Planning a race season

If you know me, you know that I’m a type A individual. I might drive some of my friends nuts because I feel the need to organize everything. However, it’s a huge advantage to me as an athlete and coach in many respects. One of which being race season planning. The increasing popularity of triathlon is forcing athletes to register earlier and earlier in order to ensure a spot. But, some strategic planning needs to go into what your season is going to look like before you max out the credit card. Start with your major goal for the season and be specific. From there analyze what races 1) play to your strengths and 2) allow for ample training and recovery time. I’ll use my 2017 plan as an example.

The major goal

My goal is to qualify for Kona. I’ve always believed that goals should be multi-faceted and have quantitative and qualitative elements. My #questforkona is at the forefront but there are other important goals for 2017. As an athlete returning from an injury, staying healthy is number one. But I also have targets for my swim, bike and run times at the 70.3 and 140.6 Ironman distances. A coach can help you drive into the specificity of the goal and create smaller goals that will build upon each other to achieve the bigger picture.

 A, B and C Races

The concept of “A, B, and C races” is thrown around a lot in the triathlon world. It’s a simple way to prioritize your race season. “A races” are those that you’ll direct training towards. Most athletes will have between 1-4 A races depending on how long your season is. For me, I have three A races this year: 70.3 Chattanooga, 70.3 World Championships, and Ironman Louisville 140.6. Plan your A races first and then distribute your B and C races. When selecting A races, decisions should be heavily weighted by timing and race environments. You need both. Pick races that suit your strengths. Pick races that allow solid recovery and training time.

Coeur d’Alene was my initial thought for 2017. After discussing the season with my coach, we decided that it wasn’t the best choice even though the timing was ideal. Coeur d’Alene’s bike course consists of long climbs followed by long descents. When it comes to descending, I’m extremely aggressive but I wouldn’t consider myself to be a climber. My strength is rolling hills. Louisville became the best option again. It’s a fall race giving me plenty of time to spread several races across the season while still creating strong training blocks with plenty of recovery. As a bonus, every part of the course lends itself to my strengths.

“B races” are those that you want to do well in but they aren’t the major goal of the season. Instead, they should contribute to reaching success in your A race. I’ll be competing in the Wisconsin Tri Series in the elite division. There are six triathlons throughout the summer in various parts of the state. I’ve lost a lot of the speed I once had in college when I switched to endurance triathlon. Regaining and translating some of that speed to long course with these high intensity, hour-and-change races is going to be highly beneficial.

You leave the watch at home for your “C races.” These are fun events that support your training but there aren’t any performance objectives. Open water swims, charity bike rides, random 5ks. Although C races are meant for pure enjoyment, you still need to consider the timing and if it’s going to affect your training or recovery block.

Planning by the numbers

The chart below outlines my racing season. The races and dates to the left. The recovery time for all of the races and Louisville to the right. Because the Wisconsin Tri Series is being utilized to support my major goal, there are only a span of 2-3 weeks between each race. These races will be used in conjunction with the remainder of my training to develop speed and the mental capacity to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. On the opposite side of the spectrum, there are almost 2 months between each of my A races. This is going to allow for sufficient recovery after an A race, followed by a 6 to 8-week training block.Planning a race season.png

The key to planning success

Before you start planning, take the time to truly define your major goal. It can be qualitative, quantitative or both. But it must be specific. Once it’s defined, begin looking at races that play to your strengths and allow you to train smart. Filter the rest from there. We’re well into the off season, it’s time to fine-tune that racing schedule and get to work. For help planning your race season, shoot me an email at Amanda.marek@gmail.com

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