When I meet with an athlete to begin our athlete/coach relationship, I have many questions about athletic background, general health, available training time and recent training in some form of a log.
I realize though that the most important question I ask is "a year from now, how will we know that we were successful?".
Of course, there are as many answers as there are athletes, but establishing the definition of success is important early on. For some athletes, the goals are easily quantifiable. They want to qualify for Boston, or break 3 hrs. in the NYC marathon. For others though, the outcome is dependent upon their competitors too, and it's equally important to discuss this fact. Both the rider that wants to upgrade to Cat 2 as well as, the triathlete that wants to win Mighty Hamptons are as dependent upon their competitors performance as the triathlete that want to Kona qualify.
We look at where we are in context of what it will likely take to achieve their goal and I try to encourage them to aspire to these parameters and to accept whatever outcome they get. For instance, if a 35-39 yr old male triathlete wants to win the AG in Blackwater Eagleman, he'll have to go about 29' in the Choptank, ride around 2:10 and run sub 1:26 if he can transition fast. We set about building fitness to achieve these feats, we perfect nutrition and hydration, then execute. We make the goal a pace for the swim and run and for the bike, we make our goal power based (we cannot control the weather which affects bike speed more than the others). If we pull off the above, he should be in contention, but you never can tell when some super-stud is going to smash your expectations and go sub 4:00.
I bring this up in hopes of inspiring athletes to set goals, to set hard to achieve goals, but to set goals that are in their control.