Don't Race Too Often
In the Bible, gluttony is described as one of the seven deadly sins. In running circles, race gluttony carries the same fate. Once the season starts, be careful not to race too often. Most races should require some sort of a taper and recovery period, and can therefore infringe on your training volume. As your training volume (average of the previous six weeks' total volume) begins to fall, race performances will decline, due to an eroding aerobic base and loss of sport-specific feel.
This is very common in athletes who are chasing that elusive Boston qualifying time. If the first attempt at qualifying is not successful, it is a very common reaction to try again, too soon, without putting in a proper cycle of training. This will often lead to another missed qualification attempt. This can create an infinite loop of too frequent racing, lack of training, inadequate recovery and missed opportunities. This is compounded mentally with discouragement due to sub-par performances.
Never Train Through Races
There are a few reasons that we do not recommend training through races. First, and foremost, going into a race already fatigued sets the mental groundwork for excuses even before the gun sounds. When you don't perform as you would have liked, it is much too easy to say "Well, I was training through this one." This is a bad mental cycle of excuses to get into. You should be 100 percent ready to go every single time that you toe a starting line.
It wouldn't kill most runners to take a little extra recovery. Runners are notorious over-trainers. When was the last time that you took a true recovery week? A week of intentionally lower volume, with a couple of planned off days. Taking a few days of recovery, leading into your races is probably something that you need, anyhow. Training through a race simply pushes that recovery to some other time.
Lastly, if going into a race forces you to juggle your run volume, you are much better off putting in the extra hours following the race, as opposed to cramming it in the day before. This allows for proper rest leading into the race, and then a very good quality run on race day. Going into a race with a fully recovered peripheral system allows for much better stimulation of your core system. This will give you a better opportunity to push your limiters. This is a much better proposition than two mediocre running days. Racing is hard enough. Why sabotage it with your training?
Know That There Is No Magic
You can look all you want, but you won't find it. Nothing has ever successfully replaced good, old fashioned hard work. You may have the greatest training plan the world has ever seen. You still have to execute it.
Each of the above facets can be applied to any training plan that you use. Taken piecemeal, their value remains inherent, but is limited. Together, they can completely change your life as a runner. These are the non-negotiables that are the difference between training with purpose and just going out for a run.Put your training to the test at a marathon.
Jesse Kropelnicki is an elite-level triathlon coach who founded QT2 Systems, a leading provider of personal triathlon coaching; TheCoreDiet.com, a leading provider of sports nutrition; and Your 26.2, a leading provider or marathon training programs. He coaches professional athletes Caitlin Snow, Jacqui Gordon, Ethan Brown and Tim Snow among others. He coaches professional triathletes using quantitative training and nutrition protocols. Find more coaching comments and ideas at kropelnicki.com.