Triathlon Roles, Goals, and Plans

triathlon finisher medals
January 12, 2017

Mike Ricci


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I recently finished one of the most powerful books ever written: "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen R. Covey. Any reading I do about organizing or making my life easier, I always try to understand how it relates to triathlon. All the while I was reading this book it was easy to see the correlation. Basically, as an effect person who gets as much as you can on any given day, it all starts with your 'role'. We all have different roles, whether it be an employee, a mom, dad, brother, sister, student, teacher and on down the line. As a triathlete are roles are defined as the swimmer, the biker, and the runner.

From our beginning point of defining our roles, we now need to look at our goals. What are our goals in our now defined roles? As a swimmer it may be to swim a 28:00 mile. As a biker it may be to bike 1:15 for 40k. For a runner it may mean trying to break 50:00 in a 10k. Now that we goals and roles, we need a plan. So, just how are we going to attack that 28:00 mile ? Or the 1:15 for the 40k or 50:00 for the 10k? Well we are going to create tasks to get us there. And those tasks may include getting up 3 days per week to get to the pool at 5:45 to meet your swim partner or Masters swim group.

I know that for me a rating of 1-4 on the RPE scale is equivalent to my Zone 1 HR. A 5-6 rating is my Zone 2 HR, and a 7 is definitely a Zone 3. A 8/9 is 4-5a (sub LT to LT) and a 9+ to 10 is equal to a place I don?t need to go or Zone 5+++.

During this time of the year, I work out in my 5/6 effort zone, and on the hills or if I get bored, I might bring that up to a 7 or Z3 effort. The best thing about this scale is that I can use it year round. I know that I if feel like the effort is a 7 and I look down and see that my HR is only a low Zone 2, well it could mean that I am tired that day, or I didn't get enough sleep or that I drank too many Sam Adam's the night before. Whatever the case, I know that my body isn't behaving like I expect it to and I need to make adjustments. An RPE system is also critical when you are racing someone to the finish line. You can?t worry about your HR number if you are trying to lay the smack down, but you should worry about your RPE number. You know if you can hold that 8 RPE effort for one more mile and maybe even go one or two gears higher when you get within site of the finish line. Racing in the heat is another example of how RPE trumps HR. If you have raced in the heat, you know that there are times when your HRM is pretty much useless. It's telling you that your HR is way higher than you have ever seen in training. The first thing you think is, 'How can I get through this race at my goal times, if I back off the HR??' Well, the answer is to race by effort. You know that if you can bike at an 8/9 effort and you know that this is around where your Zone 4-5a is, so you go with it. Sometimes you need to push the envelope just a bit. Go ahead; run without the HRM, I dare you. Run by 'feel' or RPE or  go out there and run too hard or run too easy - you will know the next day when you get up if you went to far in one direction or the other. Your body won't lie to you.

In summary, I want to say that it's important to know your HR numbers and how that correlates to RPE, for the reasons I mentioned in the above paragraph. So, I challenge you this off season and winter to go out there at least 1 per week and run by RPE, just to see what's like to break the chains and run free from that number on your wrist. I am willing to bet you will run harder than you think you can, and now when push comes to shove on hot, humid day in August, you?ll have another tool in your toolbox that you can use to race to your best, no matter what the conditions. Go get 'em!

Michael Ricci is a USAT Level III certified coach. He can be reached for personal coaching at Please visit his website at

Coach Mike Ricci is the Founder and Head Coach for D3 Multisport.  His coaching style is ‘process-focused’ vs. ‘results-focused.’ When working with an athlete, their understanding of how and why they are improving is always going to take precedence over any race result. Yes, there is an end goal, but in over 2 decades of coaching, experience has shown him that if you do the right work, and for the right reasons, the results will follow.

Coach Mike is a USAT Level III Elite Certified Coach, Ironman University Certified Coach, and Training Peaks Level II Certified Coach. He was honored as the USAT Coach of the Year.

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