As you settle into a new season, you're starting to set goals and build race calendars. Goals are critical for success in any endeavor, especially triathlon. Coach Joe Friel makes this point very succinctly: "Goals should be event outcomes, not vague statements about your dreams of success. They should be well-defined by including one basic element: what exactly you want to achieve in given races."
This season, consider dividing your list of objectives into two categories: outcome-oriented and process-oriented goals. Outcome-oriented goals focus on highly-measurable results—absolute race time, place out of the water or a podium finish at end. We need these, but frequently the achievement lies partially out of our control. A strong tide, a heat wave, or the last-minute appearance of strong local competitors can quickly put them out of reach.
Process-oriented goals focus on how you performed during a specific race. They should be independent of external factors and be entirely within your control. They will also offer you the best chance of making your "A" races a success. Here are seven process-oriented goals to consider for the upcoming season. As always, it's best to develop a list like this in consultation with an experienced coach who can link these goals to your race plan and give you feedback throughout the year.
Draft the Entire Swim Leg
This may be the hardest goal on the list to achieve. You need to learn to sight easily and well. Pick the wrong feet to follow and you may find yourself taking the longest possible line to the finish. You also need the stamina to be able to drop one swimmer who tires and get behind a faster one in the middle of the swim.
In Practice: Use one swim session each week to practice sighting for at least five lengths of the pool. Also include a workout that focuses on building speed at the end of the session (i.e. 600 yd warm up, 5 X 200 yds, 10 X 100 yds, 400 yd cool down). If you can successfully draft other athletes, regardless of tides, waves or weather, your swim time should improve.
Cut Your Transition Time In Half
The average triathlete can take 30 seconds off of T1 and T2 by thoughtfully simplifying what happens behind the fence. No motion should be wasted. Touch items only once and leave excess gear behind.
In Practice: Unzip your wetsuit. Take off your cap and goggles next and hold in hand. Pull your sleeve down over your hand and leave the cap and goggles securely stuck in the sleeve. Learn to stomp off your wetsuit from a standing position. Forget socks if it's not a full Ironman. In T2, use speed laces on your shoes. Take advantage of the aid stations and only bring the nutrition you really need. Rehearse this ballet in your mind. Less motion easily converts to free speed.
Get In and Out of Your Cycling Shoes on the Bike
With tri-specific bike shoes, you can look like a pro with a little practice, even if you opt of the running start.
In Practice: Get used to the drill on your trainer first. Clip in the shoes. Open the tongue wide. Start pedaling with your feet on top of the shoes. When one foot reaches the top of the crank, stop, hold the strap on the back of the shoe and slide your foot in. Push the pedal down. Repeat on the other foot. Reverse the order when preparing to dismount. In the spring, try this on a flat stretch of road close to home.