When it comes to setting your racing goals simply remember your ABCs.
Before the season starts, identify the main races you want to target and prioritize those races using these ABCs:
A-priority races: The one to three most important races of the season. Training will be designed around these races to allow you to peak for them. Ideally, these will occur together in a two or three week time period; or, they may be separated by a few months or more.
B-priority races: Up to six races of lesser importance. These are races you want to do well at, but will not peak for. Training will be designed to give you a few days of rest prior to them, but not a complete taper as with the A-races you will peak for.
C-priority races: Races done as tests, hard workouts, experience, fun, etc. You will “train through” these races. Deciding whether or not to do one of these races may be left up to the week (or day) of the race.
As you head into a race, it’s good to have an idea of what you’re trying to accomplish. And it’s good to set your goals high. But unexpected things occur that may derail even the best laid plans for that perfect race. When that happens, do you have a backup plan? You will if you follow these ABCs of race goal setting:
A-goal: This is what you aim to accomplish under ideal conditions, assuming everything falls into place so you can race your best. This might be a time you want to hit.
B-goal: This is your backup plan in case those ideal conditions fail to materialize for your A-goal. Maybe you are targeting a PR for the course, but temperatures rise and make that goal unlikely. Or maybe you are simply not “on” that day. How will you define success under those conditions? This is your B-goal.
C-goal: When all else fails and you must toss your A and B-goals out the window, how will you salvage the effort so you can take away something worthwhile and useful from the experience? Maybe you simply want to finish the race even if you can’t hit your goal times. Or maybe, if you are no longer racing for a finishing time or place, you will use the rest of the race to focus on process goals to practice important skills—such as sticking to your nutrition/hydration plan or running between the aid stations.
Having different levels of goals for your race will ensure that your racing experience is not an all or nothing affair. Although we always begin a race aiming for that A-goal, it may not always happen. After all, if you always hit your A-goals, maybe you aren’t setting them high enough. But rather than getting demoralized because you see that A-goal slipping away, having B and C-goals to fall back on will allow you to stay motivated and turn even the most miserable experiences into successes in their own right.