Planning your OCR Racing Calendar

Obstacle Race Magazine Interview with Michael Cohen
Obstacle Race Magazine

Planning your OCR Racing Calendar

By Michael Cohen

Issue 5 July 2014

In this edition Coach Michael offers us some candid and great advice about how to manage your OCR race calendar, so as to avoid over-training and over-racing, plus the need to slot in rest and recovery periods.

One of the most difficult jobs of being a coach and manager to TEAM Wild Forest Gym elite OCR racing team is ending up parenting 8 excitable OCR racers on top of the three of my own children. So when it comes to each of them just wanting to race, race, race without much thought for the long term planning to achieving their goal, I as coach and manager have to stay STOP! Let’s look at the bigger picture, before they over commit, over-race and over train and just burn out.

It was only last year that I had to turn around to Thomas Blanc, Spartan Race UK Champion and say, you can’t go to America to race at the Spartan Race World Championships and Worlds Toughest Mudder. With much discussion and emotions I had to explain that taking on new worldwide challenges had to come when he is ready, particularly having just successfully completed a season of 6 Spartan Races in 5 week. He needed to rest and most importantly, we hadn’t trained for the almighty mountainous terrain of Vermont where the championship was to take place.

As a coach it is easier for me to see the bigger picture, about how we can spend a year training for these international races and make sure Thomas is ready to take on some of the biggest titans in OCR. Simply I wasn’t emotionally involved.

Turning down a free all expenses ticket to the US was even harder, but Thomas came round to understanding about strategy. More so 9 months later he has no regrets, as he is faster, stronger and as an athlete mentally and emotionally more developed than he was a year ago.

So how do you plan your Race Calendar?

First thing is first, you can’t race week in week out throughout the year. With over 150 races on the UK OCR circuit you can’t race them all. You will burn out, you will over race and you will likely end up injured. Similarly, if you are in the Mudstacle League you can’t race one season into the next without a break to recover and to train.

So here we go through the different steps to planning your OCR Race Year.

Step 1- Set up a table

Using an excel document, otherwise use a piece of paper. Set up the rows and columns as per the sample image. You will need to have a header row and 52 rows below. In respect to columns make sure you have additional columns to add your training plan on to it as well.

Step 2 – Decide on your goal(s) for the year.

Your goal(s) are the most important thing. Without which you find yourself racing for the sake of it and loose the momentum or over racing. By considering this first means that all your decisions that you are about to make serve a purpose to you achieving your goals.

Step 3 – Are you planning to up your distance?

If you are currently running 5k races and your goal is to do a 20k race then you need to consider your race calendar being progressive i.e. start your season with 5k race, then move to 10k and then mid season 15k race so that you are race ready for your big race. So don’t chuck in the big 20k too early in the season if it can be helped. If need be find an alternative race later in the season.

Step 4 – Consider what races will help you achieve your racing goal.

First of all write down your analysis of each aspect to your current racing:

· Types of races – sprints, endurance or hills.
· Distance – current and goal distance.
· Terrain – hills, mud and bogs.
· Weather – heat, rain or cold weather.
· Obstacle skills
· Safety skills
· Running Techniques
· Cold Water immersions
· Heights
· Agility, balance and co-ordination

With this in mind you need to consider adding into your calendar additional races that will form part of your training in step 6 below. To help you do this consider the following:

1. If you are weak in particular type of terrains do you need to include trail, fell, hilly or cross country running races in your calendar in addition to OCR races
2. Do you need to select certain races that have the terrain or obstacles that will test your skills.
3. Will certain races be good training races towards getting you ready for your major races.

Step 5 – Check the Mudstacle League

If you are planning to be in the Mudstacle league you need to have a look at points for each race to help you select your ‘A’, ‘B’ & ‘C’ races. Mudstacle league races with 40-point bonuses should be ‘A’ Races. Whereas 30-point bonuses should be ‘B’ or ‘C’ races.

Step 6 – Select your ‘A’ Races

‘A’ Races are the 3-4 major races of the year i.e. the most important ones that you are going to make sure you are peaking in regard to your training and racing. So be a bit ruthless and make sure they are the most important ones.

