From The Coaches: Goal Setting

If you’ve done The Sufferfest Mental Training Program, you know that goal setting is the foundation of mental toughness and having a clear plan of action is essential to any undertaking. After all, you have to know where you want to go in order to know how you’re going to get there.

When setting a goal, you should consider the following:

  • Whether or not you can control the outcome (for the most part…excluding things like mechanicals or bad weather conditions). For example, setting a time goal is more effective than a position goal like winning your age group because you can’t control who your competitors will be, what they do on event day or how outside factors play into the results.
  • Is it specific and measurable? What is the time or distance that you’re trying to achieve?
  • What is your timeline? When do you want to accomplish it?
  • Is it realistic? What will it take to accomplish it?
  • What is the significance of this goal? Why did you choose it, why is it personally important to you?
  • What motivates you to work for this success?

Keep in mind that you can’t directly control the accomplishment of the goal, it’s the end result of other things you have to do, which is where the next two types of goals come into play:

Performance Goals- What benchmarks do I need to achieve along the way in order to set me up well to achieve the outcome goal?

Process Goals- What actions and behaviors do I need to perform daily in order to keep me focused and on track to be successful long term?

So now define your outcome goal.
What is your main target or what do you want to accomplish?

  • For example, to finish the “America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride” (Around Lake Tahoe in CA & NV) under five hours.

Define your performance goals.
For the example above, related behavior goals would be:

  • Commit to a training plan that is appropriate for your event, such as The Sufferfest’s Hilly Gran Fondo plan.
  • To be able to climb 1,000ft per hour of riding

Define your process goals:

  • Keep a training log
  • Refuel and recover to the best of your ability after each training session
  • Focus on quality nutrition and sufficient sleep each day in order to have the most successful training sessions

This process works for personal goals and challenges as well, such as the Everesting Challenge, Knighthood, or a well-known local bike loop or mountain bike trail that you’ve never done. Whatever it may be, use these steps to define your goals, write them down, and share them with others. These actions will motivate you to stay on track and forge ahead throughout your journey when obstacles arise. What are your goals for the remainder of this year? Please leave a comment and let us know!


Prior to the whole coronavirus thing, I had the goal of competing in my first proper season on road racing. I found it tough to define the goal in a specific and measurable way ie I could select a race, but no idea what sort of placing could be achievable, but otherwise how do I define it as a measurable goal? Any help appreciated!

Hi @Alistair_Brown,
Thanks for your question! When it’s your first go at something, it can be hard to break down the measureable aspects because you just don’t know what you can do or what to expect. You could take it one race at a time and adapt the goal after each event. For your first race, it could be something very simple, like keeping your energy levels up by eating and drinking consistently so you don’t bonk. To measure that, first you must start with a fueling plan, then afterwards you could look at your performance data to see if your HR or power files showed any dips or spikes, and consider how you felt as well. Did you lose concentration and get caught in a crash, or did you feel like you hit a brick wall and couldn’t maintain your effort, etc.
I know we said not to set outcome goals based on finishing position, but there’s nothing wrong with using position for performance goals (like finishing in the top half of the field, or whatever is appropriate for you) to look for trends in your progress. If you end up wanting to move up to a higher Category, you’ll need to track finishing positions and set some goals to move up in the field anyway. As you do that, just try to keep a broader sense of how well you’re executing YOUR race, rather than where you finish. Trying different strategies and/or how you respond to events that happen mid-race could be part of that.
Hope that helps, and best of luck!


I’ve used the MTP a number of times and fully and loudly credit it for helping me to achieve things I never would have even tried. 1st time was to become a Knight. Most recently it has been to engage in this crazy thing called Everesting that since CoVid has become a bit of a contest amongst the Pro’s but really has nothing to do with smashing records and beating others. Like Knighthood, Everesting is such a personal thing. It’s you against yourself. There is no time limit, no power minimum it just has to be one activity with no sleep (though there are versions of it that allow for that too). I succeeded in my first Everesting virtually on a replica of Alpe d’Huez in November last year in “that other place”. Tried a second virtual one on a much shorter segment (Leith Hill) and bailed with only 1000 odd metres to go in December and did a redemption version of it at the end of May. I have now done 2 vEverestings, 1 vBasecamp (half Everest) and am planning on completing an IRL Everesting in just over a couple of weeks on a very very short local hill near my house. The MTP has kept me laser focused on these goals as well as taught me that I need to be working towards a goal at all times or I fall in to a funk. So, even though I haven’t yet completed my current goal, I am already thinking of the next one once I do. I’ve found the tools of the MTP soooo incredibly helpful and am very very grateful to SUF for developing it.


Wow, what a great testimonial, thanks for sharing, @Glen.Coutts! And keep up the good work!


Thanks Coach!

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This is a great article and clearly demonstrates the massive benefit of training through Sufferfest.
In my case, my motivation to commence structured training this year, was my very average performance in my first big sportive last year. - the Sean Yates Spring Classic. I started out too strong, ran out of steam, cramped and came home in a disappointing time. I achieved my objective for the day - but I had set my self a modest target for my first event.
Since then, I have completed the Hilly Gran Fondo 12 week plan and after a summer break, am now embarking on my second 12 week plan. My FTP has increased by 30 watts and my understanding of myself as a mature cyclist has grown. Armed with a sensible pacing and fuelling strategies, I am targeting a Gold standard time for my age group next Spring (assuming it runs). This would require me to reduce my overall time by about 45 mins, over the 100km / 1600m course. Do you think this is a realistic target ?
This is an excellent article and is indicative of the benefits of the MTP on Sufferfest, which has allowed me to apply goal setting to my cycling. However, I need to improve my use of weekly targets and weekly reviews in order to best optimise my training. Thank you.

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Hi @Derek,
I’m glad you’ve been able to take some useful info from this post. It sounds like you’ve improved as a cyclist, both physically and mentally, and are well on your way to having much better performances. Ultimately, you’re the only one who really knows if reducing your overall time by 45 mins is realistic, since we don’t know you personally. I don’t think there’s too much harm in setting that goal if you think there’s a chance you can meet it. The only real risk is that if you don’t achieve it, you’ll be disappointed. And that’s not the worst thing! I say Go for it!
Good luck!