So many times at the end of the summer we can find ourselves with our “A” race behind us and no big races in our future before the end of the year, yet the desire is still there to train hard in the remaining good weeks of weather before the winter is upon us.
This very thing has happened this year to my wife and I, along with a couple of athletes that we coach. For a number of reasons, our seasons were interrupted and we were unable to race our target “A” races early in the summer. Our fitness is now improving as we come to late summer and we would like to race a late season race to anchor some solid training in August, September and October. Some of our other athletes had unsatisfying races in late June and July as well. The good news is there are many quality races in October and November that have not yet sold out that one can target as an ideal late season race.
How to Pick a Late Season Race
I personally think that late season half Ironman distance can be an ideal distance to set as an anchor for the final push for ones’ best fitness. More important than the distance, I think an extremely important aspect of our racing is the social side. My wife and I try to pick a late season race that we can go and do with other folks that we like to socialize with and see at the races. This adds a lot of fun to the whole experience with the opportunity to recon the course with friends in the days before the race, group swims at the swim venue and then the socializing post-race. This is by far my favorite part of racing! Additionally, by keeping the training volume to a moderate level you can keep things fun and not feel forced into a six hour ride.
The biggest challenge you will likely face when targeting a late season race is as you get closer to the race, the weather can turn a bit cooler and the days continue to get shorter. The obvious answer is to dress appropriately for the conditions. Pull out your arm warmers and vest to stay warm. Your mental attitude is also critical. Rather than being upset about the passing of summer, embrace the changing season. Enjoy the changing leaves and crisp fall air.
The next challenge is being forced indoors for key efforts. When the weather gets too cold, or when there just isn’t enough daylight, you’ll have to move back indoors. This can be tough mentally after months of riding and running outside. This is one of the reasons I embrace a half Ironman distance or shorter. When forced onto the trainer, you are not staring at a 4 hour trainer ride or a 2.5 hour treadmill run.
Use Friends as Motivators
One thing that can be fun in a late season race if you have a bunch of your friends racing with you is to set little side competitions outside of the confines of normal podiums and age group placing. I like to motivate my buddy who struggles with his swim to set a personal best. My buddy and I have a competition to see if he can finish the swim within 7 minutes of me, which would be a great swim for him. Conversely, he is a better runner than me and the competition is similar as we will see if I can stay within four minutes of him on the run split. You can pair it up and have a husband and wife combined competition. If you have more than two couples, you can do a combined time competition to see which couple will beat the other few couples with the reward being they don’t have to pitch in for dinner after the race. Make the competitions with your group fun, fruitful and motivating. Lastly, if you have athletes who are new to the sport, you can motivate them by having a competition to see who has the biggest improvement in time from their former personal best and then celebrate their achievement after the race with a small award from the rest of the group. All of these small competitions can make the race really fun for the group. These little races inside the race gives everyone motivation to do their best on race day.
Try Something New
I have used late season races to try new things. There is an old axiom about nothing new on race day, but I have broken this rule in a late season race to try new gear, new nutrition and a host of other things, knowing that my focus on the race is to have fun and bring the season to a proper close.
My goal in our sport is to always keep the primary focus of our training and racing on health and wellness. With that theme, setting a late season race as a goal for not only yourself but your friends can be a lot of fun and can inspire you to lay down some of your best training thus far in your season!