A training partner recently suggested that I rate local races to assist with developing a race schedule. I thought that due to the number of races involved, instead I would give a number of tips for how to develop a race schedule for the season and the factors to consider. Indeed, now is the time to start if you want to get the best of the early bird rates.
1. Lay out the options: For myself, I put together a table of runs, rides, and triathlons located close to me (in the case of runs), or within driving distance (rides and triathlons). This is due to the vast number of running events that would need a full table in and of themselves if you were to list everything within a two hour drive. Here’s what it looks like:
I have formatted it by weekend, and have made a few choices to leave off events where there is a particularly better event the same weekend that eclipses other options. This allows me at a glance to figure out races that I want to plan for (in blue).
2. Consider travel: I am in London, Ontario, so only look to events within about a 4 hour radius, as you do need to go a bit abroad to find good triathlons and bike races/tours. However, you will need to make a decision whether you are able to and interested in sleeping over somewhere before a race, and therefore race start times have an impact. With most starting around 8:30am in the summer, and my preference for at least 90 minutes of pre-race prep (ideally 120 minutes), anything over a 2 hour drive requires accommodation considerations. Plan too many of these and you’ll quite quickly break the bank.
3. Cost: Speaking of breaking the bank, entry fees need to be a big time consideration. My current philosophy as I focus on Olympic distance racing is race many smaller, local races for the same price as you would pay for an Ironman. I budget around $800 annually for race fees, and will get to about 20 events for this price. Planning ahead can save you from $5 to $30 per race, so I save hundreds across the season by always registering at the earliest price point. That said, this carries some risk if you have injuries or other events that come up and force you to change plans.
4. Frequency: I absolutely race too much, and would not recommend that anyone replicate my schedule. From mid-June to mid-August I have an event every weekend. However, for the vast majority of these events I won’t be tapering and plan for only one recovery day after. That means I won’t be making personal bests every weekend, and rather treat the events as my long run/ride for the weekend. So why do I race so often? Firstly, because I’m addicted. Here in Canada we spend so much time through the winter season training away, that those weekends of summer racing are a pure dopamine rush. Secondly, race experience is good experience. The strategy, the pacing, the familiarity with courses all pays off for the races that count. Thirdly, I love the community. Getting out to races is the only way to see the people I have met from across the province in the sport. Fourthly, it’s a way to make the long weekend training sessions more interesting. If you had a 18k run on the books, a 10k race effort is a decent trade-off and a lot more fun.
The obvious risk here is injury, so it takes strong discipline to hold a bit back on these races and make sure that if you are “training through”, that you can indeed train the following week.
5. Prioritize: So, in the face of the above comments, you should have one or more goal races for the season that structure your overall plan (in red). For me it’s a qualifier for the Age Group Worlds in the international duathlon. I will go through a full taper in advance of this event to ensure race readiness, and will build my training schedule to peak that week. Have a sense of your overall goal for the season and plan your priorities accordingly.
6. Talk to friends: Most clubs will have a target event or two. It’s a lot more fun going to an event where your club/team is well represented. I’ve been to a couple events where my family was unable to attend, where I knew no one there, and just raced and left. It’s pretty lonely. So, also prioritize according to the people who you like to race with.
For more specific advice on course-based planning for races, check out this blog post.
If you are in the London or Ontario region and want to see my full spreadsheet, the link is: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1BhncH4YPqdtHtQauI93d8wwhm3Z8Ykdm0kzjiMvhjk8/edit?usp=sharing