By Don Fink

Now that you have decided on your race schedule for 2002, it's time to establish effective goals to help keep you motivated and bring focus to your training and racing.


Most athletes understand that it is important to commit to their goals by putting them in writing. It's easy to see how making this written commitment can be so powerful. Surprisingly, however, few athletes actually do it.

The reason for this may not be obvious. While writing our goals will bring focus to our training and racing, it can also be seen as clearly setting us up for success or failure. This can be a little uncomfortable, to say the least. It's surely less intimidating to keep our goals somewhat vague. This allows for some wiggle room down the road. Well, risking failure can be uncomfortable, but I assure you, it is well worth it. So take a deep breathe and go for it; commit your goals to writing.


Be Specific. Break your goals down into race times, race placings, and other quantifiable targets. These are the kind of goals that motivate and bring focus to our mission. To say that you want to `improve over last year' or some other fuzzy goal, will not bring the clarity you need. So, state specifically what you want to achieve.

Secondly, make your goals a stretch,' but not a long shot. In other words, they should be challenging, but achievable. Goals that seem impossible, may serve only to discourage us. Likewise, we are usually not motivated by goals that are too easy to achieve. So, make sure your goals are a`stretch.'


Some athletes prefer Time Goals' (e.g., complete an Ironman Triathlon in under 11 hours). Others prefer Place Goals' (e.g., finish in the top 25% in my age group). Both have their pros and cons in terms of effectiveness.

Time Goals can be particularly powerful when you are comparing your performance on the same racecourse from one year to the next. On the negative side, weather and course conditions can vary greatly from year to year. These conditions, which are out of your control, can make the comparison less clear.

Place Goals can also be effective; however, they depend to a large extent on your competitors. Your success in meeting the goal may end up having more to do with who happens to show up at the race, than your actual level of performance. Because of this, I recommend both Time and Place Goals for each race. If you really want to assess your performance, it is likely that it will be most helpful to consider both.

For example: If severe rain, wind or heat conditions have generally caused the times for a particular race to be a half hour slower than last year, you may need to put more weight on your relative finish, to truly assess your performance. Likewise, if your placing in your age group in a particular race (under similar conditions) deteriorated from 2nd to 5th, but your time was ten minutes faster, it may be realistic to give more weight to your Time Goal.


In addition to your specific Race Goals, you may want to consider having overall Season Goals. The most common overall season goal I see as a coach is the goal of qualifying for The Hawaii Ironman. Typically an athlete who is serious about qualifying for Hawaii, will race in at least two Hawaii qualifiers in a season. These qualifiers are often our sport's most competitive races, so they wisely enter multiple qualifiers to maximize their chances of`Going to the show.'

This type of Season Goal is important to note, because for many athletes, they could miss several of their Race Goals, but if they achieve a major Season Goal (like make it to Kona!), the year is deemed a success. It is also important to note, that Season Goals are often more difficult to quantify than Race Goals, so be as specific as possible on these.


A great place to bring your goals together is on your race schedule. On your list of races for the coming season, write your specific goals after each race. This method makes for a much simpler process, and will help you to continually revisit your goals, as you recheck your race schedule throughout the season.

You may also want to list your three or four key Season Goals at the top of your race schedule, to really bring it all together in one place.



1. Qualify for The Hawaii Ironman
2. Establish a PR in each separate Ironman split (i.e., Swim, Bike, Run)
3. Help bring a new athlete into triathlon
4. Volunteer at a local race


1. Boston Marathon (4/15)-Goals: Set new Marathon PR and finish top 25% in AG
2. Gulf Coast-Half Ironman (5/11)-Goals: Sub 4:45 and finish top 15% in AG
3. Eagleman Blackwater-Half Ironman (6/9)-Goals: Sub 4:30 and top 10% in AG
4. Ironman USA (7/27)-Goals: Set New Ironman PR and finish top 10% in AG
5. Duathlon Nationals (8/31)-Goals: Set new Duathlon PR and finish top 25% in AG
6. Hawaii Ironman (10/19)-Goals: Enjoy the experience and finish top 50% in AG

Keep your race list and goals in places you are sure to revisit frequently. Consider posting copies in locations like: 1) your desk, 2) your training room, 3) the bathroom mirror, 4) the refrigerator, etc. This is important because you want your goals to be in the forefront of your thoughts, not`out of sight out of mind.' This kind of day-in and day-out focus will help make your stretch goals seem more and more attainable, as you work towards them.

I hope you find the above goal setting tips to be helpful. Train safe and may you achieve all of your goals in 2002!

Author's Bio: Don Fink is a top age group triathlete and multi sports coach. Don has competed in 18 Ironman races, with a personal best of 9:03. Don's 2001 highlights include age group (40-44) victories and course records at both Ironman USA and Ironman California. You can contact Don at 973-379 8884, <mailto:donfink@home.com>donfink@home.com, or visit his web site: <http://click.topica.com/maaafFqaaQVKwa3gRxEe/>www.donfink.com.