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Plan a smart race calendar to hit your goals and have fun!

Happy New Year BibRave community!

My 2017 has been a whirlwind with some marquee trips and races that really accelerated towards the end of the year! Planning races in advance keeps me motivated to run throughout the year, and while I still have 2 more race-cations on my schedule in early 2018, I am what Tim calls, “Planny McPlannerson.” So, I’m already thinking about my broader race calendar and schedule. Here are my usual considerations:

Determine big goals for the year

I started the past few years identifying ONE Marathon to attempt a PR and/or time goal. I make sure I block out the 3-4 months before a race so no large trips hinder my ability to train seriously. I also look for a race course that plays to my strengths (all flat roads for me, baby!) and ideally one that is logistically easy (travel time, cost, time zone change, etc.). This year, I may eye up another PR-attempt Marathon in the fall since I’ll need some good recovery time from the Tokyo Marathon and my 6 Marathons in 6 months (crazy, I know)! I didn’t commit to Chicago in time so I’ll be eyeing up some other flat fall courses.

If your goal is not PR or time-related, it could be destination-focused! These are also a favorite of mine 😉. If you have a faraway destination in mind and love incorporating a race, do a quick google search to see when their signature Marathons and Half Marathons occur. This is how Tim and I stumbled onto the Xterra Trail Half Marathon in Honolulu seven years ago.

If you don’t have a destination in mind but know you want to plan a great race-cation, do a quick search on The BibRave 100 site for a list of the 100 Best Races in America. A number of our Top Marathons and Half Marathons cited beautiful views and warm temps (especially during the winter months), and our Top 10Ks and 5Ks touted awesome parties and swag. I know I’ll definitely be eyeing up Missoula Marathon and Urban Bourbon as destinations at some point in the upcoming years!

No matter your objective – PR or destination – be sure to plan these in advance, not only for your training calendar, but for your wallet as well!

Add in training races

If I can, I’ll add in 1-2 Half Marathons or 15Ks/10 Milers during the training cycle to give me some solid race-effort practice during training. I find getting in the racing mindset extremely challenging, so having a few shorter race-effort races ensures I have the right race mindset before my goal race AND helps to fill out the calendar.

Why is this important? To get the right race mindset for race-day you have to train your brain to get into the suffer zone and then stay there. Nothing does that like an actual race.  When I’m out of practice I’ll back off too early, and then after the race I’ll start to question whether or not I pushed myself hard enough. Attempting race effort on a solo training run is never the same, which is why these training races are crucial.

Extra bonus – I’ve been able to set a PR during these training races, which is a nice ego boost during the training cycle!

Find a few fun races

For me, these could be my favorite regulars that I run every year. I always have 1-2 go-tos that are organized, well-run, and have great swag or post-race treats and parties. These races are key because I know exactly what to expect, AND I sign-up super early to take advantage of the lowest registration price possible. When you have a few regulars, it’s also nice to look at the progress from these races over the years, and claiming your results on Athlinks is a quick and easy way to look back.

Sometimes these could be fun themed races that you can use to encourage your non-crazy runner friends to run with you! When I was in Chicago, the Hot Chocolate 15K was always a good race to serve this purpose. Rudolph Ramble was also a fav because they had great pom-pom beanie hats the last few years I participated!

2018 is a little unorthodox for me. Normally the end of a year would ramp down my running and racing so I’d be looking to ramp back up in the early months. Since I’m still going strong with my 6 Marathons in 6 months through the end of February, I may have some downtime this spring and ramp up in the early summer. There is a great Full and Half during July 4th weekend just outside of Portland that serves strawberry shortcake! And if I can use that Half to build into a Full – even better!

Every year, there are so many races to choose from, it’s hard to know where to start. By identifying your key goals, and then supporting and supplementing with other training and fun races I find the right balance to keep me motivated throughout the year!

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