not planning on running it myself), I thought I would share a tool that has been helpful to keep me task-focused and goal-oriented throughout my last 3 marathon cycles.

In early August 2014, I was first introduced to an extremely thorough goal-setting worksheet during the Princeton Girls’ Cross Country Camp. The worksheet goes through a series of checks and balances to make sure that your goal is reasonable and truly attainable. It also helps you to select a few key actions or commitments that you are willing to make in order to achieve that goal.

In the end, your final goal looks something like this:

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Above is actually the goal that I wrote out that night during the Princeton XC Camp, and if you know anything about my running career, that moment quite possibly changed my path’s trajectory forever.

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As the worksheet states, a well-constructed goal always includes the following:

  • duration of time that you have to complete your goal
  • the commitments that you are willing to make in order to achieve it
  • the goal itself – always making sure that the goal you set is one that you can see yourself achieving

 

Of course with such flying success the first time, I had to keep doing it! So ever since then, this is how I start each marathon cycle:

  • Before I start, I always have a kind of mental-reset down week, to mentally prepare for the workload ahead.
  • At the end of that down week and as I enter the first week of my marathon cycle, I usually sit down and collect my thoughts. I use that general outline and write out my goals for the upcoming cycle.
  • I put my head down, follow the plan, and train.
  • Then the day of truth comes when I get to do my favorite thing – race.

Before the World Championships, I remember sitting down on July 1 at my college coach, Kathy Lanese’s kitchen table (I was visiting her in Cleveland at the time) and collecting my thoughts. The only thing durable I could find to write it down on was a styrofoam plate, so that’s where it went.

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By now you can see some common themes – decent bed time, keeping myself from taking on too much in addition to training, place goals over time goals. For the Worlds goal, I even included some imagery at the end, which I really liked.

Unfortunately I finished 24th. Not a disaster by any stretch of the imagination, but I missed the mark on my goal. However, the benefit I find from having this piece of styrofoam and the words it contains is knowing that while one part of it remains unfulfilled, I still did everything I committed to doing in order to achieve my goal.

On a side note, of course I also learned a ton from that experience and wouldn’t trade it for anything. In fact, it turns out that it being my only marathon race in anything close to unfavorable conditions (71°, 88% humidity, and a dew point of 66°) might have even been far better preparation for LA than I thought it would be.

Okay, so if you’ve made it this far down the page, you’re probably wondering what my goal was for the Trials. I actually made it quite clear what my expectations were in this very thorough post-race interview (see above) with LetsRun after the World Championships in August, and in fact, they didn’t change all that much between then and December.

Here’s what I wrote for myself on December 11, 2015 and posted on my dresser mirror:

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Since I wrote this in December, the race strategy has changed a little, but the goal is still essentially the same. Who knows, maybe it will turn out like Twin Cities 2014, maybe it’ll turn out like Beijing 2015, or maybe it’ll be in a whole new category – for better or for worse.

All I know is that this build-up has gone so well that I almost don’t want it to be over. But after all, we don’t train to train, we train to race. So on Saturday morning, I’ll wake up ready to do my very favorite thing. Ready to “be tougher than I have ever been.”

 

P.S. Yes, you may have noticed a pattern in the titles of my last 3 blogs. I’m a dork.

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