The beginning of a year can be such an exciting time! We have the whole year ahead with a lot of opportunities to engage with the running community, set goals that challenge us, and continue to grow our fitness.
Planning a race calendar can be fun and exciting, but it can also be overwhelming at times. There are so many incredible races out there but there are only so many commitments we can make on our race schedule.
Here are some tips to plan out your race season:
First, determine your ‘A’ goals for the year
What races or adventures motivate and excite you the most this year? Whether it’s tackling a new distance or a specific race you have always wanted to run, the goal should be something that excites you. ‘A’ races are the races that we want to focus our training towards and aim to reach with peak performance. Establish your goals early on – always leave more time to train than less, and try to stay focused on a couple of goals for the year. A lot of times, we can be influenced by our running partners, social media, and the vast supply of races in a year, so we feel like we must sign up for ALL the races. Races will always be there though, so don’t cram too much in your year!
The number of goal races – or ‘A’ races – we schedule in a year depends on the distance. In general, the longer the race, the less racing you’ll do in a year. For longer races, we may just want to commit to 1-2 ‘A’ races, especially when tackling a new distance. For anything shorter, we can commit to a few more per year.
Plan in training races
Luckily, we can fill our season with other races and events to help us prepare for our ‘A’ races, so we aren’t necessarily only limited to a few races in a year. Try to plan races (or adventure runs!) that simulate goal-race conditions if you can. Whether that’s the terrain, the climate, or climbing/descending, we can mimic race conditions in a lot of different ways. Essentially, these end up like a practice run for your goal races – you can practice fueling, gear, aid-station strategies, and even pacing at these training races. If you like racing, you can do quite a few training races leading up to your goals. These can be fun, low-pressure ways to engage with your community! I have become a huge fan of running trail half marathons in the past year and like to incorporate them into my training every 1-2 months when not in ‘A’ race mode.
Planning in recovery time
It can be difficult to predict how long the body will need to recover from a race, especially when you’re trying out a new distance. Plan even more time for recovery if you are tackling new distances. If you’ve done the distance before, you likely will have a good idea of how recovery went before.
Planning time for the “others”
It’s good to run year-round and always keep it in the context of your life, but it doesn’t always have to be the focus. Plan time for your other hobbies, especially in the winter season if you enjoy winter sports. Racing can bring a lot of highs and a lot of lows to your life and feeding your soul with other hobbies is a good thing to help ground us during all of those highs and lows. Give yourself the space to do other things you love, too.