Thursday, May 17, 2007

Three goals

In just most of my major races I set three separate time goals. Don't get me wrong, in all of my ultras my most important goals are simply to finish and have a good time. However, these are races and if I didn't set some sort of goal for myself in terms of finishing time, I would likely find myself just strolling around at a slow walk between aid stations, especially late in a race.

First, I like to have a "stretch" goal. This is a goal that I really don't expect to hit, but just might be able to approach if my body holds up, the weather cooperates and the stars are all perfectly aligned. While I have only once hit my stretch goal, this is generally the time I keep set in my mind for most of the race. If I set any splits they are based on hitting this time even though an expert could probably look at the splits and know that I would not reach the end goal based on them. However, they are formulated (if that's even the correct word since I am not that scientific about my running) based on the idea of making the stretch goal possible not on assuring that it is accomplished. The stretch goal is the one that generally keeps me motivated during the early miles and first half or so. It is easily modified and dispensed with later in the race as its infeasibility becomes evident.

At the other end from the stretch goal is my "satisfied" goal. This is sort of the "outside" goal that I would still consider a fairly major accomplishment even if things don't go great. I generally look at the race and assume this to be a time that I should be able to hit unless things go horribly wrong. In my first ultra, I'm not sure if I really set this goal separate from "just finishing", but in all my other races it was there. This is the time that keeps me most motivated throughout the race. I generally want to be well under this time and seeing it "looming out there" keeps me moving. This worked especially well at both AR50 and Miwok where others mentioned that I could still make it under-X where X was basically my "satisfied goal" target, I was convinced that I could hit something much lower than that.

My main goal generally falls between the other two, though not necessarily right in the middle. This goal is also the most fluid and least specific. If my stretch goal is a sub-7 hour run and under 8 is my satisfied goal, then the main goal might be to finish in the low-to-mid 7s. I may get to the half-way or turnaround point in a race and realize that, say, 7 hours just isn't going to happen. At this point I may decide, that 7:30 is still quite do-able (especially if someone tells me to shoot for sub-8). As I approach the finish I may adjust this up or down based on how I am doing. Sometimes I'll set it low and adjust it up, "OK 7:15 can't happen ... now how about 7:20 ... 7:25 ...". Other times I will set it more conservatively and it goes down as I have a good second half "Fine, I'll make 7:30 ... I might be able to hit 7:20 ... can I make 7:15 ..." This motivation that keeps me moving during the latter part of the race and is definitely what gets me to the finish. I generally hit my main goal, but then, it does get solidified to just about match where I am going to finish.

- Stretch: 7 hr, Satisfied: sub-8(?), Main: 7:xx, Actual: 7:05
Santa Cruz
- Stretch: 6hr, Satisfied: sub-7, Main: 6:xx, Actual: 5:55
Big Basin
- Stretch: 6hr, Satisfied: 6:30, Main: 6:15, Actual: 6:23
- Stretch: 10hr, Satisfied: sub-11, Main: 10:30, Actual: 10:30
Pirates Cove
- Stretch: 5:30, Satisfied: 6hr, Main: sub-6, Actual: 5:35
- Stretch: 9hr, Satisfied: sub-10, Main: 9:30, Actual: 9:15
- Stretch: 12hr, Satisfied: Sub-13, Main: 12:30, Actual: 12:26


miki said...

Cool. I'll root for ya. I'm signed up for the mightly 8K. Hopefully, I will be back in time to see you off on your second loop.

Eudemus said...

Miki, I look forward to seeing you at Mt. Diablo. However, if I finish my first loop before you are done with 8K, I will be in BIG trouble for the second loop. Forget your ankle issues, you could probably crawl 5 miles on your hands and knees faster than I will finish going to the top of Mt. Diablo and back! Hmmm...that might actually make a pretty good race :-)

ReneeMc said...

Miki referred me to this post, as I was having some issues with goal setting. Thanks for so succinctly stating this. I pretty much do the same thing, but I never realized it until this post. It gives me something solid to think about and consider.
Happy trails!