"I train as a means to an objective, and that objective is to race faster the next time than I did the last time." Karen Smyers
When we look at developing a plan for our racing season, we often start by determining our A race(s) and then plugging in additional races that help lead into the big A race(s). We follow phases and/or the plan developed by our coach, but do we have goals for these phases and races to help us achieve our ultimate finish at our big race?
I am thinking that Karen Smyers did not reach her objective of 'racing faster the next time'; better yet, winning Ironman Hawaii, without having goals for her racing season. We need to train with goals as goals give our season purpose. These goals motivate us to train each day. They help get us out of bed at 5:30 AM to go to our masters swim group, they get us out the door for a six-hour ride with a 45-minute runoff; they help us make the best nutritional choices, etc. Simply stated, GOALS MOTIVATE US!
Establishing goals does not have to be complicated and can be made easier with the help and guidance of your coach. Second, start by determining how much time you will have to train. Be honest with yourself and thus eliminate unnecessary frustrations as your season gets underway. Remember-balance is key. Make your goals realistic and don't confuse them with dreams. There is nothing wrong with dreams as long as we distinguish what is realistic for this season and what is really long-term and will take more than one season to achieve. To quote Joe Friel, "If you reasonably can achieve it this season, no matter how big it may seem, it is no longer a dream, but a goal." Make your goals measurable, within your power, and make them stretch you. State your goals in a positive way.
Third, establish training objectives. What are your strengths and weaknesses? What type of training camps, etc‚ can you set up to help you reach these objectives? Set timelines to meet the objectives and determine what races you want to do. Prioritize them into A, B, or C races. Only pick two or three A races so you allow yourself a chance to reach your peak fitness for each of these race days. B races are not as important but they have a purpose in preparing you for A races. You may have four to six of these B races and everything else would be a C race. C races can be used for hard workouts, as a tune-up for A races, or as a great testing opportunity. Most of us get more out of our self in racing situations, making these C races great 'testing labs'.
Once you've established how much time you have available for training, what your goals, training objectives are, and your race priorities, your coach will be ready to establish the various phases of your season. As your coach establishes your annual training plan (ATP) based on these stated criteria, you will be able to understand and know what to expect in these training phases; which will include hours of training and specific workouts.
So‚ why season goals? As I stated before; they simply are a source of motivation for us throughout the season. They drive us to reach the ultimate prize‚ the completion of our number one race!