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Planning Your Season- Stefan Timms

Planning Your Season

By Stefan Timms
As the Northern Hemisphere season is rolling around, and the race dates are being published and finalized, it’s a good time to sit down and try and make sense of it all. How am I going to get in all those races? Which ones should I skip, and which ones are beneficial? How can I avoid feeling “fried” by July?
While there are many good reasons to participate, I can hopefully give you a few hints about putting together your season to better your chances of improving and performing.
Step one: What are your most important races?

You need to ask yourself, “Which races are my athletic-goal races this year? Where do I want to excel?” If you are a long distance athlete, likely it will be an Ironman, or a key Half Ironman. If you are a short course athlete, it might be your regional championships, your national team qualifier, or the World Championships.
Sometimes, you have to make some tough choices. For instance, what if you’re doing Ironman, and some short course, and the short course regional qualifier is a week before Ironman … or two weeks after? In these instances, you need to ask yourself which event is closest to your heart … which race is it more important to you to perform at?
If your biggest race is a short course two weeks after a long course race, and you really want to perform there, it’s likely you will not be able to do the long event. If the short race is before an Ironman, and it is important to you, you may have to sacrifice some base miles for some speed work. In other words, you will prioritize training for the short course race and “participate” in the long course event.
If it is the long course race you are gunning for, then you may have to accept that you’ll race the short course tired or without proper speed training. Maybe you’ll have to skip it to taper for Ironman, or to avoid risking injury by racing fast after the arduous long course event.
Step Two: Where have you had success before?

By determining which races you have done well at previously, you can identify valuable racing information and knowledge about yourself as an athlete.
First, you can likely determine what kind of distance and terrain suit you best. This can be an input into determining which races you should prioritize as important. For instance, if you have excelled at a hilly non-drafting Half Ironman like Wildflower, and tend to go well on the bike, should you be setting your main goal race to be a flat draft-legal format race? Or, if you are a good swimmer, weak cyclist, average runner, should your priority races be Ironman, or would Olympic Distance make more sense to race to your strengths with a relatively longer swim?
Second, you can look back at what you did leading into those successful races. Was it your third weekend racing in a row? Did you have an “A+” three weeks of uninterrupted training leading into it with no races? If you decide that the national championships is your most important race, then you should choose a training and racing regime that emulates what has brought you success in the past leading into that event.
Some athletes race better their second week in a row. Some athletes race better less frequently. Some athletes thrive physically and mentally on the competition provided by a busy schedule. Australian Greg Bennett raced 18 times in 2001, while Simon Whitfield raced much less frequently during the same period. Lisa Bentley will race up to 5 times in 8 weeks during a short-course focus section of the season, but will race infrequently during her Ironman build, maybe 2 or 3 times in 12 weeks, and Steve Larsen likes to race a sprint event the weekend before Ironman to sharpen up.
Third, often when we revisit a race where we have had success, it is easier to have success there again. Mentally, you have done it before, so it is not a great leap. This can be good for your confidence building towards another important race.
Step 3: What are your favorite races?

Think through the schedule and the races that really appeal to you. Maybe it is the adventure component, or because it is a fast course. Perhaps it has a great barbeque party afterwards, or a scenic course. Make sure and fit in a few favorites. They fuel your soul, and remind you of why you participate in our great sport. If they are less important performance wise, keep up your training load through them, and use them as sharp training sessions rather than as a peak performance measure.
Step 4: Plan for training, plan for rest.

Once you have sifted through the above information, and have laid it all out on your calendar, make sure it all makes sense from the point of planning your training. If you are racing Ironman Canada at the end of August, and it is important to you, how will racing 4 of 5 weeks in late July to early August affect your training? Even training through events is never as good as sticking to your structured program.
After a good period of early season miles, and your first block of racing, make sure you plan to have 3 weeks to get back to some structured work away from the race course. As well, plan to give your self a short active rest at some point during your mid-season. Sometimes 4-5 days of unstructured, aerobic oriented “fun” training is all it takes to recharge the batteries. Who knows, you may need 10 days … everyone is different. If you plan it right, you won’t loose fitness and you will feel refreshed to tackle the second half of the season.

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