This morning I had coffee with Neil Cook, a running and triathlon coach at Asphalt Green in NYC. I wanted to pick his brain about Boston—he's run it in the past and has coached several athletes to victory there. I also wanted him to tell me that I could finish in my original goal of 3:45. Instead, I came away with a caffeine buzz, a Starbuck's napkin full of notes, and a head swimming with numbers. It's time for me to smell the vanilla latte and be a lot more realistic.
I've had a few setbacks during training this season—the flu, shin splints, crazy winter storms—but I'm not going to make excuses. I haven't put in the mileage or the effort to hope for such a speedy finishing time. Coach Neil wants me to create three new goals for myself: 1. The one I can hit only if the marathon gods are smiling upon me (perfect weather, my legs feel incredible, complete mental focus); 2. The time my current level of fitness and training predicts; and, 3. An at-all-costs number that I'm guaranteed to reach. Which means I'm looking at: 3:55, 4:06, and just plain finishing.
If I were the type of person who set the bar low, I could be happily surprised by how well things turn out when the outcome is better than anticipated. But I'm not; my expectations have always been too high—for racing and everything else in life. It's going to be tough to accept something as practical as 4 hours. Still, it's what I need to do.
Do you set realistic goals for yourself? Or do you aim too high or low?