Wrapping up with all things 2013 means it’s time to start planning for events and races in 2014. That means prioritizing races and events into A,B, and C categories. It’s great to start the plan with an A race, maybe 2 if they are far apart, and then everything else you decide will start to fall into place.

A-races are the events that you are the most important to you, perhaps a Boston Qualifier, World Championships Qualifier, etc (or Boston, or World Championships!) A-races get your full attention, meaning complete peak phase of training and taper. Performance at A-Races is number one goal.

B-races really set up the A-races, so they could be shorter distances (doing a 70.3 in prep for a full Ironman) or have a single focus in preparation for a multi-sport event (10k race in prep for an Olympic tri). While results are important for B-races, they aren’t the most important aspect. You may use these races to focus on nutrition, transitions, getting clothing dialed in. You may focus on one element of a multi-sport event (go “easy” on swim/run and try to push the bike especially hard). Generally you won’t taper as long or peak for a B-race, but instead approach it as you would an important training day.

C-races should be fun and fit into a regular training regimen. There won’t be a taper or recovery period per say, just a low pressure event like a 5k, sprint tri, or cross race. Results here are meaningless and the key aspect becomes enjoyment and maybe playing around with different equipment, nutrition strategies, or clothing choices where it won’t hurt that much if things aren’t perfect.

All three types of events are important and should be planned early. Once the event schedule is planned out, then you can work backward to your starting date and organize the micro-cycles that will go into your training. Make sure to factor in any travel you have planned; it will interrupt the normal schedule. It is always easier to plan a run block or recovery week during a week-long business trip than to try to get a bunch of swimming and biking in on the road.

All great athletes have a plan going into the season. The better the plan is laid out and the more successful they are at staying within the framework of that plan, the better their chances of a successful season. So many variables in racing are out of our control, so it really helps to take charge of the elements of your season that you can control. While you may not consider yourself an elite athlete, it certainly doesn’t mean that you can’t borrow the easy elements of elite athlete’s planning!

I am drawing out 2014 season plans right now with athletes. Over the years, we’ve gotten better and better at doing this for each individual, but some common threads keep coming up. I’ll share them here so maybe they help as you plan your 2014 season.

1. Less might be more. People are tempted to race, a lot. Because friends are doing it, because they think it will make them faster, because they enjoy it. Races, whether A, B, or C, can take a lot out of you, cost a lot of money, and keep you from more dedicated training that may be better time spent. When planning the season, ask why you are racing so much and if it will make you better or just keep you from getting in the training you really need.

2. Does a marathon or half-ironman really get you prepared for racing an ironman? Probably, but done too close to your race and you get into what I talked about previously. Half-ironman pacing and nutrition are nothing like full ironman, so the gains in race strategy are gone or minimal and the taper and recovery it takes to race that distance will prevent good training that could have happened instead. Usually recommend skipping these racing inside 3-4 months of an A-Race Ironman.

3. Adventure racing is dangerous! How many people have been hurt weeks or months before a race because of cross racing, wild canyon games, hood to coast, etc. There are so many “fun” races these days that use extreme something or other to set them apart. They are appealing and can be great, but risky close to a race that may mean a little more to you.

4. Have something after your big race. Train hard, kick ass, then fall off the map? A common pattern and one that can be eliminated with setting goals beyond the big day. This is a great place for one of those adventure type races mentioned above.

While lots of factors should be taken into consideration when making a season plan, the best advice is to look at the whole season with a coach to make sure that your goals, schedules and budget are dialed in. It’s an easy and fun conversation and can lead to great things!