Each year we go through the same situation in which we have to start planning our next season sometimes even before we finish our current season and all because nowadays most races sell out months in advance. (Or even a year if you are racing and Ironman brand race)
Sometimes this makes our off-season a bit stressing because we are forced to begin thinking about the goals that we would like to accomplish next year, and this might lead us to begin our training too early or just rush into some decisions like committing for a race we might not have the adequate time to get ready for. By the way, I hope you read my previous post about the off-season and its importance, hence by now you already took some time off or are in the middle of doing so! Anyway, even though there are many ways to plan a racing season, here are just a few suggestions that might help you making a better decision.
Choosing the distance
The first thing you should determine, it should be the distance that you want to focus on as your main event (also called your A race but I’ll explain more below). Some athletes get allured by the Ironman (IM) distance for different reasons and for them it represents the ultimate physical challenge. Yet, even when it is a great challenge to tackle indeed; in my opinion many jump into it too early in terms of their fitness level (but that is another topic for another post). My point is that it is very common for many people to have an IM as the goal and main focus for a season and all training should revolve around that. Of course, for a beginner the focus might be a sprint distance as their first race while for others the Olympic (Oly) distance or the Half-Ironman (HIM) might be the focus. But the distance will determine how many months you should expect spend training leading up to the race.
It is important to keep in that mind that unless you are a seasoned athlete with at least a few training/racing seasons under your belt, it will take time for you to develop the necessary aerobic base to race long distance events, and this will take hours and hours of training. If your main goal is to perform at your very best for the main event, you’ll need to consider that the longer the race, the more time you will need to spend training. In other words, make sure that when you hit the submit button when signing up for long distance race, you do so fully aware of the time you will spend training and how it will affect other aspects of your life such as work, family, friends, etc.
What is an A, B or C race?
An A race is the event for which you will focus 100% of your training in hopes to achieve your peak performance on that given day. Depending on your fitness level, years in the sport and time available for training/recovering you might be able to schedule up to two A races during a twelve month period. With the right planning, you should be able to achieve peak for both, but shooting for more than that might not be a good idea because it is not possible to maintain a peak fitness level throughout the year and because we need to recover.
These are just some of the things you might want to consider when choosing an A race.
· A distance that you would like to conquer; such as transitioning from Olympic to HIM or HIM to IM.
· Another could be a local, regional, national or world championship such as qualifying for ITU Worlds, USAT regional Championship or qualifying for Kona.
· Another could be to pick an event in which you want to improve your previous personal best or win/place in your Age Group
· Yet another option cold be to chose a race in a place you would like to visit or make a vacation our of it with the family or friends and this could be either domestic or overseas; in particular today that we have with so many cool options all over the world.
Once you define or A race(s) then you can add other races; these include B or C races which are events in which should have a particular goal to fit within the big picture (your A race) but for those races you won’t be in top shape due to the training periodization.
B races are not as important as A races but they have a particular place in the schedule. Maybe it is a race that you want to do particularly well in some aspect of the race such as pushing a bit harder on the swim, test pacing for the bike or shoot to post a fast run. But because of workload from weeks of training and the lack of taper/recover for this particular event you shouldn’t expect to perform at your very best. If your focus is long distance triathlons (HIM/IM) B races should be shorter than your A race because usually this races required an extended recovery time.
Once you selected some B races, then you can add C races; these are not as important as B races and usually they are scheduled right in the middle of the training plan, in other words, there is no or just a very short tapering/recovery scheduled for this particular event. It is normal to use this type of events as part of a high intensity session for the week, as part of an overload week or to test/practice something specific. I often recommend to my guys to choose a few ‘fun’ C races which they can use to race with family/friends (maybe a 5K or as part of a tri-relay) or just for the social aspect of it rather than the competitive side. The reason is that we tend to have long training and racing seasons and having some fun C races in the schedule it can help as a mental break.
Don’t race to train; train to race!
It is important to remind you that the majority of your races should have a specific role within your annual training plan leading to your A race, other wise you might be risking to hit your peak at the wrong time and/or get your big event too tired or worst: unprepared. As my coach Kurt Perham says: “don’t race to train, train to race!” In other words, don’t cram your schedule with races just because you can and particularly don’t mistake this for training. When we race often, we tend to push our bodies harder than we would during a regular training session, hence we might be inducing unnecessary fatigue and end up spending more time recovering than training. Also if we often push our bodies hard, without having the necessary base or we haven’t produced the required training adaptations, we might be exposing ourselves to injuries, and all this will make our training very inconsistent. And consistent training is what usually separates the fast from the no so fast.
And that’s it… pretty simple hey? :) The next thing you will have to consider is how to set up your annual training plan (ATP) which is just an outline for the weeks/months you will need to spend training before the A race. As I mentioned above, your A race distance will determine how many weeks you should focus on your training in order for you to achieve peak performance on that given day!
Next time I’ll briefly discuss some simple ways to set this up and what should be just some of the things you should consider. Happy training!