How to Plan a Race Season

Depending on where you are spring is almost here, or here or coming soon you hope. Here it seems to have arrived a month ahead of schedule, this week anyway. Pinterest is turning back to running tips and gardening ideas, again for me at least. So this got me thinking about my upcoming race season and how this one is pretty planned out at least compared to previous years some of which weren’t planned at all or were planned poorly. My plan here is to go over some ways to frame your plan and help you to avoid a few common mistakes runners make. Personally I’ve combined a few of these to plan mine.

Set a budget: Race fees add up quick. So start with a rough idea of what you want to spend. Include travel and accommodations if necessary. I tend to include all of this but look at an extra pair of shoes of a bit of kit incidental. That being said I buy a lot of my clothes while thrifting but I have one of those easy to fit bodies. No rubbing, chaffing and cute sports bras are plenty of support. I’ll sew it to make it fit better if I need to. You can pick less fancy community races if you want to race more and have a conservative budget. If you have an unlimited budget good for you, but you may want to set limits for yourself anyway. This can also help you avoid the first mistake which is to get really excited by your first few races and start overdoing it. It’s a sure way to drain your bank account and really puts you at risk for injury and burn out. You want to keep loving this, staying fit and not giving up with an injury in a year or two. My budget for this year is about $450.

Set a goal for the end of the season: Last year I decided to tackle a half marathon and I picked an expensive one with 18 water stops and lots of support. So I used earlier races to build my base up to take on a half training plan and save a bunch of cash for the big day. This year I think I’ll try for the olympic triathlon so I’m going to include races that build to that. I’m going to focus on 10k’s but I plan on doing our harbour swim for the first time and thinking about joining a cycling cub to work on my road skills. At the very least I’ll be joining my yoga ladies for girls rides. One good strategy is to pick a race for the end of the season to race for the first time of to try for a PR in and build to that for the season. Whether its a century ride, the full marathon or a half iron or your best 5k time, have your season build to the ultimate goal.

Recognize that you will race at races and (try) to set aside the have toos: This often comes up in two scenarios. Either you ‘have to’ participate in certain charity races or you’ve scheduled a bunch of races to keep you going towards your end of season goal. It is important to recognize that you will race on the day even if you aren’t planning on it. Race day nerves and excitement, perfect weather or a good start will likely  lead you to going out faster and harder than you planned and set you up for injury or burn out for your ultimate season goal. My mom volunteers on a lot of boards and each has some sort of fundraising run, which I get volentold to run. This includes run for the cure, brain tumour, MS and if friends have a cause or two that year these can add up. One year this was 6 races between the end of June and September 15th which caused me to be pretty tiered by the time my dirty century rolled around. My time sucked and well I felt pretty terrible about it. Now for these races I set a minimum time rather than a goal time. In other words I’m not finishing this in less than 1:10. Now I obviously want to run the whole thing and not take walk breaks, especially since I might have been pointed out during the starting speeches to EVERYONE! So pacing and slowing yourself down is key to maintaining your season. If you’ve scheduled races to keep you going and are essentially susposed to be planned workouts keep the tempo down.

Don’t set too many goals. I did this and ended up with runners knee for the first time one season. That re-occurs to this day, learn from my mistakes grasshopper. PS my knee hurt bad after the third 5k but I kept going. So after my first year collecting participant medals for running I was hooked. I was still getting faster over the winter and well, I was going for it. I foolhardily and without much thought decided to run my first 10k (a big distance for me at the time, push my 5k time to my limits and do my first triathlon all within four months. Brain tumour 3k was may 10th, So I decided to train for and run my first 10k on May 20th (bluenose), I decided to try for a PR and sub 30 5k around June 10th, PR yes sub 30, no. So I scheduled another for July 1st, still no. I had another 10k the 15th my knee hurt bad but I still did the 5 miler on August 8th, and snuck in a 5k the next weekend. I ran a third 10 k the 10th of September in addition to a 5k for run for the cure on September 18th. Sprinkle in a few ‘have to’ charity runs for good measure. Pumped I decided on a whim to register for a sprint triathlon THE WEEK BEFORE on October 2nd ON MY MOUNTAIN BIKE.

But all season I was re-discovering my love for single-track riding and logged 1200 km deep in the woods on my bike. I was in the shop a lot that summer with some pretty serious repairs sometimes still muddy and bleeding with tacoed wheels, a busted derailuer and a couple sets of brakes, all indications I was out there often pushing hard. I got the sense that they might sponsor me for the upcoming season after the dirty century (metric) in Gore depending on my time and score. Needless to say it sucked and they didn’t. My ONLY goal should have been that ride and giving that opportunity my best shot.The worst part was I did the training to pull it off, my condtioning was near perfect, the tricks I was pulling were full on gnarly and my bike was more dialed in then it had ever been or has been since, and I blew it because I was injured from overtraining.

What I should have been focused on

Leave some room for ‘extras’: Leave some room in your budget and energy for a few extra races. I usually end up adding one or two in a season. Like last year’s trail run for a family in our tiny community that lost their home to lightning or that race you add in when you realize boredom and monotony are seeping into your training. Maybe a new community race is launching this year you want to participate in or a friend comes down with something and you race with their bib on the day. Personally I have VERY FEW running friends and I harbour a secret desire to run the Rum Runners 100 mile team relay. Should I get invited under ANY circumstances to join a team, I’m in. Are you listening Scotia runners?

Think about the wind down. When I first heard about F.O.M.O. (fear of missing out) I was like, that’s not a thing. Turns out not only is it a thing, I have a terrible case of it. This year I read on a running blog that you might want to schedule something after your big race and your reverse taper to look forward to, and in my case give your life meaning again. I was like OMG you’re talking about me. If your race is September 15th but your local circuit continues on into the end of October think about a few fun events after the big one is over. Your going to be seeing posts on social media about other’s big goals for the season so think about adding on some fun ones you can enjoy with little to no stress.

So here’s my plan for the year building to the triathlon

  1. Bluenose 10k, late may (winter Motivation) $62
  2. MEC Century 1/2 July 9th, (cheap race that’ll get me on the road bike) $25
  3. Harbour Swim August 8 (I live on a beach but why not) $TBD
  4. Maritime Race Weekend 5k and 10 K September 15, 16 (Add some fun to peak week and you get to dress like a pirate) $110
  5. Shubie-Dooby TRI Olympic (eeeek) October 5th ish $95
  6. YMCA Trick or Treat Trot 10k or 5k (season capper + Costumes) $25

But I was just on the chip website and I’m considering these like a lot…

  1. Chester cut and run 5k May 4th, $TBD
  2. Inaugural FREE Michelin Tire Trot June 17th 5k (FREE MEDAL)
  3. East Hants Mud Run, July 29th $TBD

Actually bye, I have to go google these now.

What’s your season plan?



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