(Warning: This post discusses my goal times for my upcoming half marathon, and reflects my feelings about my fitness level and capabilities ONLY. Please do not interpret my feelings about my speed and paces as how you should feel about yours, or how I feel about certain paces/race times in general – everyone runs their own race, and unless you’re Shalane Flanagan, there’s always someone out there who can run faster than me, you, and everyone else. 🙂 )
I am dealing with a serious case of the taper crazies this week, so since I’m not running much I’m writing about running instead 🙂
Taper madness is a bit of a new phenomenon for me. I usually look forward to and enjoy tapering for a race because it feels like such a much-needed period of rest and easy runs after so many weeks of hard training. This time, not running my usual volume is making me super anxious. I’m pretty sure this is due to a combination of factors:
- I think part of me is worried that if I don’t keep running at or above my usual volume and intensity, I’m going to lose fitness. My sense is that this is a bit of psychological hangover from losing so much progress during pregnancy – my brain is primed to think that any down-time means massive losses in speed and endurance, even though I know, logically, this isn’t the case.
- I’m really curious to see how I’m going to do in this race, particularly because I have a lot of big plans forming in my head for what my next goal(s) will be, and my performance at the Wineglass Half will give me some much-needed information on how realistic those goals are.
- Going along with #2, I’m worried that I’m going to do horribly in this race. When I started training for the Wineglass Half, my plan was to train just enough to cover the distance and make it across the finish line. Given that it’s my first major race, and my first half, since giving birth, just finishing the race seemed like a reasonable goal. And of course I’ll be happy when I cross the finish line, whether I’m walking or running. But, I’m not going to lie – if my time is significantly lower than what I’m anticipating, I’m going to be disappointed.
So, let’s talk goals.
I tend to set three separate goal times for every race that I’m running to hit/beat a specific time: a worst-case scenario goal, a realistic goal, and a “if the stars align perfectly” goal.
- My worst-case scenario goal is what I consider a time that is significantly slower than what I’ve trained for and what I believe I’m capable of. It could be the result of bad weather, illness, or just me not pacing myself properly or fueling the way I need to. Generally, as long as I beat the worst-case scenario goal, I’ll be at least somewhat satisfied with how I raced.
- I came close to my worst-case scenario goal when I ran my first marathon, the Outer Banks Marathon. I believed I could run the marathon in about 4:30 based on how I’d performed in my training runs, and my worst case scenario was hitting the five hour mark. I ended up finishing with a time of 4:49 after walking on and off between miles 16 and 20. The weather was not great, I didn’t fuel or pace myself well, and the course ended up being much hillier than anticipated, all of which led to a finish time much slower than I believed I could have reached under optimal conditions.
- My realistic goal is the time I believe I can hit, and most likely the time that I trained for.
- Even though I didn’t officially break 2:00 at the New Jersey Half Marathon in 2016 (which was what I’d trained for and my “realistic” goal for that race), my time of 2:00:03 was pretty close. Some people might be heartbroken over those three seconds, but given that it was pretty rainy through most of the race and the course was quite a bit more crowded than I was prepared for, I was happy with my time. It gave me the confidence to know that under the right conditions, I could break 2:00.
- My “if the stars align perfectly” goal is the time I believe I can hit if everything goes just right in a race – I fuel properly, the weather is perfect, I get enough sleep, I pace myself well, etc. – and is usually a time that is faster than I think I can run.
- I’ve only had one of these experiences, but it was pretty awesome (for me). I decided somewhat unexpectedly to run a 5K on New Year’s Eve in 2015. It was slightly rainy, and I hadn’t raced a 5K in months because I’d been in the midst of marathon training. I decided to just go all out and see where I landed with this race, and I ended up running it in 25:24. This was over a minute faster than any other 5K I’d ever run, and definitely faster than I expected to finish. Needless to say, I was pretty excited when I crossed the finish line.
Here are my goals for the Wineglass Half:
- Worst Case Scenario: 2:15:00. Honestly, I don’t know what to expect going in to this race, but I feel as though I should be able to finish before the 2:15 mark based on my long runs in training. This would also be several minutes slower than any other half that I’ve run, and I’m hopeful that I’ll at least hit a time that is at or above other half marathons that I’ve completed in the past.
- Realistic: 2:10:00. To hit 2:10, I’ll need to run an average pace of 9:55 min/mile. Based on my training runs, I think this is very realistic and most likely where I’ll land at the finish line on Sunday. This is also about the time I hit for my first half marathon in 2015, so breaking 2:10 will at least give me the confidence that I’ve returned to the level of fitness that I was at after training for my first half.
- If the Stars Align: Anything at or under 2:05:00. Considering that I haven’t done any speedwork and started out training for the Wineglass Half only with the goal of finishing, I will be shocked but thrilled if I can break 2:05 on Sunday. But, to do this, I’d need to run an average 9:32 min/mile pace, and I don’t think my training runs support that pace right now. The first time I hit 2:05 in the half was at the Rehoboth Beach Half Marathon in late 2015, one month after I ran the Outer Banks Marathon. It was unexpected then, but I would love to see that I’m capable of that level of fitness at this time. It would definitely be a confidence booster as I seek to hit some big goals this winter and next Spring.
So, we’ll see how it goes. I have been weather-stalking Corning, NY on the Weather Channel app, and right now, things are looking very promising. I am extremely hopeful that the weather is decent for this race, as I haven’t run a half marathon in nice weather since the Rehoboth Beach Half in 2015. Also, I’ve heard this race course is truly a beautiful one, and I’m hoping for a perfect Fall morning to enjoy the scenery. Hopefully I didn’t just jinx myself…
How do you deal with taper madness? How do you go about setting goals for your races?
Happy Running! ~Sara