November 11, 2019 - Last month, Coach Tim Delss talked about what it means to be in off-season. This month’s blog is all about “what’s next?” Once you have spent some time resting and recharging, you are hopefully itching to get moving again. When that itch gets strong enough to scratch, what better way is there to motivate yourself besides thinking about the epic adventures you are going to have next season?
Creating a season plan can be as easy as picking a peak race and saying “there, that’s my target” and building around it. Or, it can be a rather extensive process of playing hostage negotiator with your family, coach and job to liberate every second of possible free time to maximize your racing season. Either way, a good place to start is by asking yourself, “what are my goals for next year?” Did you just finish your first season of triathlon and completed a sprint race or two? Perhaps you want to do more sprint races? (they are fun!) Or, maybe you are interested in going a little longer and tackling an Olympic distance race. Your coach, if you work with one, is going to be a crucial partner in this discussion. A coach can help you figure out what race distances are reasonable for your available time to train, what races fit well in your annual training cycle, and what events suit your strengths and personal preferences as an athlete. That last part is important: don’t pick a flat race if you are best at climbing hills. Don’t pick hilly races if you like staying aero and going super-fast!
You may want to begin by picking a distance or time goal rather than a specific event. Perhaps your goal is to set a Half IRONMAN PR – or just complete your first 70.3. Maybe you want to pick up a Boston Marathon qualifying time. Your coach can help figure out which races give you the best opportunity to be successful in reaching those goals. Some people may label this as “cherry-picking”, but I think it’s just smart planning.
This tentpole event (or events) that the rest of your season is built around is often referred to as an “A-race”. If you are not familiar with the concept of an “A-race”; in a nutshell, it is the event you are most interested in performing at your very best. Again, this could be a specific race (i.e. “I really want to finish IRONMAN Florida”) or it can be a non-event-based goal such as getting on the podium at an Olympic race – any Olympic distance race.
Another consideration when picking an A-level event is what that means in terms of the training leading into said race. If you are picking, for example, a Spring IRONMAN like Texas, and live in the Northeastern United States, that is going to imply that you will be performing a lot of your training indoors. The possibility exists that you could even end up doing 100% of your training indoors on a trainer, treadmill and in the pool without ever getting outdoors before arriving in The Woodlands. If you are training for a Fall A-race, like the New York City Marathon, you need to be prepared to put in a lot of miles in the middle of the Summer heat even though race day may prove to be a bit nippy. Maybe that is something that bothers you, maybe it isn’t, however, it is a factor to consider. All of this is to say that timing is important and must be considered. Oh, and by the way, make sure you have the vacation time off with work before you drop a grand on that exotic IRONMAN registration.
Once you choose your “A” goal for the year, you can select other races/events that compliment that goal and can be used as the building blocks to help you reach your potential. These are typically considered “B-races”. B-races are still races, and you are still likely to have some extra rest planned ahead of them, but not typically a full taper. These are events where you still want to have a decent performance but are not specifically targeting to hit at optimal fitness. Many times, if your B-race is the same distance as your “A” event, it can be thought of as a dress rehearsal. Oddly enough, it’s not rare to see an athlete race very well at these secondary events.
Then, there are the “C-races”. (see a pattern here?) These are events where enjoyment should be the main goal. You may or may not build any extra rest ahead of them. You and your coach might consider these as just another workout that happens to be at high intensity, with a bunch of new friends and a finisher’s medal at the end. Your coach may even request that you throttle back your effort depending on where the event fits in the timeframe of your training cycle. The real focus of these events should be on execution, fueling and HAVING FUN!
So how do you go about building a season plan? I do this by stating my A-goal (there is usually room for two A-races in a season if they are properly spaced on the calendar). Then, deciding what other secondary races I want to chase that year. I usually pick out way too many races, then ask my own coach what he thinks. He usually returns the list with several things crossed out that don’t make sense, for a multitude of reasons, and I will usually get other suggestions to contemplate. From this list, I weigh the expense side of the equation and come up with a plan that makes me, my family, my employer, my coach and my bank account content.
Most importantly, find the balance of quality versus quantity that works for you. If you work with a coach, use that person as your main sounding board for planning your season. It’s likely a service that you pay for – get your money’s worth. Your coach will be able to guide you through a season plan that is fun, enjoyable, and is structured so that you have the best chance of meeting your goals.
AJ Baucco Coaching