Well it’s that time of the year – early season races are approaching for many athletes. Overall training volumes are now ramping up in anticipation of the first test of the season. We all face the normal list of questions in our heads such as: “Am I ready for the race physically”, “I have been swamped at work and my fitness is not where I want it”, “What is the goal for the race in perspective to the entire season”; “I don’t have enough long workouts for the race”. These are just a few of the many questions that cross our minds when getting ready for the first race.
What’s amazing is that when you have experience and muscle/mental memory of what it takes to race at the given distance it normally works out fine. All the pre-race questions are not an issue at all once the gun fires. Of course, PR’s might be difficult when fitness is lower this time in the season but long term racing experience will help you prepare for the “rough spots” during the first race. The subconscious reminds you that you have done it before many times.
Personally, I love the feeling of racing in a pack again and finishing more exhausted than just a training session. I think most would agree that the first race always offers us the pleasant “next-day” muscle soreness. It’s always fun to get the mental and physical engines back in gear for some competition from the recovery layoff after the end of last year’s race season. For all of you winter athletes participating in races such as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, winter multi-day ultra running and winter mountain biking your already in peak shape and well ahead of our fitness levels!
8 items to keep in mind when gearing for the early-season race:
1. What is the goal, time, heart rate zone, power output average (on the bike). Write it down going into the race. Remember what your key race is for the season.
2. I always go into the first race with a little lower expectation as in many cases overall fitness is not near as strong mid summer.
3. Test a new nutrition product as the race while important is not the key race of the year. Yes, it’s against all advice, but testing nutrition strategy or equipment for this early race can provide a better baseline (vs. just training) on what works and what does not.
4. Begin the race slow and finish strong (usually tough when fitness levels are lower) and it becomes a mental challenge that will pay off big time later in the year
5. Test your limits a bit and make it a stretch goal. For example, if you are gearing for a 100 mile run, ultra tri, or long endurance event find a race that will test you while your fitness is building find a long snowshoe race, bike race, etc. If you pick a race shorter in distance compared to the race goals just go harder and if you blow up, no worries just shuffle on in to the finish. A marathon in a warm-weather climate might be just what you need to escape this unbelievable winter in many parts of the country.
6. Bonk Race this is an idea from good friend and hard core ultra runner Rick Freeman. Rick does these “forced bonks” in long training or non-key races. The goal is to keep the calorie intake to a low level and only use water and some electrolytes to maintain hydration. The huge benefit is that it forces you mentally and physically to push through the “down’s” that come from a low amount of calories. Pushing through bonk will become part of the subconscious and you can pull it out of the mind when you face the “down” in a race and rally the body and mind back quickly.
7. Pick a race that is completely different than your normal specific endurance event. A personal example occurred several years ago as I competed in snowshoe hill climb in Vail, Colorado as part of a ski trip. I rented some snowshoes (was not in race shape at all) and went out and had a blast with the race. Yes, I was crushed physically with the effort but it was the start of a new sport that I use throughout my off-season training. There are so many other examples such as adding a cross country ski race, stair climb race up a building, cyclocross race, winter ultra running race (extreme winter multi day – carrying sled), etc.
8. Always learn from the race. If you made a mistake make sure you remember it and don’t make the mistake twice.
Well this weekend is my first race of the season - 24 hour road bike race. Yes my fitness is just building so there will be plenty of “fun” up’s and down’s during the race. Good kick-start to the season!!
QUESTION FOR ATHLETES:
I would love to find out what type of race, location, and date for your first race of the season: Please send a comment below, email firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook message, or twitter me: @waynekurtz : Plenty of social media options to choose for your quick response!!