It’s quickly approaching that time of year. Time to start gathering your thoughts and ideas towards success of your upcoming season. All I can say is, “Giddy Up!” I love this time of year, but I’m often approached by many athletes with questions of how to plan for a successful and stress-free calendar year. If you are like these athletes, you have put in some serious miles on the roads and trails this off-season, but if you have no idea if you are doing in regards to your event planning, it can make for an unsettling feeling and rob you of the enjoyment of a well thought-out year. So what can you do to combat the uneasiness? Well, I’ve got some step for you that will allow you to take control of your goals and put together a legit racing/event calendar. Here are a few pointers for beginning to process this fun task. (Yes, it should be fun because your sport is fun and the season is something fun you look forward-to.)
1.) Identify Your Objectives
How do you quantify success? For example, if you sign-up for a marathon, are you wanting to just complete the event or actually finish in a specific time which may qualify you for that elusive Personal Best? Knowing your goals will help you set reasonable expectations of what you can complete by the time even rolls around. If your goals are simply completion, it may not be wise to “put all your eggs in one basket” but rather to participate in multiple events that address your targets. Remember, we are all one flat tire or calf cramp away from missing on our objectives, so if you are a novice athlete, putting yourself in a variety of race/event settings is probably wise until you become more comfortable with how your equipment and your body will perform.
2.) Recognize Your Strengths
What are your strengths and what events suit those strengths? Bottom line, you want to do well or you would not participate to begin with, so give yourself the best opportunity to achieve your goals by starting with aims that take advantage of your current strengths. It definitely pays to be realistic in evaluating your performance level. For example, if you are a cyclist and one of your strengths is climbing, then you should lean more towards races that include hillier courses as opposed to flat races or something like 40K time trials. At the end of the day, it’s all about setting an expectation that doesn’t automatically set you up for performance. There’s nothing wrong with setting the bar high, as long as you know which of your specific strengths will benefit you most before you engage in your training.
3.) Event Timing
Seeing that we are all very well-balanced individuals, racing is not the only thing we have going on in our lives. When choosing events, you need to consider work, family, and general lifestyle obligations. For example, if you are an accountant, you probably would not want to schedule your “A” race during January to April due to the heavy workload placed on you during those months. This makes things very difficult for you and creates the feeling that your training is one more burdenous task that needs to be completed instead of a reward at the end of a long day or week.
4.) Event Location
Choosing where your priority “A” event is located is as important as the event itself. You need to consider the environmental conditions and make sure you can mimic those conditions in training as much as possible. For example, if you are a mountain biker and your “A” race for the year is the Leadville 100, which begins at 10,000ft+ elevation and you live and train at sea level, you will need to take into consideration how you prepare for this event as it is at altitude. The same goes for those living in dry arid environments whose “A” priority race may take place where heat and humidity are predominant. This can easily turn a favorable situation into an overwhelming obstacle if not taken into consideration.
5.) Total Costs
When considering your race schedule, you have to take into account the amount of money you are willing to dish out for events. If you have to travel to races, you will need to budget for flights, gas, equipment transport, lodging, meals, and other miscellaneous costs. Also, remember entry fees can add up quite quickly, especially if your event requires qualification at other races held outside of your desired geographical radius. Of course we would all like to have our “A” race in Switzerland in June, but financially it may be a bit hard to swing. Make sure you plan accordingly as this can be the #1 contributor to your frustration if your finances do not allow for travel.
Following these general guidelines will help ease the stress that race season planning can bring. Be sure to talk with your Sigma coach for additional guidance and/or recommendations.