Friday, April 21, 2017

It's not a Race, it's a Training Run


Have you ever over-scheduled your race calendar?

I have (and not by accident).

Though I'm not a competitive, type-A, "in-it-to-win-it" type of a runner, I do enjoy racing. I'm also not a certified coach, but I bet any (or all?) of them would advise against too many races within a training cycle, especially if you're training for a major landmark race. My caveat to doing numerous races (while training for something bigger) is that I do them as training runs.


Have you ever done such a thing? It's really not a crime, after all. Here are some things to consider if you find yourself training for a big race (your first-ever long distance event, or a half marathon, or possibly a full marathon or ultra) and can't resist hitting "submit" on a registration site:

1. Just because it's a race does not mean you have to RACE it. Did you know you don't have to make every "race" an all-out 110% PR conquest? I know, if you're going to spend the money, why not try for a victory....I get that...but if you give every race a full-on effort, you will need a lot more recovery time after each finish line. If you have a big race that, ultimately, is your "main" race, your training may get side-railed as a result (ummm...#burnout). Let's not even talk about the increased risk of injury from all of the effort (hello...#overtraining).

One such race for me was Grandma's Marathon (June 2015). I essentially used Grandma's as a training run in preparation for my first ultra (Christmas in July 6-hour Ultra) a month later. I had already registered for Grandma's (and was in the early stages of training) when several friends asked me to join them at the CIJ. I was torn...I really wanted to do both races, but I also respected the amount of wear and tear it would be on my body. Hence, I got the idea to continue with my marathon training, but treat the first race as a long training run...in other words, go for distance and not finish time on race day. Because I ran Grandma's at an easy pace, I was able to recover much quicker than had I tried to "race" it. Granted, my finish time was my slowest 26.2 to date, but I was also able to finish my first-ever ultra  the following month.
Approaching the finish line at Grandma's Marathon
2. An actual race environment is a great opportunity to test your race day strategy for your future BIG race. When I trained for Route 66 last fall, I also wanted to run in the IMT Des Moines Half Marathon (a month prior). I had been having some issues with my pacing (running the training runs too fast) and my fuel needed tweaking. My coach advised me to run the first eight miles at a slow pace (for me, that was between a 10-10:30 pace), then try to to run the remaining five miles faster, with a moderate effort (9-9:30 pace). I also had the plan to take a gel every four miles instead of waiting for when I felt I "needed" one (usually around the 6-mile mark), and to alternate water and Gatorade at the water stations....in other words, I needed to make a conscious effort to stay ahead of the fueling/hydration. Guess what? Without the pressure to PR, I was able to focus on my well-being. All went well...I stayed on pace for those first eight miles, and (by doing so) had enough energy left in the tank to finish strong (even with a tough hill near the 10-mile mark).

3. You can swap it out for a tempo run. Recently, I was registered for a 10K (Leprechaun Chase), but some unexpected snow/ice paid the race course a visit and the route had to be shortened for safety reasons. Believe me, I did not show up on race morning ready for a 5K, but it's what we were given. Although I desperately tried to start out easy, I got swept up in the excitement and followed the crowd...it wasn't until I glanced at my watch (at the 1-mile mark) that I realized just how fast I was going (8:00 pace...YIKES! #toofastforme). I managed to reel it back some for the second mile, but ultimately ran the entire race faster than I'd anticipated. I didn't get a 5K PR, but it definitely was one of my fastest 5K's ever.

Leprechaun Chase...an unexpected 5K tempo eun
4. You also have the option of running a few extra miles before and after to arrive at a cumulative long-distance. Another recent race happened at an inopportune time within my training cycle. Our town was hosting a state-wide 5K event, but I had a 10-mile long run on my schedule. It was still relatively early in my training, so I opted to run an easy 3 miles as a warm-up, "race" the 5K, then finish up with four extra bonus miles afterwards. Problem solved. The 5K happened, and (thanks to the 3-mile warm-up) I ran it well! The remaining miles were finished and I was able to stay on schedule with my mileage .


5. Last of all, you just might end up with a medal for your efforts. Another such race that I ran as a training run was the Quad Cities Half Marathon (Sept. 2016). Technically, I also ran this race as part of a marathon relay team (continuing on to the 13.1 finish line after my relay leg was completed), so I scored two medals! I'm kind of a bling junkie....if I have a long run that needs to be run, why not earn a medal in the process?

Double race bibs = double bling

Obviously, this strategy is not for everyone. Racing is expensive, and it would be ridiculous to try to do a race every weekend  just for the sake of extra hardware. This works for me because I have learned to alter my training plan(s) to accommodate the optimal mileage needed to stay on track for my races. Is it ideal? (no) Is it perfect? (not really) But, can it work? (YES!)

Have you ever utilized a race as part of a training plan? Have you ever had to take a pass on a favorite race because it may not have fit into your schedule?

I'm linking this with Meranda and Lacey and Rachel for the Friday Five 2.0. 



I'm also linking with Nicole for her  Fit and Fashionable Friday link-up.



