For example, François (not the athletes real name) is entered into a 28 kilometre mountain run late January and then has their sights set on a road marathon late March. What should I as a coach tell him? Go for it? Or hold back? The answer is dependant on many factors.
I would suggest that François first reflects on what he wants to achieve. Does he want see his development and progression as life-long and have his desired races on a schedule that reflects this? Or does François have a shopping list of events that they wish to burn through in as shorter time as practical? In addition, it is important for François to consider his physical and psychological state post the first event, i.e. has he recovered adequately or has he picked up an injury going forward? Scheduling with family, leave from his job and the financial commitment for the athlete are all things that may require consideration also.
I understand the allure of competition. I understand that having adventures with friends and family is an integral component of an adaptive life. I understand that pushing one’s self as an athlete is absolutely beneficial- the greatest growth occurs on the cusp of support and challenge; however I would balance this with the view that careful consideration and planning of events through the year will lead to greater results and personal satisfaction.
Find a piece of paper. Let that piece of paper be “Your Year”. Draw a large 'M' on the piece of paper. Let us consider that we can split our events into three categories- A, B, and C. Category A events are our banner events for the year. Ones that we engage and prepare for 100%. For most of us, in a twelve month period, we should expect to be able to peak twice. The M represents the two peaks of a twelve month period with the trough of recovery that follows such a performance peak. Category B events are events which engage in fully, though with the realisation that our performance will be below our best. Category C events are those which we engage, though more from an experiential, social, psychological perspective. The C’s may be a smaller distance at a larger event, or running with a spouse of friend who may run at a slower pace, or tackling an event with friends “for a laugh”, you know that you will be able to complete the event, and at the pace you are doing it, you will not be unduly stressed.
On the M place your Category A events at the two peaks of the M. Choose a couple of Category B events and place these halfway up the ascending side of the M. Depending on your personal desires you can sprinkle some Category C events into the mix, and, as expected these will likely be at the bottom of the M, and between the Bs and As.
This is just one approach, and will not work for everybody, however it is valuable to visualise your year of events and plan accordingly. For those of you who balk at this approach as you believe that it in some way limits you in terms of competition, consider that on that M you can fit two Category A events, two Category B events, and any number of Category C events. Discounting the Category C events completely, four events in a 12 month period is a worthy endeavour.
I strongly believe that planning your year is useful to avoid the trap of trying to peak for everything, which in itself is a dangerous impossibility. Your sense of wellbeing and fulfilment will likely be greatest if you are improving through the year and completing events to the best of your ability.