Do I really need a goal event or race?


I am often asked by people how to get in shape or get motivated to train. I always respond that setting a goal is important to keep motivated. However, I define setting a goal as not merely “losing weight” or “getting fit.” Goals need a bit of specificity to them to have any motivational aspect to them.

That leads me to my second point. “Losing 15 pounds” is a very specific goal, but it lacks the ability to follow-up on it. I mean, you can only continue to lose weight to a certain point. It’s the same as a goal distance for cycling or running. Additionally, the timeframes for any of those can be moved around with relative ease, reducing the accountability of it. Now, I’m not saying that you can’t set goals like those I mentioned, but I have found them to be less firm.

My favorite way to do it, and the way many people I have coached have had success, is to pick a race and set a goal that is specific to that race. It could simply be completing the race. Or, it could be doing it in a desired time. I shy away from setting a placing goal or winning the event unless you know that you are competitive in it. For @cullenac’s Garron, he could set a goal of winning his age group in an Ironman event because he is that level. The problem is that he can’t control how other people race and who shows up. If Jan Frodeno were in Garron’s age group retired from being a pro and showed up to race, that would be a tough break for Garron, and he would have no shot at achieving his goal.

The real reason I like using races/events for goal setting is that it is easy to springboard to the next goal. If the goal was to complete your first Gran Fondo metric century, you could immediately set the next goal of the Gran Fondo imperial century. Or, you could target the same race or event the next year and try to better your time.

There are a million ways to set goals, and different ones work better for different folks. As you set your goals for 2019, take a look at whether they are terminal goals or whether they are ones upon which you can build for later in the year or into 2020. In an earlier post, we put down some of our goals for the year, but some (like mine) were a bit lacking in detail. I need to lay out my race schedule to target my goals for instance. How did you guys go about setting your goals for 2019?


Last year was exactly as you mentioned, Ian: race distance, time, and for a specific event. It was pretty successful. This year, my goal is similar, except I don’t have a specific time in mind because the event is so mercurial. It is an event that can be dry and 10 degrees, or it can be a blizzard. Also, the distance changes based on a number of factors. My goal is an overall “place” goal. And though I can’t control who will show up, it’s a big race and my chances of placing high are “nil” which mitigates against the "Jan Fredano Effect. So, my goal–definitely not as quantifiable as last year’s–is to show up as prepared as possible on 7-8 hours a week and try to kick ass. 10% more ass than I kicked the last time I raced this event five years ago. :wink:


Do you ever set pace (or power) goals only for a race? I suspect that might be more applicable in Triathlon. But not sure.

In prior years I found myself setting power goals for gravel races. But in hindsight that probably did not make much sense. The goal should really be to spend the least amount of energy while achieving performance objectives. I’m not sure what to target this year in all honestly. So for the first race I’m going to try and stay with the lead group and see how I do. Based on the first big gravel race results I will adjust my expectations for the year. But deep down I want to hold 300w for 3 hours in one of these races.


First - I have to have goals or goal races to stay motivated and to stick to my plan.

Second - I always have goals for my races. Whether it be general like “Race my own race” or in a half marathon adhering to my pace plan. I also usually have time goals. Such as, I want to run a 1:38 today. Or I want to break 60 minutes in a 40k TT.

I rarely ever have goals such as 1st, 2nd or 3rd…one, I’m just not that fast and two, I agree with Ian’s comments on not knowing who’s showing up that day. I have in the past raced with good friends and had an unstated goal that I would beat them. Or if sharing a long climb with peers wanting to be the first to the top. But, that’s just the competitive nature of myself showing up.


I love this!

“If Jan Frodeno were in Garron’s age group retired from being a pro and showed up to race, that would be a tough break for Garron, and he would have no shot at achieving his goal.”

yea that would be a sucky race start emotion LOL

I set races as goals, and i have a rough time in mind IF i know the race venue and terrain. i write down the goals, e.g. 29th June ironman 70.3 is my A race, then may plot some less important build races (with big gaps between), some road running or triathlons for example along the way. But for me personally i prefer to race less and train consistently…

I think about the A race and set realistic and challenging race time for each split. e.g. <35 min swim, < 2:50 bike and <150 run and also my transitions which are terrible. i am an over thinker who gets stuck in her wetsuit… sometimes i get braver with the run time when i know the course. it is a case of put it out there on paper… what i could do on a great day to test me knowing that many things can get in the way. Idealism and realism in one i guess!

then i forget about it. and dont really look at it again until after the race!