39 comments:

  1. I think races are a great way to get in a training run and change things up! If Im training for a marathon Ill do about 1-3 races throughout my training (but only 1 longer race like a half) As long as you don't "race" it I think it can help you stay motivated and help you with being comfortable in a race environment. Plus, its always fun to get a medal!

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    1. I also like having the opportunity to run in a different location...I've seen every street in my town...

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  2. Yes I think it helps with boredom to use a race as a training run sometimes. As you say though, it's hard to run it without racing it. I have that problem in general with lots of training runs

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    1. Once I get away from the start line, running "easy" does get easier LOL

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  3. I'm a big fan of using races as training runs, especially when you are training for a marathon or half marathon. I love races and never feel the need to PR, so this works out perfect for me.

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    1. I always have the PR ting in the back of my head, but it's not my focus for races such as this

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  4. I chuckle at #4. I know a lot of people do it but I am not disciplined enough to run more miles after my race...lol

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    1. It helps to have a friend to run those extra miles with you...it's tough to do alone

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  5. I've tried to use races as a training run, but there's something about a starting gun and a bib that turns it into a race for me. I just can't do it.

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  6. My next half is supposed to be a training run. We'll see how that works for me. I haven't been able to race much lately.

    I think the fact that it's a trail half pretty much guarantees it'll be a slow race for me.

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    1. A trail half will definitely help you go easier than usual due to the terrain

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  7. I don't race as much as I used to (you're right, they are expensive!), but I admit I have done a race as a training run. My hubby and I once ran seven marathons in nine months, and we decided that he way to avoid hurting ourselves was to alternate, one race for real, the next for training. We made it, didn't get injured, and ironically I finished all races between 3:40 and 3:50. Something about being more tense during the "real" races seemed to make me more likely to have my asthma flare up.

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    1. Wow! Those are pretty consistent finish times for racing vs.not racing ;-)

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  8. As a coach, I'm all about tune up races as an indicator of how you'll do at your goal race. Using races as training runs is great IF you can do it. Many people are like our friend Wendy, above.

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    1. I think they work for me because I just don't have that drive to constantly be running faster...I'm too aware of the race day circumstances (and my tendency to trip/fall if I try to go too fast)

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  9. I added a bunch of races to my last training cycle and did just as you said. I didn't use them as races. Instead, I stuck to the plan my coach made for me and just got a medal for it :)

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  10. Ever since I started working with a coach I have really embraced the idea of running a tune up race before my goal race - gives you a chance to work out the kinks, and like you said, you might get some hardware to boot ;)

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    1. I have never thought of them as a tune up race, but that is exactly what they are!

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  11. I like running virtual runs as training runs- less pressure :-) I need to learn how to incorporate long runs with a fast 5K in it- thanks for the tio- I have one next Saturday- I am going to try it.

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    1. Wooot!!!! I can't wait to hear how it goes ;-) Good luck!

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  12. Several years back I horribly overscheduled my race calendar. I wanted to do a half ironman that year, but then I ended up doing like 15 races of varying distance in the 6 months leading up to it. I was mentally and physically done and ended up cancelling my reg for the half iron.

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    1. That sounds rough, and probably disappointing. If I treated all of my races as competitive endeavors, I'd be mentally and physically done, too.

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  13. I have to say... if I had the time, money and energy I'd race every weekend. There's nothing like that finish line!

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    1. I agree...but the $$$$ is pretty prohibitive!

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  14. I definitely have used races as training run. It adds a little variety to the mix. I haven't tried to run miles afterwards, but I have tacked on some mileage before.

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    1. I love the variety it adds...I get bored running the same streets in my town all the time

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  15. Thanks for the reminders. I tend not to over schedule due to my difficulty not wanting to 'race' but such a good idea to use as training runs.

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    1. I simply can't "race" each time I pin on a bib. It's not in me to compete in that aspect...but I do love a good long run in the company of others!

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  16. I sign up for races to use as "fun runs" -- basically just a way to get my long run in with some company and aid. :) Plus the medals and bibs are always fun.

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    1. Agreed! I'm not one who has to be striving for a better/faster at each race.

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  17. I'm seriously debating not racing my race this weekend. I'm actually hoping for a bit of rain to take the pressure off. :-)

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    1. I've had similar thoughts before a race before ;-)

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  18. As someone who runs for the sake of running, not races, but who is interested in starting to race, these are some great tips! And I have to say, your outfit for the Leprechaun race was beautiful! :)

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    1. Thanks!!!! Some people are competitive by nature,but I'm just not in their league LOL I do have some races that I treat as actual races, and try to monitor my pace, etc....but it's mentally exhausting (for me) doing that very often.

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  19. You know I am a big fan of incorporating races into training plans... and not RACING them!

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  20. I used some 5ks as part of long runs a few times. It was fun and made the long run a lot more exciting!

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  21. Great tips. I have used my non-goal races as a way to check my progress leading up to the big one! It's definitely nice to get a medal for a training run!

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