Managing Optimism Bias

Have you ever set a race target that you didn’t meet?

I have. I thought I’d do my first marathon in under four hours (a 10k each hour is easy, right?).

I expected to do my first 70.3 in just six hours. But that disastrous race took me nearly eight!

The disappointment of not meeting your goal time is never fun. So what causes some of us to set such unrealistic goals, and how can we avoid it?

In the video below, I identify four things you can do to avoid this post-race let-down:

  1. Reflect honestly. Base your goal times on real times. The best is to use your times from a prior year you may have raced on that course. Or, base it off a race you’ve done in similar conditions and (climate and terrain).
  2. Get an outsider’s view. Get advice from a coach or close training partner. It has to be honest, unbiased, and not sugar-coated. They may tell you areas you’re blind to and they should give you a dose of reality.
  3. Do a pre-mortem. Pretend your race is over and assume that everything that could have gone wrong did, and write those things down. Basically, forecast the worst case scenario, and figure out how to mitigate those issues in advance.
  4. Create an experience map. This chart will plan out your goals, mindset, experience, emotions, and opportunities, across the race. The night before, the morning of the race, the swim, bike, run, transitions, everything. Map out what you think your emotions, mindset, and goals will be across those stages and find corresponding opportunities to mitigate any issues you foresee. Here’s the template you can download yourself.

Watch the video for a full explanation.

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