I think most of us have high hopes that we will all safely see a start line again in 2021. As we start to dream again of big goals and finish lines, you might start to establish a bit of a race calendar. What races do you hope will happen? What are your biggest goals? How many events can you do in a year? Even if no racing happens maybe you still want to target an FKT or a bikepacking trip. It can be a balancing act just to put all of your desired races into a spreadsheet, much less to actually execute the plan. Here are some things to consider when deciding what races to target in a single season:
The Ideal Scenario:
If you crack open a textbook they will tell you exactly how to plan out a racing season. In fact, they will probably even have a worksheet broken down into blocks and peaks and A-races for your ideal scenario. You’ll follow a traditional periodized training schedule and you’ll target different areas of fitness during different times of the year. They would be right. This is ideal, but as we all know, ideal isn’t always possible with so many races on the calendar and personal differences to boot. We’ll get into that later though. Let’s start with ideal and work from there. Here is your ideal race schedule outline.
- Identify A-Races: In an ideal racing season, you’ll start by identifying 2 or 3 “A Races.” These are the races that you want to be your absolute best at. These are the races that you have the biggest goals for.
- Mark Your Calendar: When you establish those races, they should be about 12 weeks in between the events. This means that your “A-races” would like fall in March, July, and October or something similar to that. Those 12 weeks would allow you to recover, train, and taper again for the next event.
- Consider B-Races: During that 12 week period, you can establish other “B-Races” that are less important to you that you will use as training racing.
- Holding Your Form: You can generally hold a peak for about 1-3 weeks before you will either see fitness decline or your race legs start to fatigue. One of the reasons for this, is that you want to take for about 7-10 days before an event. That means, in theory, you could have 2 A-Races on back to back weekends, but in this ideal scenario, you wouldn’t want to have them 4 or 5 weeks apart.
The Hard Truth (Or the fun truth, depending on your view point)
Racing in general continues to change and shift. People are less likely to target just one or two events and more likely to want to perform week after week or month after month. Professional athletes are asked to race multiple disciplines and peak for a variety of events. You might race a World Cup in March, Marathon Nationals in May, a ProXCT two weeks later, and follow up with a big gravel event. The ideal peaking scenario is just that, ideal. It’s an outline, but it’s rare to be able to follow it to a T.
If you’ve put your races into a calendar and see that you not only do you not have 12 weeks in between your big races, but you wonder if it’s possible at all, here are some things to consider as you either cross races out, add races in, or get extra creative with your training plan.
- Recovery: One of the first things to consider when debating if your race schedule is plausible is to ask if you have enough time to recover from one event to the next. Recovery is a very personalized data point and will likely take some trial and error. It’s very important to listen to your own body because going too hard too soon after events can lead to overreaching and even injury.
After especially hard and long cycling races, it can take 7-10 days or even more to recover. If you’ve ever done the events before then you should be prepared to listen to your body and make adjustments if your schedule if needed. However, even if you have never done a race before you can still have an idea of what might be required. You know that a 200 mile race will take longer to recover from then a cyclocross event. Make sure that your schedule reflects that.
- Types of Races: The next thing to consider is the type of races that you are targeting. If you are switching between long, endurance type of events and short, fast events every other weekend, it will be very challenging. It’s certainly possible to have a successful season completing all different types of events, but it takes some expert planning.
If possible, try to structure your race schedule so that you can focus on one type of event at a time. Maybe you start your year with long events and finish up with some shorter races or if they are intermixed tried to have a little bit more time in between so that you can switch gears in your training.
- Duration of Your Peak: As I stated above, you can hold a peak for about 1-3 weeks. The reason for this is because in order to be prepared for each event, you will need to rest and taper. If you are constantly tapering though, you won’t be putting in the efforts you need in order to maintain fitness so you will decline in fitness over time.
Many races series will have multiple races all in a row that all lead up to one finale. For these type of events you’ll need to keep the duration of your peak in mind. Maybe you select one or two of the races to train through so that you can maintain your fitness and still be able to peak for the races that carry the biggest weight in points.
I feel like increasingly a lot of my blogs are ending with this title, but that’s really the point isn’t it?! We ride our bikes because it’s fun and we like it. I’ve never been one to want to limit schedules or say no to races. Tackle your goals, but do so with a little bit of planning.