I write my SWOT analysis, the areas i want to build on and the weak spots i wish to improve and i focus on the process. day by day… race day will happen no matter what and MAY work out… or may not… but i give it my everything by focusing on the process knowing that i have set myself a challenging goal that is actually a little out of my control but good to chase.

clearly i am conflicted to really chase big (self belief needs work; but also i dont want the race to mean everything to the detriment of my health and balance), yet smart enough to challenge myself!

this year i am in a funk… my goals need a roll of good health first to put in place… so day by day is my current goal… build on the belief that I will come back strong and to full health.

Good topic @Coach_Ian i do believe we need goals. I set goals every day for my day!


I don’t set power goals until much closer to the race. Then, I have an idea of what I can hold. Even then, I don’t really consider it a goal. I consider that a race plan. Besides, it is always a fine balance between pushing on the bike but conserving enough energy for the run. That is my strength. I’d much rather give away a minute or two on the bike, knowing that I’ll probably take five on the run.

Deep down, @dfriestedt, I would also like to hold 300W for the bike leg of a 70.3 triathlon. I also want to be able to dunk on a 10’ basketball goal and go dancing with Shakira. Neither of those are very likely to occur, either.


because the hips don’t lie? :stuck_out_tongue::joy::rofl: @Coach_Flo @MitchD @Coach_Theia


Paging Ruby to the thread


She knows that Shakira is her only real threat…but, Shakira has kids, so she’s off my list unless she leaves the kids with Pique. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


Race? Still makes me laugh. I have participated in a few on Zwift and I think once was not last lol. I did have great fun. My goals are to usually feel good with strong efforts and maybe hang with some longer on our local `group rides.


Oh- I’ve been there racing on zwift. Welcome to back of the pack… ha ha ha.
Some of my goals:

  1. Try new events to keep me out of my comfort zone

  2. At one gravel event my goal was to not walk any of
    the climbs

  3. Learn how to ride steeper drops in mountain biking

  4. At one mtb Trail there are 8 wall crossings. My goal is to ride all 8. I’ve made it over 6 of 8 in one ride.


Yeah, the title should have been goal event instead of race. Really, it is simply to give you something on which you can focus your training and develop a little specificity.


Thanks @Coach_Ian
As an aside, I did a D race on Zwift yesterday and was not last. I was 5 of 8 and 2 of the 5 that were in the 0-2.5 w/kg range. I found I need to find a way to practice when to “go” on my sprint at the end. However, that means I need to be able to stay with a group until the end - yesterday was successful at that. I had a faster sprint than the lady ahead of me and was advancing but just behind her at the finish. Just went too late. Great fun a and great training and learning.


Last year my goal was to finish every event I entered… I didn’t want to get too hung up on times as I was entering events I’d never done before. My main event was 100 miles and I was really pleased to find I completed it in around 6:15
This year I’ve plugged a few events in to the diary and have a 100 miler in May - again it’s on a course and in an area I’ve never ridden before so will be hard to set a time goal; under 6hrs would be awesome but as I don’t yet know the course and amount climbing it’s tricky to know if that’s achievable. So what I will aim for is riding every hill ( there were a couple of events last year where I had to all the steepest sections), actually pushing myself on the hills rather than ‘slowly cruising up’ and seeing if I can beat my speed record on the descents :grin: [cue the Top Gun music… “I feel the need, the need for speed”]


Top Gun! The 80s was the best decade ever!! That makes sense, Michelle. Also, on event day there are lot of other variables- temperature, wind, etc. Also as you know by now, nutrition and hydration play a big role.

Look at the course profile ahead of time so you can pace yourself. Also check how many rest stops they have and decide which ones you will hit.