It's about this time of year that the internal fire of endurance athletes gets stoked. Managing that desire and planning out a "long burn" will result in the greatest successes.
The key areas in which to focus are: goal setting, race selection and planning.
There are all sorts of goals and the critical ones are long term goals and short term goals. A long term goal might be result based"I want to finish in the top ten of my age group at this certain race..top 5.win". Another long term goal might be related to a new distance "I want to finish that half or full Ironman". No matter the goal, it's important to keep in mind that every foot fall of every run this year can be a step in the right direction for that long term goal. Short term goals can act as the motivators that keep you consistent in your training. Those goals can be basic."I want to run 4 times this week" or can have specificity "I want to swim 100m using only 140 strokes in less than one minute and forty five seconds". Regardless of what the goal is it has to be something that you truly want and it has to be something over which you have control. Make the goal both challenging AND obtainable. Those are the elements that will keep you yearning and burning for the long haul.
This time of year is the right time to start your race selection. Pick out two or three "key" races where you want to be at your best and register for them NOW. Then select other events as training races or fun races that fall into the calendar at times appropriate to your key events. Once you plan out your training some of those fun/training races might fall during a recovery week - where you can still go but you have to hold back a bit. Those races might fall during a very heavy training week - where you can still go but you might have to cross the finish line and run another 10k.
Speaking of planning.this is the most powerful thing you can do to improve your performances this season. Open up your calendar and look at the number of weeks you have to get from today to your key race. Plan your training so that every two to three weeks of training you lighten up a bit - shorter mileage, fewer workouts, less intensity so that there are five or six days where you give your body a chance to rest and adapt to the previous twenty days of effort. This concept is called periodization and is simple and logical. It's based on the principal that the human body can and will adapt to the stresses you place on it IF it has a chance to rest. Periodization can help avoid burnout and reduce the risk of injury too.
Taking just a few minutes to think through your season now can lead to all new heights in the coming months.
Ian Murray is the Head Coach of LA Tri Club and Founder/President of Triathletix