With the new year here, now is the time to map out your race schedule. But, just how many races should you (or can you) build into your annual training plan (ATP)?
The answer to this question depends upon many factors: your goals, training and racing experience, age, injury history, race distances and recovery time (how quickly you bounce back from a race-effort).
With the variety of distance races now available every month and almost every weekend, it is possible for experienced athletes to train and peak for 2 or 3 races per year. New athletes to the sport should focus on building a solid training base, developing good technique and having fun. I suggest that they target one "main" culminating event for their season and not be so concerned with peaking for multiple events.
In choosing these main events for the season, I like to rank the races—A, B or C—with my athletes. "A" races are the most important of the season. These are events for which they will taper and aim to peak. Experienced long-distance athletes can target 1 or 2 "A" races.
For example, an athlete could choose an early spring 70.3 or 140.6 race and a late fall 70.3 or 140.6 one. For athletes who focus on shorter events (sprint and Olympic distances), 2 or 3 "A" events could be worked into the ATP.
"B" races are events for which we will schedule rest-and-recovery heading into the race week and then several recovery days after the race. Rest and recovery can be complete days off from training or shorter-than-usual aerobic workouts (for active recovery).
An athlete may schedule several of these "B" events throughout the season. For experienced long-distance athletes these "B" efforts could be a 70.3 or an aqua-bike event, leading into a 140.6-mile "A" race.