We’ve all seen the obligatory post wherein the subsequent racer proclaims their Official Race Goals a few days or weeks before race day. I’ve even posted them here. Mine are usually hilarious, edifying and inspirational. Yours are a dull statement of intention. Not making a judgment here. We all can’t help being who we are.
Now if - after the insult - you are still here, shame on you. Have some self respect. Immediately storm out of here with a haughty click and return in a few seconds with your dignity dragging behind you like a shadow created from the rising sun. We’ll both feel better about it (although beware that there is still one more insult to go).
I always struggle with how to set my race goals. Do I go ambitious and set PR goals? Do I go wimpy and be happy “just to be out there on a beautiful day” and, maybe, balance my checkbook along the way? Do the words intent to do great bodily harm appear at any point?
Usually, like many, I lay out my goals according to the Proverbs of the Running Gods as dictated to Dick Beardsley on the slopes of Heartbreak Hill : A stretch goal, a realistic goal, and a hey-I’m-just happy-to-be-alive goal. Others, however…well, I don’t know what the hell you are doing (this isn’t the promised insult). I’ve noticed some weird race goals out there and they typically fall into one of these completely made up but sidesplittingly funny categories.
1. The Pie-Eyed Optimist
This person sets extremely ambitious but unattainable goals. Something along the lines of: I’ve never run more than a 10 mile long run but I believe I can finish the Western States Endurance 100. My cousin’s employer’s high school girlfriend’s nephew said he did it on very little training so I think I can too. Once I stop running in wrestling shoes, I’m really gonna fly! You might also find these folks elbowing their way to the front of the local 5k starting pack, only to pull off a ¼ mile into the race with a pride cramp.
2. The Fight or Flighters
These folks set out a two pronged goal. The very reasonable stretch race goal matching their overall ability. Followed by the caveat that if something goes wrong, they are quitting and going home. This goal may read: I hope to finish the 10k in 50 minutes, which would be a new PR! But if the wind is blowing from the southeast, I’m just going to walk home and try again another day.
3. The Bipolar Runner
It’s hard to get a read on these folks. They sound reasonable. Taken individually, the goals seem very realistic. When viewing the overall picture though, something ain’t right. My stretch goal for the half marathon is 1:40. But if it’s just not my day, I’d be happy with a 2:32. What’s with the huge variance? That’s greater than the difference between Paris Hilton’s popularity and actual talent. That’s not hot.
4. Mr. Pragmatic
I’m guilty of this one. (This is not referencing prag again, thank you very much). This person sets a goal exactly matching their last training runs. Well, I ran 3.1 miles yesterday in 21:00 minutes so my goal for this 5k is…21 minutes. I think I can do that. Really? Way to put yourself out there, big fella! This is all very modest and smart but where’s the spice? Aren’t you going to Go For It on race day all carbo loaded and wired with endorphins? Bo-ring.
5. I Like Shiny Things
I can not relate. I was born with an ingrained competitive spirit. Secretly, I admire these folks. They have no goal. They just enjoy the event. There’s no teasing here. I think that’s great. I just get real confused trying to process No Goal as a race goal. I look at these folks with these race goals like a dog who is being explained quantum physics - all head-tilted and not understanding (with one cute little floppy ear. At least, that’s how I picture myself if I were a dog.)
When approaching a race, you generally have an idea if you are in PR shape or not. For me, I flex for awhile in front of the mirror. If my normally toned triceps, biceps, and quads look EXTRA toned, well, let’s go ahead and set an ambitious goal. I might double check my Concavator for PR indicating cheek hollowing as well. If my hair, er, training was a little off, it might be an indication to pull back a bit on the goals.
However, either way, you need to account for the Race Day adrenaline release that’ll put a little hop in your step. I subtract a bit of time anticipating this. There’s no way you are going to only run at your training pace – even a hard training pace – on race day. You will be faster. Unless, of course, you Like Shiny Things and are curiously devoid of a competitive spirit.
Since most of you lack top end mathematical skills (there, there it is, the expected insult but it’s too late to leave now. You’re almost done. You and your humiliation can stick around for a bit longer and finish up), I’ll go ahead and spell this out. This is straight from F.M.S. research labs:
Race Goal = (What you think you will be able to do on race day) * .975
So, for a 5k, you think you can run it in 20 minutes.
Race Goal = (20 minutes) * .975 which equals 19:30 minutes.
You may use this from now one and immediately throw out the antiquated McMillan’s running calculator. Mine is clearly better. More science-y.
An adjustment is needed to my official Summer of Speed goals as my weekend long runs are indicating the 10 mile goal of 1:10:00 is already in jeopardy. I hereby adjust the 10 mile goal to 1:06:00.