It is the Olympic Games, and this week we will get to enjoy some of the fastest triathletes in the world battling it out in some lightning fast swimming, cycling and running. The skills and output of these athletes is scary, and it should be hugely impressive. I thought it would be a good week to discuss the value of adding a few short races and events into your overall schedule.
While structured and progressive training is critical to your performance in key events, and we always discuss the value of embracing the journey of training toward performance, low-stress races are a welcome addition to almost any athlete's program. With this in mind, here are a few things to keep in mind when you think about short races:
- They should be low pressure. We want events that are shorter in duration and don’t require broad manipulation of the overall training approach. Consider them a part of the training week, not something to be built toward with specific purpose.
- Keep them short. Sprint distance races, swim-run events, 5km or 10km races, or even an Olympic Distance triathlon.
- Build resilience off of them. If you integrate a short race into the program, then it is an easy weekend training management. Aim to finish the race and add 30, 40, or up to 70 minutes of smooth endurance running immediately following. The subsequent day of training will be optimized if it is a low-stress endurance bike ride (Z2) for several hours. You then have a high intensity and resilience development weekend that doesn’t disrupt training flow.
- Build wisdom. Last week I discussed pacing. You can use these experiences to manage pacing and resources. You can also test equipment, go through transitions, refine fueling and hydration management and more. You learn from every race.
- Don’t obsess over performance. Just race them, learn from the experience and move on. These races are never pass/fail, and more anchored in a great session of work that builds familiarity around racing. The biggest lesson that you can draw is if you are carrying too much fatigue, so more of a signal to back off instead of a sign that you are improving or not.
- Navigate adversity. Races have a funny habit of delivering adversity and pain. You can become a master of problem solving and fatigue management, something you will certainly utilize in your key races.
I hope this provides a lens on short race additions. More than anything, there is something else really valuable about these types of races. They are FUN. Mix it up, enjoy it, go and do these local races with friends, and just ensure they become a point of enjoyment over additional stress.
Best of luck.