Athletes race for different reasons, and they often finish feeling disappointed and unsatisfied with their accomplishments. Can you make a better job of defining success?
Goal-setting experts tell us we need to set “SMART” goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound). While this is generally excellent advice, most athletes sadly choose to view these guidelines through the prism of outcome-based goals, instead of embracing the far more fulfilling process-oriented goals.
For example, when asked to list their top goals for an upcoming race, most will answer, finish in the top 10 in my age group, break a certain time or average a certain swim, run or cycle speed.
Rarely do you hear “I want to arrive early to the race site to avoid any anxiety,” or “I want to stay focused on a key element of my swim stroke.”
It is worth noting that many of these popular outcome-based goals can easily be compromised by race conditions such as heat and wind, poorly marked courses or the competition that day. Comparing your times from flat and fast to hot and hilly is not likely to lead to feeling successful. Defining success properly for yourself starts long before the gun goes off at your next race. Begin by establishing process goals for your training, such as:
I will wake up 30 minutes earlier three days a week to do valuable core work.
I’ll train with friends more often.
I’ll avoid processed sweets on weekdays in order to help reach a more effective race weight.
- I will keep of the alcohol six days week.
Then, as you approach your next key race, make a realistic assessment of your fitness and race preparedness based upon the actual training you’ve achieved. Use recent time trials, practice races and previous race experience in order to craft a winning pacing strategy reflective of that fitness.
Stay in your own bubble and don’t let other racers distract you from your race plan. Unless you are competing for the overall win, age-group racing is essentially a really long solo time trial with the goal of completely exhausting your fitness at the finish line.
If you do that, and execute your race plan with only a few minor hiccups along the way, then you will have had a very successful race. You may just be pleasantly surprised at the time on the clock and your age group placing as a result.