This is it! 2020 is your year to shine! You made it through the first few months of the new year and Spring is on the horizon. You finally decided to channel your energy and have your personal moment of victory in the soon to be shining sun! Whether that means conquering your first 5k, crossing a race off your bucket list, breaking 3 hours in a marathon or tackling a full Ironman, you’ve made the commitment, pulled out the credit card and signed your name on the dotted line for that one race. Now what? Sign up for more races of course!
Creating a “race season” around a goal race can offer a number of benefits.
Participating in a number of other events prior to your “A” race allows you to check your growth and calibrate your training accordingly. For example, I have set a goal time for an upcoming multi-sport race that will require a sub 26 minute 5k. So, I will build a number of races of that distance into my schedule for the year. If I am unable to come close to that goal time for the run, I may need to add more speedwork to my training or try to improve my swim times to compensate.
If you have never done the distance of your goal race, crossing the line at shorter distance events can provide assurance that you will reach your goal. If you can find shorter events that use a similar course this will increase your odds of success even more. While this can be difficult to do for some races, in Chicago, it’s pretty easy to find multiple events that use variations of the same course at multiple distances.
Adjusting to Race Conditions
It’s one thing to swim endless laps in a pool or lace up the shoes for a long Sunday morning run. It’s quite another to do the same thing in a literal sea of humanity! Participating in events leading up to your goal race allows you to acclimate to the washing machine that is the start of a mass swim or learn jostle and find your pace among hundreds of other runners.
Testing Your Gear
It is the cliche addressed in just about every article: “try nothing new on race day.” While truer words were never spoken, trying something new during a one of your “test events” leading up to race day can be important to make sure that that new hydration system or inflation kit works properly under the pressure of event conditions.
Dialing in Nutrition
Making sure your body is properly fueled on race day is just as important as the miles you put in during those hard training blocks. However, if you have not practiced your nutrition plan under race conditions, it can be difficult to remember to stick to it on the big day. And if you’ve never taken in food or water on the run or pedaling the bike, the last thing you want is to be struggling to consume the nutrients you need to get to the finish line.
The races you choose to add to your season before your main event should give you opportunity to garner these benefits and more. But which races should you choose? That depends entirely on your goal.
If this is to be your first or fastest 5k, maybe find some one mile races or some “fun” non-chip timed events in which to participate.
If your race is longer than a 5k, add a few shorter distance races that will give you perspective into how training is going. I will often work races into my training block. For example, if I have an upcoming 13 mile Sunday long run, I may find a local half marathon to join instead. This gives me an opportunity to simultaneously gauge my progress under “real “ conditions while maintaining accountability to my training plan.
If you will be taking on a multi-sport event, it may be helpful to find a few races that only cover one discipline at the length you will be competing at later in the season. My “A” race this year is once again 70.3 Muncie in July. During the months leading up to that race I will be participating in a half-marathon, a 50 mile cycling event and taking on an organized 1 mile open-water swim. This way, I will have a solid foundation of experience to rely upon come race day. The more races I do at those distances the stronger that foundation becomes season after season.