The best way to guarantee success is to plan for it. Choosing the right A-priority race(s) and lead-up events can have a major impact on your goal achievement. There are a variety of reasons why athletes choose their races, ranging from destination to social aspects to distance goals. Whatever your reasons are for choosing specific races, be sure that your key races and buildup are in line with your season goals. Use this road map to help you plan an epic race season this year.
Define Your Goals for the Season
You may have short-term goals that are achievable within the next few months and long-term goals that may take a few years to accomplish. Keep these objectives in mind as you start to think about adding races to your calendar. Each event on your schedule should help get you closer to your big goal.
Select One or Two Races as Your ‘A’ Events
Events you select as A-priority are the races that you will focus on throughout the year to achieve your goal time, placing, qualification, etc. Since these events require build, peak, and recovery periods within your training schedule, it is important to consider timing.
Be sure that you have enough time to build your fitness appropriately and adequately for what you are trying to achieve. The amount of time needed for an adequate buildup will depend heavily on your current fitness. You should allow for a minimum of 17 weeks for a key short-course event and 23 weeks for a key long-course event.
Consider your work schedule, family obligations, ability to travel (i.e., how far are you willing to go for a key race), time of year (will you be able to train outdoors, get into the open water, etc.), and potential weather during the race.
Next, consider the course profile of races that fall into your time window. For example, if you are a strong swimmer, seek out races with ocean swims or a slight current. If you are a weak swimmer, look for calm lake swims with staggered starts. Think about your strengths and weaknesses in each event and look for courses that accommodate more of your strengths. If you are sensitive to climate or elevation changes, take this into consideration when making your final decision. Realistically, you will not find a race that is perfect for you in all areas. The key is to weigh all the factors that could affect your performance and choose a race that comes out in your favor.
Select Your B- and C-Priority Races
Once you have identified your A race(s), start to look at races that will help you build up to that event. These events allow you to practice different pacing or nutrition strategies before you get to the big show. If you are new to triathlon, these events can give you racing experience and help you build confidence going into a big race. These events are also great for evaluating your training and identifying areas where you may need more work. These races are known as B- or C-priority events.
Your B-priority races are best scheduled three to six weeks out from your A race. You should have a pretty solid base fitness at that point so that you will able to perform reasonably well and get a good assessment of what kind of work you still need. I like to schedule B races at the end of a down week in the schedule. This allows for less interruption in your build into your A race as well as allowing you to unload a bit of fatigue before the event.
Races categorized as C-priority are treated as supported workouts. These events are more for experience and practice than results. I like to use C races as single event time trials, pacing practice, nutrition experimentation, mental practice, etc. These events can be added in at the last minute or planned ahead of time.
While you may still be concerned with results in your B races, your C races are more about the process than the outcome. You should not expect to earn a personal record in a C priority event, but you should expect to learn a lot about how you race and how your body responds in different scenarios.
The Big Picture
Finally, take a step back and look over the entire schedule as a whole. Look for important factors such as scheduling concerns and travel issues. Once you have fine-tuned your race schedule, register for your A- and B-priority races and get them set on your calendar. Allow for some flexibility with your C-priority events and consider waiting to register late if you can. This will allow you to consider how your training is going at various points in your schedule so that you can decide if adding in another race is beneficial or not.
While racing is great experience and you can learn a lot from a ‘bad’ race, sometimes the appropriate choice is not to race. Always consider your overall objective and where you want to be at the end of the season. Plan for success and you will be set on the road to achieving your dreams.