I think most people going into a run have an idea of a finishing time they’d like to achieve. They know what their training runs have been like, they have a general idea of what their body is capable of and a great run is a great acknowledgement of that training. Sometimes you want a nice achievable goal and sometimes you want an aggressive one.
Whatever your goal is, I like to have a solid backup goal and a backup for my backup.
You need a Plan B. In 2015 I did the Kurrawa 2 Duranbah 50k. My Plan A for was under 5 hours. Which is a highly aggressive goal given the heat and the distance. But I thought I’d like to give it a crack. In any races there are so many variables. Conditions, how your body feels on the day, fatigue, nutrition and any manner of other things. Some of which you have a reasonable level of control over and some of which you don’t. Things that I didn’t have control over was the fact that I was carrying a bit of a virus on race day. And things that I did have control of (but chose to ignore) was that I was in a period of recovery and my body was in no condition to run a race. So I had a couple of back up plans. One was under 5:30 and my Plan C was under 6 hours. It became really obvious in the first 10k that Plan A wasn’t going to happen. Sometimes in racing you are not sure if you can make it at pace and you need to stick to your guns and find somewhere in that pace that is comfortable for you to run. This was not one of those times. Breathing was a bit laboured and I just didn’t have it in me. So I accepted that it was going to be Plan B.
When I hit about 35km and it was like running through quicksand and the temperature started to get really hot I had to let go of Plan B and just finish. I got there at 5:50 and I had made Plan C.
Plan B or Plan C is so important. Because if I hadn’t had that I could have gotten to the finish line and been disappointed. And how awful would that have been? To be disappointed with my first ultramarathon. Plan C was great. Under the conditions, Plan C was something I could be very happy of and I could be proud of what I’d done crossing the finish line.
Never be afraid to set an aggressive goal.
If you don’t, you’ll never know and you can limit your abilities by only setting safe goals. But have a Plan B. Or C. So you can be proud of your achievement no matter what.