Step 7 – Select your ‘B’ Races

‘B’ Races are up to 6 important races i.e you still want to go out to achive a PB or the podium, however they may occur when you are not in peak form.

Step 8 – Select your ‘C’ Races

‘C’ Races are the remaining races that will provide you with experience and replace training sessions. These will assist in your limiters and skill developments as detailed in Step 3. These are not important races and you may choose not to do them if you need to train instead.

Step 9 – Are there any gaps in your racing?

Umm, how difficult was that. How ruthless have you been? It is hard. But lets be realistic you can’t be racing all year around. Now you need to look at the gaps in your year when you are not racing. Are there any?

Step 10 – Creating your racing seasons

Having considered Step 8 we now need to make some changes to create some racing seasons for you. If you were a footballer, cricketer or rugby player you have an on and off season. In OCR it all year round. Somehow we need to create seasons for you.

There are different ways of creating seasons depending on what is right for you:

Option 1 – Plan for 8-10 weeks hard racing and then 4-6 week training and recovery time.
Option 2 – Fit 1 race per month over the year. This way you can have a recovery week after race week and then train the other 3 weeks per month.
Options 3 – Spend first 3 months of the year in total training mode. But make sure that you have 1 recovery week in every 4 when it comes to the long race season.

Optimizing your training year

Training and racing is a very personal experience as non-professional OCR athletes, particularly when having to fit your racing and training in and around your work, personal and social lives. There is no one way that suits everyone. It is about experimenting, re-writing and working out what is right for you. Just remember nothing is set in stone like an atlas ball. If you want to make sure you have it in you to lift it high and the full distance be prepared to make changes as you develop your strategy to achieve your goals over the next year. Once you have your race calendar your next step is to develop training and recovery periods in your calendar.

Rest & Recovery

Dare I mention such words to an athlete and I get this look of astonishment and shock. Before I go on I will say categorically every athlete has issues with rest & recovery. Sure enough I feel it myself.

However to those athletes whom are more experienced they know that rest and recovery is just as important as training. You cannot go full out all year round for sure. 1. You will burn out 2. You will under-perform 3. Your body will stop by you experiencing injuries and fatigue.

I can assure you now all my athletes in TEAM Wild Forest Gym struggle with rest, recovery and holding back from racing. However, as a coach and manager I can look at the bigger picture. I can see when they are fatigued or continually injuring yourselves. They didn’t like it at first, but each time they realise the benefit and it gets a bit easier.

Just remember most of you are in full time jobs on top of your training and racing. So don’t over do it, otherwise you WILL pay the price.

Here are some recommendations:

1. Always have a recovery week the week following an ‘A’ race where possible. A recovery week is 75% of effort, time, distance, power and speed.
2. At the end of a season take a week off. Yes a whole week off and enjoy yourself. Hopefully you will not drive your partner or family up the wall.
3. If you are feeling fatigued take 3-7 days off to rest and recover.
4. Listen to your body. There is a difference between not being bothered to train and listening to it when it says you need a day off.
5. Always allow room for change in your training and racing schedule. It is not set in stone.
6. If you have a leg or ankle injury and your GP says your can do low impact training then get on the bike, swim or do aqua-jogging.
Get a 2nd opinion

Once you have put your calendar together seek the opinion of a friend or partner. Their opinion can be invaluable as they can see the bigger picture, as they are less emotionally attached, and may just be able to offer a free and revealing viewpoint that can really help.

Week Date Race Mudstacle League points Race Priority Race Distance (km)
1 29-Dec Hellrunner down South 30 B 16
2 05-Jan
3 12-Jan
4 19-Jan
5 26-Jan
6 02-Feb Endurancelife (half marathon) n/a C 21k
7 09-Feb
8 16-Feb
9 23-Feb Nuts Challenge 40 A 28
10 02-Mar
11 09-Mar Rock Solid ML 30 B 10
12 16-Mar
13 23-Mar
14 30-Mar
15 06-Apr Endurancelife (marathon) n/a C
16 13-Apr C
17 20-Apr Judgement Day 30 C 16
18 27-Apr
19 04-May Dirty Weekend 35 B 32

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