How to Survive Your 2021 Race Season

Fatigue, Fitness, and Form, oh my!

Does this sound familiar in 2020? Train for an April race. Race postponed until September. Train for another race. Race cancelled. Sign up for different race that others “insist” will go. Almost start training for said race, but race cancelled before training begins. Start training again for the previously postponed race. That race cancelled, but run it virtually. Defer another race because of quarantine rules and rising cases. Sign up for early season race in 2021 because in need of a boost of hope. Look at 2021 race calendar and realize you are going to be in a whole lotta hurt next year.

If you are like me, you are most likely facing a packed 2021 race calendar. So let’s assume that 2021 is NOT cancelled and our races will happen (I am an eternal optimist).

I have two marathons, two half Ironmans, one gravel race, one full Ironman, and two local sprint/Olympic races. Normally, I would race half that in a year, mainly because my 45 year old body and my 45 year old life cannot handle more. But I am determined to DO IT UP in 2021 to make up for 2020 (0/5 stars. Would not recommend).

Here’s what I have come up with to make sure we all survive.

Listen to your coach/follow your training plan. It always amazes me that some people hire a coach (or download a training plan) and then don’t follow the program. I’m not talking about when life gets in the way or you get sick and have to improvise. I mean when you decide to run 12 miles instead of 5, or join in on a hilly bike ride when you were supposed to do an easy swim. Learn to say no. If my coach puts in a one hour easy ride, I’m not going to say yes to the practice triathlon that my friends are doing on Sunday at the local lake (true story). There’s wiggle room of course, but it’s generally best to stick to your plan.

Strength train NOW. Can we say we are in the off season? Was there even an on season? In any case, try to strength train twice a week now. Triathlete specific, basic exercises- squats, lunges, planks, band work, maybe a wee bit of plyo. Nothing too crazy, especially if you are not experienced in the weight room. Consistency and proper form are key. You don’t need to go heavy (in fact, you should not go heavy unless you have built up to it). Your goal should be resiliency.

Train for different courses at once. One of my marathons is flat, one is hilly. One 70.3 is going to be hot with a hilly run, one is going to be much cooler with a hilly bike. I won’t have time to course specific train for all of them, so I’m going to have to vary the training a lot and then just pray to the quad and hamstring gods that the ol’ body holds up.

Pay attention to your nutrition. Hi, my name is Amy and I am a chronic underfueler. It’s not that I don’t eat. Oh I LOVE to eat. But I also find myself struggling to get enough food in while riding and struggling to eat enough during the day, especially on days when I have long sessions. How the heck do the pros do it? Are they just eating every waking moment? In any case, you need to fuel properly before your workouts, during your workouts, and after your workouts. I’m not going to go into a “this nutrition plan is the best” because I know there are three things one should not bring up amongst friends a)politics b)religion c)what kind of diet you should follow. But seriously, if you are ramping up your training, you need to EAT.

Listen to Your body. How many of us have trained through little aches and pains because we didn’t want to miss a session? That Training Peaks box had better be GREEN, gosh darn it! Listen…mentally, you are going to want to train the same way for all your races, but I’m here to tell you that if you have a packed race calendar in 2021, there won’t be a race season if you don’t take time off or see your PT when things start to go off the rails. Better to take an easy week in May if you still want to be racing in September. I speak from experience, Ms. Oh-my-hamstring-is-fine-I-will-keep-running. (Spoiler alert- I lost 3 months of running because of said hamstring injury).

Recover like a Boss. I’m not just talking about recovery after your workout, though if I could get away with an hour a day in my Normatecs I would do it. I’m talking about taking a rest day once a week. I’m talking about taking it super easy between races if they are close together with just a few sessions to keep the pointy end of the arrow sharp. I know, I know. We all have that one friend who can go out and run a ten miler a few days after his or her marathon, but That.Is.Not.Normal. Nor is the body actually recovered enough to do that. You build a ton of fatigue when you race. If you don’t take time to shed that fatigue (just like how you slowly ramped up your training), your body won’t survive the rest of the season. And don’t forget about the mental aspect of recovery, as well. I love not having to worry about mile splits and power numbers during recovery periods.

A race, B race, Z race? I’m going to be honest and say it’s not in my DNA to approach a race as anything BUT an A race, but sometimes you just have to prioritize. That gravel race I have in July? I made sure I was in the “party in the back” wave, not the “business in the front” wave [yes, those are really what the waves are called. Love it.]. If you are healthy and feeling good, then by all means race the heck out of your races. But if it’s a bit overwhelming, then hold back and just enjoy the day and spend some extra time helping another racer or thanking all the volunteers on the course.

It’s all about pacing really: pacing your nutrition, your workouts, your mindset. I really (really) hope we get to race ALL the races in 2021 and we can get to the end of next year stronger, happier, and healthier.

Amy was a teacher for 22 years and now spends her time teaching fitness classes, training for marathons and triathlons, and trying to raise two teenagers.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store