I think that reflection is one of the most powerful yet underutilized tools that we have access to as athletes. Before any big race, I think that you should schedule time to reflect on your training and plan your race day strategies. This gives you the opportunity to remind yourself of the hard work that you put in, visualize success, and plan solutions for potential miscues.
Sometimes we exceed our initial goals and other times, things get in the way of training. When we pause to honor our training and set goals after objectively reviewing the work that we completed we are able to set the right goals. Goals that challenge us but are also attainable are ideal. Three months of commitment to training and completion of a long distance race are accomplishments to celebrate!
Start with a Review of your Training
Did you have a thoughtful and well balanced plan addressing your specific needs? Did you show up and put in the work? Did you complete the majority of the training days (we all know there are things that come up which will prevent a perfect training cycle and that is ok!)? Did your race pace mileage runs feel like a controlled effort?
If you answered yes to most of these questions and you are feeling good about the effort that you put in to training I would set strong race day goals that challenge your current fitness level. Skip down to the next section.
If you faced an injury, illness, a tough work schedule or other things that came up which caused a significant detour in your training you will want to think about resetting your goals before you get to the start line. It’s tough to let go of our own expectations but letting go in this case will lead to a better race day experience.
If you stick to the original pre-training goal, you are likely to go out too fast. When you go out too fast, you are likely to hit the wall and bonk during the race. Instead of walking away with a positive experience, you might feel defeated or have a hard time getting to the finish line. Remember, crossing the finish line of a distance race is a big accomplishment.
The Three Goal Rule
The three goal rule is a very practical approach to race day goal setting. In running there are multiple variables that are not all within our realm of control. Weather, the way we feel on race day, how much time we spent on our feet the day before, course conditions and crowds may all be a factor for the way that we perform. A stretch goal, realistic goal, and just finish goal will help you navigate your way to the finish line.
Your A goal is a perfect day, right temperatures, you feel fantastic kind of run. This will most often be a little bit of a stretch goal. If you are feeling great, you want to see how well you can do. This goal will be your carrot to leave it all out there on the course.
Your B goal is the goal that is in line with the training that you completed. This takes in to consideration long run and race pace workouts along with your overall training response.
Finally, the C goal is something that will keep you moving to the finish line. This goal may or may not be tied to performance. It could be as simple as high fiving all the kids on the route, stopping to take pictures, or finding a new friend on the course that may be struggling and help get them to the finish.
I challenge you to take some time before your next race and think about your training and goals so that you set yourself up for success. Try it out with my guided worksheet and let me know if it helps!