Goal setting vs. Overplanning

Apologies in advance for what will likely be a brain dump rather than a thoughtfully executed essay…

I made the startling realization yesterday that I’m running my first trail half marathon at Lake Chabot in a little over a month. Yeah, I’ve run half marathons before (two to be precise), but a trail race is almost always harder than a road race, and this one is notoriously hilly (~1700 feet elevation gain). Also, I have an irrational fear of hills, probably because 85% of my training is done around flatter-than-a-pancake Lake Merritt. So while I’m pretty confident about my general level of fitness, it freaks me out a little that I feel wholly unprepared for the hills. To try to deal with this anxiety, I signed up for the Tilden Tough Ten, thinking that 10 moderately hilly miles two weeks before Lake Chabot might be good preparation. Then the Gypsy Runner suggested that we run a hilly 10K (~1100 feet elevation gain) to prepare for the Tilden Tough Ten. And before you know it, I’m running 3 races in the next month. All trail races, yes, but with pretty different strategies/goals.

Before I go on, let me explain my thought process behind signing up for the Lake Chabot Trail Challenge in the first place. After the Oakland Half Marathon, I was super amped up about running and I didn’t want to stop training. I wanted to run another big race but not too soon… and then it dawned on me that I might actually want to run a marathon. Yikes!! Specifically, I considered signing up for the California International Marathon (CIM) in December. But before registering, I wanted to prove to myself that I could run a marathon. I tend to be more confident in my physical ability than my mental toughness, because every time I run more than 10 miles, I think to myself, “What the heck am I doing? Why am I putting myself through this? I must really be crazy.” Anyway, so the Gypsy Runner and I were already planning on running the 5K portion of the Lake Chabot Trail Challenge (it’s a 5K and a half marathon). So I thought to myself, “Well, if I can complete a tough half marathon trail race and still have the desire to run a marathon, then I’ll sign up for CIM.”

So now I’m looking at 3 races with different distances and each with their own challenges. For a while, I took it for granted that just because I was able to run a few good road races in the past couple of months that these trail races will not be a problem. I also took a more relaxed approach to preparing for these races because I have completely different expectations for trail races in general. For example, I don’t expect to PR in a trail race. But it’s one thing to have relaxed expectations and another to not really know what the heck to do in terms of training. I’m now trying to establish what my goals are and how best to train. I’ve never run this many races in such a short amount of time, so maybe I’m just trying to come to terms with that. For one thing, I don’t think there’s enough time for me to run hills AND do super long runs, so I might just have to do a little of both. *sigh*

Judging by past years’ results for these courses, my tentative goals are:
1. Cinderella 10K: 10:30/mile, 1:05:05
2. Tilden Tough Ten: 10:15/mile, 1:42:30
3. Lake Chabot Trail Challenge (half marathon): 12:00/mile, 2:38:23

There is a 3-hour course limit for Lake Chabot, which is pretty daunting. Oh well — worst case scenario, I “earn” my first DNF.

What about you? Any strategies for planning your race calendars?


Howdy! My name is Jen and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I like to eat, run, and blog, but not usually at the same time.

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Posted in Goals, random
8 comments on “Goal setting vs. Overplanning
  1. Mike S. says:

    Woo-hoo! Sounds like a fun month ahead, way to jump in the deep end (or maybe you were pushed?). No doubt Lake Chabot will be challenging, but you’ll be fine… it was during the Brazen Bad Bass half at Lake Chabot last year that a fellow runner informed me during one ascent that “hills pay the bills!” And your feet will thank for the reprieve from concrete. Hills are my favorite part of running because they enable such efficient training (physical and mental), plus there are plenty of mighty fine options in the Bay Area. As a race-day strategy, I find that running hills (no matter how slowly) is easier than walking them, so I’d say trust your training and maintain a slow jogging pace for as long as possible, because as soon as you stop, it becomes that much tougher to start again. Others may have a different experience. Oh, and that irrational fear you have of hills sounds more like a rational suspicion to me…

    See you at CIM!

    • Jen says:

      Ha, thanks Mike! I agree with you that it’s better to keep a slow jog than to start walking. Once I stop, my legs feel so tired and heavy. I’m going to try my best to just enjoy these races, because why else am I doing it? Certainly not for the fame or the money. 😉

      See you at CIM, indeed!

  2. Dominick S. says:

    HA! You definitely caught the bug after the Oakland Half…I have run the Muir trails in the Oakland hills but only about 5-6 miles at most and it is a different beast than running on the streets…my main issue is my ankles, I really don’t have ankle problems but the trails up there make them sore for sure. Good luck, those two trail runs sound challenging but given your race results I think your goals are more than realistic, you will do well!

    • Jen says:

      Thanks, Dominick! Yeah, uneven terrain on some trails can really mess with ankles. My primary goal (above all else) is to not hurt myself!

  3. aewills says:

    C-I-M! C-I-M! It’s like the perfect cheerleading chant. I am also very leery of hills, but totally agree that a very slow jog is better than a walk. I also have to say that a few hill workouts always gives me a huge training boost (some part of me is appalled at how slow I become if I let myself run hills “comfortably,” so I always push to try to be in the neighborhood of my normal pace, which is probably why I hate them so much). So it might be worth finding a flatter race after all those hilly ones so you can glory in the benefits! (Wanna come join me for the SF 2nd half July 29?…)

    • Jen says:

      Yeah, I’ve found it’s as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one to run hills (but still, physical >> mental!). I always need to tell myself that it’s ok to jog much, much slower than usual up a hill. I’ve also found that it helps me to just stare right at the ground ahead, and NOT to look up — that’s usually when I get super intimidated by the hill and how much further I have to go. Yet again, another instance of my brain sabotaging my running. 🙂

      As for the SF Half — would love to join you except that I’ll be in Taiwan. But we can look forward to running the Healdsburg Half and CIM together, right??!!

      • aewills says:

        Yes yes! I gotta reg for CIM actually–it’s a little silly to be peer pressuring when I haven’t even registered myself :P.

        My spring plans have shuffled a lot too, so now I think I’ll be able to do the Tilden Tough 10 with you guys (yay!), and have my half (maybe) be See Jane Run June 3rd.

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