Strength-training day; also an oatmeal-cooking day. I like steel-cut oats for breakfast, usually with walnuts and some fruit, but it takes about 45 minutes to boil a pot of oats. If I start the pot, then go to the living room to do my strength training, by the time I’m done the oatmeal is ready. One serving goes in the bowl, while five others go into microwave-ready containers and then the refrigerator. That makes five mornings when all it takes for hot steel-cut oats is a dash of water and two minutes in the microwave. They’re actually a little better as leftovers – less chewy.
When I’m preparing for a marathon (see what I did there?), I need to decide on a goal time for my race so I can set up my training plan. Winning would be nice, but that’s not gonna happen. Still, I’m a competitive person, even if I’m just competing with myself and the clock. My goal should be realistic, but challenging. So what’s a reasonable goal?
Actually, I always have multiple levels of goals, starting with the lowest bar, which is just to finish, preferably injury-free. To this point, I’ve never dropped out of a marathon, though there are times when I should have.
The next level is the reasonable goal that I’ll share with the idly curious. Most people, especially non-runners, don’t really want a ten minute speech about how I’ll try for this time depending on my training, or that time depending on the weather, or another if I get really excited, or any of that. They just want a simple answer.
Last year at this time, I had almost exactly the same total mileage, and I also had 10 18+ runs in. Half of those long runs were slow but extra-long, 27 to 35 miles with walking breaks, because I was training for the Great Cranberry Island 50K. After GCI, I cut back the distance on my long runs, did a couple races, three weeks of hill repeats, two weeks with six 800 meter intervals @ 3:30 or slower on the track, then went back to Maine in October for the Mount Desert Island Marathon. I was shooting for a 3:30 and I was on target for a 3:28 through 22 miles, but calf cramps forced me to slow down and I finished in 3:31:21.
If I take my recent 5K time, about 21:30, and plug that into a marathon time prediction calculator, I get a result somewhere between 3:25 and 3:30.
So something under 3:30 seems like a reasonable time goal. A 3:30 would also be a Boston Qualifier, even under the new, faster, standards. I’ve never been fast enough to take qualifying for Boston for granted, so I should be happy with a 3:30.
After that, there’s the stretch goal, the one that if all goes well, I hope to hit. My 3:13 PR was seven minutes under my BQ time. Matching that would be a good stretch goal to share with my running friends. Now that I’m 51, and using the same standards in place at the time I set my PR, a BQ-7 would be a 3:28.
But we all have a goal we keep to ourselves, the one we secretly keep in our hearts, believing we can reach it on a good day, but one that sounds a little too aggressive to talk about out loud. I can’t share mine with you – then it wouldn’t be a secret.
Oh, what the hell. We’re all friends here. My secret goal is a BQ-7 under the new standards, a 3:23.
OK, I lied. I want a 3:1X, something under 3:20. But don’t tell anyone.
There’s always one last goal, the one that I try to keep secret, even from myself. The one I always deny as impossible whenever it pops into my head.
That’s a new PR. But I’m 51, carrying the weight of ten extra years of wear and tear (and cookies) since I ran 3:13:28. It just isn’t going to happen. Right?