posted by Kevin on Jan 03, 2019

Last post I said I was going to write about my goals for 2019, but before I get into my goals, I want to talk about my goal-setting process.

Fortunately for me, Canadian Running’s the Shakeout Podcast (with Kate Van Buskirk) just had a nice little episode with Sinead Mulhern interviewing sport psychologist Kim Dawson followed by runners Cam Levins, Rachel Cliff and Mohammed Ahmed talking about their goal setting process. I think there were some good lessons to be had throughout the episode. I really like that Cam said not to be afraid of dreaming big, I liked Rachel’s discussion of short-term process goals and Mohammed’s Ahmed’s emphasis on practical structuring.

I’m going to be cautious at this stage, and not commit myself to explicit numbers and times. These things can be tricky to assess before going through training, and the variability in trail running makes it difficult to say what the equivalent of something like a sub-40 minute 10km on roads would be. I have a sense of some of the progression I’d like to see in times for distances throughout the year, but they’re definitely will be easier to assess when I get to particular races.

Considerations for Goal Setting

Much of the interview with Kim Dawson seemed geared to the types of goals that people tend to make when they are newer to the sport. She talked about avoiding arbitrariness, taking into account your level of fitness in setting up goals, having reasonable boundaries and expectations surrounding body image goals, etc. All of which are important and worth saying!

I didn’t really feel to much of a connection to my own planning, having experience with coaching myself through a successful 50km build, and my plans are to run exclusively at distances I have ran before. I did like the overall openness about assessing your values, resources, and challenges that you have. There was a nice emphasis on flexibility, adaptability, and revision, all of which are important for having a healthy relationship with your goals. I did wish they spent more time talking about how to formulate goals, since as a non-elite runner with some experience I feel like it can be a little open. And going into this year, I really wanted to formulate goals mindfully and purposively.

I can’t think of a better way to do that than write about it! So this section will discuss how I thought about my goals for the year. A lot of this occurs just internally, but some times it happens in conversation or writing. I usually start, though, with things like my:

Dreams/Ambitions. They sound pretty similar to goals, but I think of goals as the result of a deliberative process. Ambitions are more things I desire to do and achieve. Some of these become long-term goals, others more immediate.

Values. The things matter to me, both in my own personal life, and in terms of my relation to running as a sport and a community.

The process really begins here for me. There are things I’d like to achieve that straddle the line between goals and ambitions, and doing an internal assessment of my values helps sort things out. I value my relationships with my partner, family and friends. I value the time I have in natural places. I would like to see how much I could achieve competitively in certain kinds of racing. Sometimes they are inchoate and at others they are pretty clearly defined.

At this stage, things can be pretty wild and extreme. So it’s always important to check in with values that might be in conflict with what I’ve got so far, and my:

Principles. Rules for conducting and guiding my life. I tend to think of these as supplementing my values, and helping resolve “how should I” questions.

Means. I like to think in terms of resources and constraints. They’re the things I have available to facilitate my achievement of goals, and they’re the things which might put some dreams further down the line.

In terms of the considerations I drew out from last year, I identified a pretty big limitation on my means: while I could race the same distance fairly frequently, it took a pretty big chunk out of my mental resources. I also think I needed to take steps to maintain my excitement for the sport, and that involves seeking out challenges that Ontario can’t offer.

Two Long Term Goals

There are two long-term goals that I’m using to guide my approach to running over the next couple of years:

  1. Run a Boston Qualifier before turning 35.
  2. Move up into longer ultras: with a long-term goal of moving into the 100-mile distance.

Last year, I didn’t work directly on either, since my primary goal was to have a competitive season in the OUTRACE 25km series. I didn’t even think about running a road marathon: for me, (1) is really a 2-3 year goal since I’m 31, and (2) is a 5-year goal. Both of these are greatly constrained by an important principle that I’m going to continue to hold: allow the process to work, and progress to result from cumulative efforts. Relevant to (2) is an important value: I want to maintain a lifetime of mobility - it’s important to still be moving and running as I age.

