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As one year closes and another one starts, many athletes start planning their 2019 racing season. (If they haven’t already.) That short-list of A races may come with goals: set a marathon PR, get an age-group win, qualify for the Duathlon World Championships.

As you imagine your best year ever, review your goals. Are they S.M.A.R.T.? Commonly used in the business world, S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting ensures your goals aren’t just fuzzy someday ideas. They’re goals that bring results.

Here’s how to set S.M.A.R.T. goals, retooled for athletes: single-sport and multisport.


Set specific goals. Instead of, “I should drink more water,” try, “I will drink at least eight 8 oz. glasses of water per day.”

For your race plan, that might look like this:

• I plan to compete in at least three local duathlons this year.
• I will start training for the Quicksilver 50K in March 2019.
• I will qualify for Powerman Zofingen 2020.
• I will replace the batteries in my PowerTap pedals.

(Yes, those are a few of my 2019 goals and one task.) And notice the affirmative language. Will, not should or maybe or try. Remember the wise words of Yoda: There is no tri. Only du or du not. (play on words is mine!)


How will you track your goal? How will you know you’ve accomplished your goal? If you plan to run your first half marathon, you can track your training. You’ll know you’ve achieved your goal when you cross the finish line.

If your goal is to raise your FTP by 20 watts by June, you’ll know you’re on track by performing a 10- or 20-minute FTP tests. (Here’s a book about training with power.) You’ll know you’re there via a test in June and/or with a time trial on the roads.

The goal of “get faster on the bike” is less specific and measurable, and therefore less effective.


Set challenging but achievable goals. In 2005 and 2006, I ran the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon in 1:38 and change. For 2007, I wanted to best that time. I settled on sub-1:36. I didn’t know if I could hold a faster pace for 13.1 miles, but I thought if I put in the work, maybe. I finished in 1:34:32.

Had I set my goal at sub-1:20, my mind would have said, “no f     ing way.” Set goals that get you excited, but aren’t rooted in fantasy. I know I’ll never race fast enough to get a pro card, so it would be silly to set that as a goal. To aim for All-American in my age group is challenging, but realistic with dedicated training.


Choose goals that matter to you. You’re investing 10, maybe 15 hours a week into your sport(s). Set goals that you’re passionate about.

Don’t set a goal just because your riding partner set the goal. Even if you want to beat him in a race for the first time ever, don’t set “beat Jim” as your goal. Keep your goals focused on your own performance. Consider sailing past him in the second run of a duathlon an added benefit.


Similar to Specific, make sure your goals have a time frame. “I will do x by x date.” Setting a time-specific goal increases the likelihood you’ll achieve it. It also helps you stay on track along the way.

Races are naturally time-bound, which is why they’re popular entries on athletes’ goal lists.

According to U.S. News & World Report, only 20 percent of people who make New Year’s resolutions stick with them past February. Be like these outliers and set SMART goals for your 2019 racing season.

What are your goals for 2019? Let us know in the comments below!

(Photo courtesy of Richard Matthews, Flickr)