In the past I’ve never really put specific racing goals out there. Usually I allude to something but keep the real goal close to my heart and only share it with a few people.
I’ve wondered lately (especially after my experience at Pineland Farms 25K) if keeping my running goals to myself is actually creating MORE internal pressure than I intend, building expectation in my own mind and holding me back from just enjoying the moment. So with a big, goal race coming up this weekend I thought I’d take a different approach and put my goal out there and see if pulling it into the light actually lifts the self-imposed pressure.
I think sometimes we keep our goals to ourselves because we’re afraid if we speak them and fall short on race day the disappointment or embarrassment will be less because no one knew, we’re just disappointing ourselves. But I think keeping our goals to ourselves has the opposite effect: it builds in our own minds, lacking perspective until race day arrives and the self-imposed pressure becomes huge. Then if the goal starts to slip the imagined disappointment and embarrassment becomes crippling.
Maybe it doesn’t really matter? Do you really care if you know my goals or not? Probably not. But I like this idea of dragging things that I’m holding on to into the light and exposing them so that I can gain perspective.
So here it goes…
I’ve done all my incline training at 12:00 min/mi pace. Sometimes slower and excitedly, sometimes faster.
That puts me at a finish time around 1:31. Which would, looking at past results give me a good shot at finishing in the top 20 women.
That’s what I’ve trained for and that’s my goal.
But here’s the catch: recently I haven’t been hitting the goals I’ve trained for in my races. It just hasn’t been coming together.
A New Mental Approach
After I DNF’d at Pineland I called up Christen Shefchunas and we had a very helpful chat.
I’d originally heard Christen on Nicole Deboom’s “Run this World” podcast and their conversation resonated with me. I reached out to Christen via Instagram and we connected. One of the things that I latched onto when I heard her on the podcast and then again when we spoke in person was this idea that when we keep things in they become an anchor. There is strength in vulnerability, and being honest about what is going on in our mind and heart can remove that anchor.
On the call we chatted about my DNF, the thoughts that were going through my head that day and have been going through my head every race since the Snowshoe National Championships: what if I’m not as good as I think I am.
Our conversation led to several key realizations:
- I’m not the runner that I was in March. I need to stop trying to “get back there.” I’m on a new trajectory.
- Every time I got passed in a race I saw it as a reinforcement that I wasn’t as good as I thought I was.
- When racing started to feel hard, I took it as a sign of lack of fitness.
- If I couldn’t stick with the lead pack I saw it as a sign that I didn’t belong and that my big goals weren’t valid.
When I think about it, I spent a good portion of my teen years and adult life berating myself with destructive thoughts in the form of an eating disorder. Even though I am recovered, that self-destrictive tract still exists in my mind and negative thoughts like to find that groove and ride it for as long as they can. It’s an old and easy pattern to slip into. It’s no wonder that my brain can be my worst enemy on race day.
We brainstormed a few tactics for dealing with these thoughts:
- When I get passed I shouldn’t be surprised. Instead, I’ll tell myself “I knew you were coming,” and “Thank you for pushing hard because it will bring out the best in me.”
- And when it gets hard instead I’ll be grateful. Telling myself that, “It is a privilege to push my body to its limit. I’m so grateful I get to do this.”
- When I can’t stick with the lead pack (and the bigger the race the more likely this is) I’ll focus on the moment: “I belong here. This moment is mine. I’ll give this moment my best effort.”
Christen also encouraged me to make a list of ten reasons why I’ll run well at Mt. Washington and encouraged me to go through every possible scenario like my legs feeling heavy, getting passed or just generally feeling off. I’ve latched on to four of those reasons (four seems easier to remember than all ten) and spent a good portion of last week and this week thinking through every possible negative (and positive scenario) on the Mountain and what my thoughts will be in response.
Tomorrow afternoon, I’ll shut off my “race brain” and when I arrive at the Mountain on Saturday it will be without my watch. This is my absolutely favorite race (it means more to me than my BQ and more than Boston) and I don’t want to “ruin” it by taking the joy out of it. I’ll be running “blind,” completely by feel and I trust my body will know what to do. I can’t wait!
Do you share your race goals? Have you ever had to mentally overhaul your approach to running and get really honest and vulnerable about what is going on in your mind?
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Email: RunFarGirl [at] gmail [dot] com
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