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Coaches Blog

How To Plan Your Next Race Season

This is the time of year when many races open registration and athletes begin planning the coming race season. With all the fantastic events on offer, it can be tough to know exactly how to plan your next race season.


While it can be exciting to pick fun races, it’s worth planning your race season to maximize your fitness and increase your chances of success. Here are some practical steps to help you create a quality race schedule for any season.


What’s Your Goal?

Start by identifying your season goal. Perhaps it’s finishing your first triathlon or century ride. Or maybe it’s getting a personal best time. Regardless of your goal, it’s essential to identify what you’d like to accomplish or experience to plan your race season accordingly.


If this isn’t your first season, what did you accomplish in the previous season? What would you like to build on and continue to improve?


Once you set your goals, there are a few other factors to consider:

  • Budget: how much money do you want to spend on race entry fees, travel, lodging, and other expenses associated with racing?

  • Schedule: what other life events or obligations do you need to factor into your training and race schedule? Do the races you’ve picked fit with other known dates?

  • Time to train: do you have the time to train for these events and set yourself up for success?


Setting one or two goals and identifying these factors can dramatically narrow down the list of races you’re considering. Answering the following question for each race on your list of possibilities can be helpful: “Why do I want to do this race, and what do I hope to experience or accomplish?”


Answering this question may help narrow your list of races. More importantly, it can help you “rank” the races in order of importance.


Identify Your A, B, and C Races

Now that you’ve narrowed your list of races, it’s time to identify your potential A, B, and C races.


“A Races” are events where you really want to have your best performance. Most of your training throughout the year focuses on building toward one or two A races.


“B Races” are more like test events leading up to your A race. You intend to dial in your nutrition, execution, or other aspects of your race in preparation for your A race. So, many athletes do enjoy good performances at their B races but use them to build toward their primary goal.


“C Races” are events you can do on any given day as a longer or harder training day. They shouldn’t disrupt your overall training schedule. Many coaches encourage athletes to insert C races at strategic points to keep the training interesting. Some athletes use C races as fun events with no particular goal. Other athletes use them to simulate higher-than-race-pace intensity.


When planning your race calendar, the most logical strategy is to identify one A race (two at the most). Then, work backward from that race, inserting B and C races to support that A race.


For example, if your goal is to complete your first IRONMAN distance triathlon, that race would be your A race. Your coach might encourage you to complete a 70.3-distance triathlon B race six to eight weeks before your A race as part of your preparation. To keep the training interesting and continue to build confidence, you may insert one or two sprint and Olympic-distance triathlons earlier in your training build as C races.


How many races are too many?

Every athlete is different, so there’s no “one-size-fits-all” answer to how many races one should do in a season. An experienced coach can help you weigh factors like your goals, fitness levels, and experience.


Some athletes thrive on a busy race schedule, while others prefer a lighter, more strategic race plan. With IRONMAN-distance races, most coaches advise athletes to focus on one or two per season unless they are very seasoned athletes who can handle high training volumes. For shorter events, it depends on your goals.


Many triathletes can race sprint or Olympic-distance triathlons every three or four weeks at the peak of the season. Cyclists can usually race every few weeks as well. Long-distance runners may require longer recovery times between endurance races since running is harder on the body.


Other Factors To Consider When Choosing Races

Every race has its own unique environment, advantage, and challenge. If you’re still trying to narrow down the races you want to do, here are a few other factors to consider:


Race timing: what time of year is the race? Will you need to do a lot of training indoors? If so, do you have the right equipment for this? For example, suppose you sign up for an April or May triathlon but live in a location that enjoys cold, snowy winters. In that case, you will probably be doing a lot of indoor cycling.


Does the course suit your strengths? Depending on your goals, choosing courses that cater to your strengths may be necessary. It might be wise to choose races with less elevation if you live in a very flat area and aren’t a strong climber. On the other hand, selecting courses with elevation or more technical climbing can give you an advantage if you are a powerful climber.


For triathletes, consider the swim: What types of swim conditions are you comfortable with? Ocean swims are quite different than freshwater swims. Will you have opportunities to familiarize yourself with the kind of swimming you’ll experience on race day?


Race location: If friends and family are eager to travel with you, it’s worth considering what else is near the race location. Is it a location everyone will be excited to visit? Are there activities for your support crew to enjoy while you’re racing?


Training buddies: If you often train with buddies, will they have a similar training schedule? Comparing potential race schedules with your training buddies can help ensure your training schedules overlap enough. It’s always more fun to do long endurance rides and runs together.


How A Coach Can Help

There are so many factors to consider when planning your upcoming race season. A coach can help you identify races that best match your abilities and goals. An experienced coach brings a wealth of knowledge about your personal fitness, accomplishments, and goals and insider knowledge about many races. Having a wise coach alongside you as you plan your race season can save valuable time, energy, and even money!


Experienced coaches can also help you set reasonably challenging goals for your upcoming season to avoid boredom or burnout.


The off-season is an ideal time to begin working with a coach. Head over to the Team MPI website to schedule your free coaching consultation!

 

Coach Gregg Edelstein is a certified USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach, an IRONMAN University Certified Coach, and a USA Cycling Level 3 Coach based in the greaterinto Boston area. Gregg offers his athletes insight on the principles of exercise, nutrition, sports psychology, and injury prevention, working to make them well-rounded and engaged athletes that share his passion for sport. Gregg can be reached at Greg@TeamMPI.com

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