Race season is upon us and athletes everywhere are starting to think about key races to do well at and secondary races to use for training and motivation. Lower priority, B and C races, are commonly used earlier in the season, but these races can also be used throughout the year for training and more. Secondary races provide experience, training benefits, and as a stage to assess your early or mid-season form. So, targeting a handful of races throughout the year to use as a learning experience, in addition to training, is a good idea.
A race environment is unique in many ways. From the arrival to the finish line, a race can be a nerve wracking experience, especially when you realize there are a few hundred to a few thousand others looking to do the same thing as you. Gaining experience in this environment is important to helping you feel more comfortable, confident and able to avoid distractions leading up to and during the race. Athletes commonly get psyched out over the looks or attitude of their competition, creating self-doubt and a loss of focus. Practice and experience will help you avoid these types of distractions the day of the race.
The more experience you have lining up at the start line for a race, the better; because it’s here you will face many distractions. While other racers are rustling for a good starting position, or chatting to let loose of some nervous energy, remaining focused on the start will help reduce pre-race anxiety and lead to a good mindset and better feel once the starting gun goes off. So, your secondary races are a great practice ground for learning how to deal with the pressures of race day and play a key role in helping you achieve a better focus leading up to and during the race.
An Intense Effort
Once the gun goes off and the pre-race jitters slowly disappear, it is all about a hard effort to the finish. B and C races are the most specific way to train for your main event later in the season. Mimicking race intensity outside of an official race is difficult, even on the hardest training rides. The nonstop action of a race is what makes it so intense. With people chasing you and others to chase, a race provides the motivation to push the limits and work a hard intense effort. Pushing your limits will call upon your strengths and tax your weaknesses, resulting in bigger gains in overall strength and endurance. Use secondary races to make larger gains, but use them in a smart way. Combining too much training and racing together or not recovering from large bouts of training or long races can easily lead to an over trained state. So, creating a smart plan to rest, train and race at appropriate times is always wise.
One of the most important uses of B and C races is as an assessment on your current strengths and weaknesses. Before you assess your race performance, examine your current fatigue levels and how well rested you are going into the race. If you didn’t rest into the race, or rested for only a few days, then it may not be the best race to judge performance. So for that reason, rest or taper for at least 7-10 days into many of your B races, to allow for a good assessment. Resting well into your secondary races will also allow you to work with greater power and endurance during the race, pushing your limits further towards greater gains.
So race your heart out during the season but be smart and have fun with it. Too many secondary races will only create the need for additional rest, which leaves less time for quality training. Too few secondary races may not provide you with the learning experience and gains you need. So work a good balance between racing, training and resting to achieve the greatest benefit, and gain as much experience from each race as you can.