The Coach’s View on Racing

We asked our coaches what their view on how an athlete should incorporate racing into their training cycle.   Here are a few great insights on the subject:

The Art of Racing…Have you ever read the Art of Racing in the Rain? One of the best takeaways from that book is “that which you manifest is before you.” Simply put, you are the creator, the sculptor and the writer of your athletic outcomes. As coaches we are the proof-readers, the producers and the editors to help achieve your goals. Racing is fun! Racing is the icing on our cake, but you can lose “the art of racing.” If you find yourself losing your spunkiness on the course, if you are bored, if you are anxious about the race or outcome, or even if you find it hard to focus on the training, you may have lost that art. You may also find that you have plateaued in your progress goals and then it is time to step back and recreate the art of racing. Mental rest is perhaps just as important as physical rest and there is a clear design to a race system to maximize your potential. Just as you have chapters in a book, you have chapters in a race season with the book culminating in a smashing amazing ending!! That is you achieving your goals. I am a coach that has a coach and he helps me plan my triathlon race season to maximize my goals. They may be to have fun, they may be to bike stronger, they may be to be a more efficient swimmer, or to podium at a certain distance, but together we plan the chapters of the year. Through experience, I’ve learned what my body can handle and as I work with individual athletes, I learn what works for them because everyone is different. “C” races don’t work for me, mentally they are difficult and my “knee” has a finite life with it. “B” races can have advantages, but often finances dictate how many of those an athlete can have and often it is more fun to train. So, take a step back and plan your race year chapter by chapter, building on progress goals systematically and planning races strategically to maximize success and enjoy Racing!

Why is this person racing so much? Are they having fun? Are other workouts suffering? Are they constantly on the verge of being injured? Are they achieving the goals they are setting? Are they constantly disappointed in their results? This is where a coach can step in and help answer a lot of these questions or recognize some of the signs of others before negative consequences are the results. A well written and personalized training plan can help keep the athlete focused. A coach can help an athlete reach their goals through a properly structured training plan, by finding out where the athlete is and where they want to go athletically. Racing being just a part of the puzzle.

I personally like to pick a few main races “A” and “B” through out the year and really focus on those. When I am racing I am leaving a lot out there on the course. I CAN NOT recover fully if I am doing that to myself every weekend. Weather it’s a 5k or an IM race. I need some down time where I am not racing. As far as participating in races that are not your “A” or “B” races (training races) I think that is a great thing. You just have to be smart and tell yourself that this is a training day! (Doesn’t always work). Biggest thing I can say about racing too much is that I spent 3 years racing too much when I first started endurance sports. I got burned out, injuried, and started to feel like i “had” to race and it became all about the podium. Now I discuss a full season with a coach before I plan my races. I feel like a more well rounded athlete because of this.

Racing is just a small part of the journey that we travel as endurance athletes.

I think it depends on if you are showing up to a road race ore triathlon event to “race and compete” or to participate in the event for fun or as a workout.  Giving your all in a race puts a lot of stress on the body, and when you race hard in the middle of a training cycle, you may not get the results you are looking for because you are not rested.  This is typically the case during marathon training or 70.3 and 140.6 training.  Tune up racing before a big event can be very beneficial because it gets your body ready for the peak event.  I believe an athlete should shoot for 2-3 big races a year to peak in (also known as A races), and then place the other races in specific areas to get ready for the peak race.  Of course, participating for fun or random racing is great and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it, but if you don’t get the result you may have hoped for, it may be because you haven’t trained up to the event, you just jumped in:)  Definitely enjoy the journey and if you are motivated, sign up for a race and have fun.  But also don’t be afraid to periodize your training for a peak race, and try to get the most out of your body to see what your potential is.
If someone is racing too much then there is an imbalance somewhere within the plan and goals. I think if racing becomes an unhealthy stress then the athlete needs to stop racing and figure a more realistic plan (most importantly a fun plan). I also use races as training days so even though an athlete is participating at a race they aren’t racing it. I always like to base a training plan around 2 A races, 2 B races, and the rest would be training races. This is all very broad and totally based on the individual. There is truth to quality not quantity. A coach can help organize, plan, and execute the right path for athletes helping them face challenges and appreciate success of any type.

Matt Hammersmith:
Matthew Hammersmith and Coach of our Greenville Program states – ” Racing is a component of training through the appropriate cycles while giving the body a chance to adapt to each cycle. We train by adding a stress and then giving the body time to adapt to that stress. If we are constantly racing we limit two very important components in our efforts to improve and reach goals. We limit the amount of time that we can train and we limit the amount of time we can recover and adapt to the stress of training. While racing harder and more frequent might seem to boost confidence and fitness we tend to neglect the important foundations of our training plan set out by our coach’s. A good strategy to avoid over racing is to make a list of 9 to 12 races a year and then label them according to importance (A – B – C Events).
A Events
Your “A” events are those that you’ll direct your training efforts towards.
B Events
“B” events are training events that you’d like to do well at, but aren’t goal races. B events are excellent warm-ups for A events. They’re an opportunity to test and hone your race skills without the pressure of an A event
C Events
“C” events are fun events you enjoy doing, but aren’t goal related. These are good events to leave the heart rate monitor at home. You don’t have to push yourself physically during these events or have any performance objectives. I like my athletes to schedule C events during their base training to keep up their enthusiasm.