How to plan your 2017 race season

Do you love to race as much as you love to train? 

Training is fun because you are in control, in your own environment. No one is watching or tracking you. You have nothing to prove. 

Racing can be scary as it's filled with unknowns. You are nervous and you feel a lot of pressure to perform. You have expectations that you feel must be fulfilled or else you term the race as unsuccessful. 

While it's great to be passionate about your training, don't forget why you train...so you can be physically and mentally prepared for race day. 

And just because you race, it doesn't mean you have to PR, podium or beat your closest competition.

Carefully selecting your races is a great way to set yourself up for a great upcoming season as it’s the map that helps guides your training. It's also the easiest way for you to envision and visualize yourself developing as an athlete so you know where your training is going.

Planning ahead also shows your coach (and yourself) that you are committed to your long-term journey as an evolving triathlete.

While racing is a great way to test your fitness, be mindful that fitness improvements happen over an extended period of time. For example, I have been racing endurance triathlons for 10 consecutive years and my best race results have occurred in the past 3 years.
Certainly, the bigger your goals, the more patient you need as big goals aren't achieved in just a few seasons.

1) Select 5-6 possible key races for your season (which you will then narrow down to only two or three). These races will be the most important races in your season. You are willing to make the necessary investments (time, energy and money) for these races.

-Consider any and all family, work and life obligations before selecting your key races.
-While you cannot plan ahead for everything in life, consider that your greatness commitment to training will occur in the 8-10 weeks before each of your key races.

-Consider the distance of your race so that it makes sense in your season development (choosing a key half ironman in March/April or an Ironman in May/June will not make sense in your season development – some exceptions may apply in the case that you were injured or sick late season so you don’t need the typical “off-season” in Nov/Dec).

-Consider the timing of your event based on where you live (if you train indoors until April/May, choosing a key race in May/June may not make sense if you need to acclimate to the heat).

-Consider the logistics (and cost) of getting to your race and allow adequate time to see your race course, settle into your race environment and to not feel rushed with travel to and from your race venue. We suggest to arrive to an Ironman race venue at least 4-5 days before your race – if your race is on Sunday, you should plan to arrive on Wed or Thursday. For a half IM, plan to arrive at least 2 days before the race.

-Think about your key races - Consider races which have a swim/bike/run course that you feel confident racing on (flat, long climbs, rollers, etc.). While  it's not always necessary, your race should have a similar terrain that is similar to your home training environment. If not, plan a few long workouts to train somewhere else in a similar race environment. Also consider typical weather (cold vs hot), water conditions (wetsuit legal or not, lake, ocean or river), competition (if you are wanting to qualify for a World or National championship), elevation (altitude at race venue and total elevation on the bike and run course), or anything else that is important to you when selecting your race.

-While we love the idea of a race-cation or racing with teammates/friends, you should select races which suit your athletic strengths and provide a race venue which makes you excited for training and racing.

Write down your top 5-6 possible key races (name, distance and date/month)--------------------------

2) Establish a few goals for your key races. Are you chasing a time goal, a PR, a podium or overall placement, a qualification to a national or world event or something more personal?
We encourage at least three goals for your key races, with at least one or two being a non-metric or non-placement goal.

Write down your personal goals for your key races---------------------------

3) Based on your responses for #1 and #2, you should now have a good understanding of the two or three clear choices for your key races for your 2017 season. 

You should plan to commit to these races now, which means registering for the race after you get the OK from your coaches.

Write down your top 2-3 key races and goals


4) Now it's time to select a few lower priority races throughout your season.
These races can be used to practice pacing, to put yourself into a race environment, to break-up the monotony of training (especially if you train indoors or alone a lot), to practice transitions, to get out some racing nerves and anxieties or to test your fitness.

Some athletes see these races as tune-up races before a key because there should be little emphasis on time goals and placements. Never use a low priority race to validate your fitness or readiness for a key race. Low priority races are a great way to learn, which means it's ok to make mistakes.
You should plan to go into these races with no expectations (and not always with a taper) and these races should not require a big cost (money, time and energy) from your life.  Many times, low priority races will be incorporated into your training.

While these are low priority races, you may surprise yourself as to how well you perform at these races, especially when the pressure is off, you are building fitness and you are not overly focused on the end result.

I find great importance on selecting low priority races as they assist in your journey as you prepare for your key races. Many athletes don't like to spend money on low priority races because there is a "why bother" attitude (why spend money on a low priority race?) but there is great value in putting yourself in a race environment as no workout will ever simulate the same motions and emotions you feel on race day. On race day, you are put into situations that you never experience in training and only on race day, do you have to figure out how to get through those oh-no situations.

Although you can register for your low priority races ahead of time (ex. if the race is known to sell out and it's your only feasible race option or to keep you mentally committed to racing and not just training), you should never ever risk your health or race with an injury in a low priority race. The same goes for a key race as very few exceptions apply that it is worth racing sick/injured.

Please keep in mind that lower priority races should still be sport specific and should assist in your development in your primary sport.

Write down your lower priority races (name, distance and date/month)

5) Now the fun part. Select a few “fun” events that you can incorporate into your training in the off-season or early season (Oct-Feb). 
You do not have to register for these races ahead of time but instead, you fit them into your training when they make sense in your season. Fun events include: a local 5K or 10K, a swim meet, a cycling event (ex. Gran Fondo) or sponsored group ride, a duathlon, an aquabike, a sprint triathlon. You can do fun events with friends or family as not ever race has to be a "hard" effort. These fun events are great for involving loved ones who sacrifice their time so you can train and race.

Write down your fun events (name, distance, date/month)

6) Now that you have your season planned, you need the OK from your family, spouse, boss, etc. to make sure that your planned season makes sense. Once a race is approved, it’s never too early to start planning your upcoming travel so that you can get you (and your family/friends) to and from your races. Always be sure to discuss/consider the financial costs that are needed to help you achieve your goals/dreams.
Consider planning a few days after your race to enjoy with your friends/family for sight-seeing as you recover from your race. 

Example of a well-designed racing season for an athlete who is training for two half ironman distance key races.
November - Start 2017 training, 10K Turkey Trot (fun race)

December - No race – family time over the holidays

January - keep on training

February - Swim (pool)/run event (fun race)

March- Olympic tri (low priority)

April - Half Ironman tri (low priority)

May- Half Ironman tri (key priority)

June - Open water swim event (low priority)

July - keep on training

August - 4 day triathlon camp

September - Olympic distance (low priority), then Half Ironman tri (Key priority)

October - 50-mile bike event (fun race)