When "Another Race" is one race too many
As the balance of training and leans towards more racing in the summer season, we have to be careful that what we do through these months still helps us excel in the races we really want to do well in rather than create a ‘race league’ with our normal training buddies every day!
With the summer season out the the plethora of opportunities to race, it is very easy to get carried away with racing once twice or even more per week.
When working with athletes we deliberately say that there has to be a really clear purpose behind any rep, for any session, for any bunch of sessions. If you can’t correlate a “why” back to the session and the overall target for the year then the chances are you shouldn’t be doing that session. Often races can have a clear reason: it may be competition or speed work opportunities or your friends are doing it and you want to join in. However, often that reason may not accurately align with what your goals are the season.
Frequently athletes will start filling their weeks up with mid-week TT’s, weekend park runs and a triathlon without including the evening open water series, or club interval style sessions! Then on top of that they are trying to fit in their key training sessions as well.
The problem is they have duplicated workouts and with most people who have normal jobs, there isn’t the the spare time do do “more” volume, we are stuck with what we have time for. If you find yourself as one of those people who is going from race to race, of course you will see some improvements but the chances are you won’t then peak for the event you really want to race in. Fundamentally, the race has to replace part of your training week, so swap like for like or build it in as part of a session. For example, TTs are excellent threshold workouts – use that as a replacement for threshold efforts in your training week and try and run off the bike to really gain something from it. The Park Run is an incredibly social event, those needing a long run, may finish with a park run to ensure they “finish strong” on their endurance efforts. Open water swim races can be excellent to help build confidence in the open water, improve skills and is an excellent long interval, but not at the sacrifice of your pool-based training schedule. See here for more info. Whereas, the draft legal road race for IRONMAN distance athletes is less suitable even though it would be good miles it lacks the specificity of the IRONMAN bike leg.
Traditionally, we categorise races as A, B or C. A races are few and far between, one or maybe two races per season. These matter. B Races are good opportunities to rehearse tactics, kit or a generally good measure of ability and C races are part of training.
This leads us on to the other ‘danger’, where you end up tapering for every race. You skip or adjust sessions just to make sure you are in tip top condition in the lead up to the local C-race. This will just mean you won’t ever reach you true potential for your main race of the season. Often it’s either the athlete who is either going long who ends up focussing on shorter races to use up as training volume to avoid training on their own; or it is the short course athlete who believes that extra races will equal more speed inevitably both are avoiding either the specificity to go longer or building too much fatigue to ever really achieve the speed gains that they were after originally.
Of course sometimes it’s just needed. You need to do a race to blow the cobwebs away and it is fun. However, yet again, that makes sense - it links back to an overall goal! Some friends may all be doing it and it would be a shame to miss out – this is a hobby after all! Don’t feel so hemmed in by training that you are struggling to breathe! Relax and enjoy the race. You will probably end up more focussed afterwards. But this is not the case if you raced within a matter of days – you have had that blow out recently, so stop avoiding the real hard work of training!
In summary, if you can’t link your “race” back to your overall goal and justify it as part of the process, then the chances are you are in danger of doing a session not suitable for your race plan this season. Don’t make that mistake and keep your eyes on the big prize for the year!