Choosing your “A” Race
Whether you are new to the sport or well immersed into the scene, most of us like to test our fitness against a distance or course. When an athlete asks for my opinion on which races they should sign up for throughout the year, my suggestion is to start with their “A” race and work backwards from there. An “A” race is your most important race of the year and the one that you want to show up to the start line in the best shape possible for. Once you have established what your A race or event is going to be, you can start filling in the rest of the year with other events or races that you can either choose to use as “tune up” events (ones that help provide you with a gauge of how ready you are for your upcoming A race) or simply for use as training runs leading up to your race. If using them as training runs, you would oft times not race them to your full capacity or would go into them having not tapered like you would for your A race.
When looking at the big picture of an athlete’s training load from an annual training plan perspective, I personally don’t like to try and “peak” an athlete, in other words have months of planned training load and recovery built upon itself leading up to their top racing shape, more than twice per year. That would mean that I generally don’t recommend having more than one or two A races for a year. It seems to be a prevailing fad in the ultrarunning community right now to race as many times as you can in a year. I see athletes running races in back to back weekends. While they may find success in this over the short duration, I am interested in overall longevity in the sport. By choosing one or two A races each year and then choosing a few races strategically placed leading up to it, you can maximize your ability to dial in fitness at the right times of year and adequately allow your body to rest.