These goals aren’t changing - they’re still shaping how I’m approaching running this year, but I’m not worrying about achieving them immediately.

Particular Goals for 2019

So without further deliberation, here are my particular goals for running in 2019:

  1. Run a good marathon.
  2. Race at the Athletics Ontario trail running championships.
  3. Qualify for and race at the Canadian mountain running championships.
  4. Run consistently, and find ways to safely expand my weekly mileage.
  5. Mindfully incorporate things that will help my running: stretching, strengthwork and foam rolling.
  6. Improve my sleep hygiene and recovery - establish a stronger routine to limit screen time.
  7. Try to run with at least 3 new groups of runners this year.
  8. Keep up this blog for at least a year; weekly original posts.
  9. Volunteer for at least 3 races in some capacity.
  10. Explore one new aspect of trail running - maybe a fastest known time attempt? Or orienteering?

In (1) what do I mean by good? Well, I certainly don’t mean running competitively with the elites. My first draft of this goal had happy instead of good, but I know that I can run a marathon that would satisfy me without being one that makes me happy. What I want is to have a marathon that is a good expression of my capabilities, and I haven’t done that yet. My first, and only, marathon involved throwing up shortly after the halfway point. I spent the bulk of my time in the race shuffling and struggling to maintain forward momentum. I’m a little more knowledgeable about nutrition and the process, so I’m excited to take another stab at the distance. I’m leaning towards either Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, or Road2Hope in Hamilton.

Both (2) and (3) stem from my desire to explore the competitive side of trail running. I’ve enjoyed racing in the 25km series with OUTRACE, but I think setting my sights on events that are tied to more formal organizations will be a good way to motivate myself to push forward. (3) is kind of a stretch goal; I think qualifying is within reach (if last years qualifiers are a good guide), but I need to improve other areas of my life to ensure that travelling for this is feasible. I’m also not entirely sure how everything lines up with other social commitments. If need be, I’ll pursue other fast and/or mountainous trail races.

(4)-(6) are training oriented goals. As part of my training plan, I have already started regular core and bodyweight strength work. These exercises should be easy to keep up with. I might move back to weight training this year, and I really miss how that worked for me in the past. I’ve said this before, but I’ve struggled with insomnia. Reducing screen time, hydrating and having more of a sleep routine are things that I’m working towards. This will also help me get past that plateau and really get myself marathon ready.

(7)-(9) are social and community based goals. I really do value the sense of community that running provides, and I want to give back to some of the races that I’ve enjoyed and benefited from. I’ve volunteered in the past with races, but this goal just follows naturally from my values here. I’m hoping that this blog can be of value to other runners too.

Regarding (10) I feel like I’m resting easy with trail running as an avenue for my outdoor skills. In many ways, trail races are relatively controlled environments, and I would like to pursue things that require a different skill set. Chasing after a fastest known time (FKT) requires an interesting balance of fitness, planning, and self-sufficiency that really excites me. And there’s one FKT in Ontario that’s come up in conversation with a friend - so I expect we’ll go take a run at it this summer. Orienteering racing kind of terrifies me (I’m not good with a compass), so it’s one way to really push my comfort zone. If I do neither of those things, I’ll consider getting snowshoes or XC skis for the winter, just to keep things different.

Final Thoughts

So these are the broad-strokes goals I have for 2019. There will be weekly and monthly goals, race specific goals. Goals everywhere. But I’m also going to check in on these every 4 months or so - it’s a way of being more mindful about what I’m and where I’m going. I know that I said I would like to do more road racing, but I think that I’ll be doing more as a check-in on my way to the marathon. These will likely come up as monthly goals. With these broad-strokes goals in place, I’ve already started coming up with weekly and monthly goals that I’m going to adapt and keep track of in my bullet journal.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading! And I’m really curious about what you have to say. How does your goal setting process compare to mine? Am I crazy for not thinking about times? Which marathon should I do? Do you have any questions about my process? Should I have used happy instead of good for my marathoning plans?

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