It’s Just Stress on the Body
Somewhere in the past 5 years, Ironman has completely taken over the triathlon scene. Along with this has come the idea that if you’re doing Ironman, then you shouldn’t be doing other races because it may hurt your training schedule. This idea has hurt local races and why I feel (only my opinion) that the local race scene is dwindling. While I understand that Ironman is a big deal and people take it seriously, I think we are losing sight of what it is we are actually doing.
The goal of training is to stress your body. What happens when you race is that you put stress on your body. If you have enough fitness going into a race (say an olympic or 70.3), then you’re not going to hamper your training at all. If anything, it may push your a bit harder which will require further adaptations from your body as you recover. If you’re fit enough, that recovery period will be small and you should come out of the race with higher fitness than you entered.
It’s the Coaches Job to Make it Work
I tend to think its a cop out when a coach says, “no, you can’t race this event”. This to me is a coach not willing to think outside the box. What people need to understand is that while you can only peak around 2-3 times a year, that doesn’t mean that you can’t race and still get great results while you’re not in a peak. Along with that, if the coach can get you fit enough during the build period, then racing should absolutely be an option regardless of how far out your “A” race is.
With that being said, athletes must take note of only peaking 2-3 times a year. If you want to race, we can get you fit enough to do so, but you will only experience top notch form a couple times a year. If you’re fit enough, you’ll still get great results, but understand that you can’t be in top form all year.
Racing into Shape
This is a lost art in my opinion. We have become so specialized in our training that we sometimes have lost the skill of truly racing. There is a strong correlation between those that race the most, and those that have high success rates at racing. Its because they understand how to execute and how to attack in certain races. Whether you’re a crit racer, time trialist, triathlete, or runner, you are probably learning something from every race. The more you race, the better you become in that setting.
Beyond the tactical side of racing and gaining experience, you can actually use some races as long training days. I know some athletes will look at a 4-6 hour training day and dread it. So why don’t you find a race or a long group training session and go there instead? I know of several pro’s that do this to help their fitness build into their key races. If the athlete can understand that the “race” is simply just a way to build stress on the body and to not be overly concerned with the outcome, then this is a great tactic to build your racing specific skills and fitness overall.
If you have a 9-5 job and you can only train 5-8 hours a week, then racing every weekend may or may not be a good route for you. I’m not telling anyone that they should absolutely race every weekend. Rather, I’m trying to get people away from this idea that you can only race 2-4 times a year if you want to really be fast. I understand that every situation depends on many other factors, but for the most part, I do believe people would be faster overall by racing more.
At some point over the past several years, we have lost the art of racing. As athletes, we train and we prep so we can race. While we need our athletes to train, we also need our athletes to race if they ever want to get faster at a discipline. While your situation may dictate how much you can race, you should be aware that racing in many situations will help your abilities, not hurt them. So for all of those athletes asking if they can race in March or should they wait for their May “A” race, the overall resounding answer is race! Racing teaches us things that we often will never find in training and will better prepare you for your key events throughout the year.