What are A-, B-, and C-Races, anyway?
Have you heard the term A-Race before, but are left wondering what exactly an A-Race is? Put simply, calling a race an A-Race is a way of categorizing what you deem to be your most important race (or races) of your season/year. Unless you’re superhuman or you only run one race all year, not all of your races will be an A-Race.
If your goal is to simply complete your races this year, there’s really no benefit to categorize your races (unless you really like spreadsheets and just want to). Even if you’re running 12 races this year, but really only have high hopes for breaking a PR at one of them, you should be categorizing that one race as an A-Race and planning out your training so you peak at that specific A-Race.
If your goals are to hit a PR at one race, win another race, or just be competitive in several of your races, you should be categorizing your races for the year. You can break them down into A Races, B Races, and C Races.
This is critical to your training. Let’s be honest: you can’t be “at peak fitness” all year long. It’s not plausible, nor is it beneficial to try and maintain A-race status for 12 months, day-in and day-out. You’ll burn out, and possibly injure yourself. Ain’t no one got time for that!
These are generally the races you want to be in your best fitness form for, and to do your best at (qualifying events, championship events, or any race YOU DEEM important to yourself.) So, if you’ve got races lined up from February to September, take a look at your schedule and decide which ones you want to peak at. These are essentially the races where you’re planning to leave it all out on the course, red-lining the race.
A-Races are the races you are going to plan your training around. They will dictate how to train, when to start and taper, and what level of intensity you should be training at.
A-Races really should be spaced out throughout the year as well to accommodate your training program(s). I’ll break down a sample schedule below of how we categorized our races for 2019. Moving forward, our schedule will look different because we’ve decided that getting up for a long training run at 3:30am to be out the door running at 4am in the dark to avoid the hot summer Arizona sun is dreadful. Next year, we’re hoping to only have smaller C races and short training runs/maybe some speed work in the summer to keep our muscles moving. Training for long A-Races in the Phoenix summer is hard, and tiring. So, we’ll switch things up a bit. Might be the same for you in the winter if you live somewhere it tends to freeze and snow a lot.
Think of B-Races as training runs. Races you’d like to do well at in order to get an idea of where your training is, but without the pressure of an A-Race. They don’t necessarily have to be the same style of event. For example, if you’re preparing for an Ultra that you consider to be an A-Race, but want to run a full marathon a few weeks prior to see if your running is on-point, that’s fine. (I personally don’t like to run on the road to train for OCR, but there are plenty of trail running events you can register for in the ultra-running world).
Use these runs to see where you’re at, what you need to adjust (if anything), or what you need to improve upon. Pay attention to your body, gear, nutrition, endurance, strength, or anything else that will be applicable during an A-Race. Take mental notes and adjust if necessary. If you felt fantastic and don’t think you need to change anything up, then keep on keeping on!
These are really just the fun races you’re doing to stay active, keep your muscles active –maybe a fun run with friends — and they aren’t necessarily races you’re trying to get anything else out of other than a good time. Plan these early in your training program, strategically place them throughout the year so as not to hinder your training, or even run them in your “off-season.” No pressure on these ones, just get out there and enjoy!
SAMPLE OF RACE CATEGORIZING:
- 1/26 & 1/27: Chino Spartan C Race — running for fun
- 2/9 & 2/10: AZ Spartan A Race — home turf, want to place well
- 4/6: Rugged Maniac B Race — want to see where running race pace is
- 4/13: Seattle Spartan (USNS qualifying) B Race –want to do well, but also training
- 5/10 & 5/11: Ragnar Trail Zion B Race (though it got cancelled this year!) —training
- 5/18: Big Bear Spartan (USNS qualifying) A Race — want to place well/podium
- 6/1: Terrain Race C Race –running for fun
- 6/15: Spartan Stadion B Race — want to place well, but also training
- 7/20: Utah Spartan (USNS qualifying) A Race –want to place well/podium
- 8/17 & 8/18: Hawaii Spartan Trifecta Weekend B Races — fun and training
- 9/29: Spartan World Championships (Lake Tahoe) A Race –want to place well/podium
- 11/1 & 11/2: Ragnar Trail Arizona C Race — running for fun
- 11/16 & 11/17: Laughlin Spartan B Race –want to do well, but also training
- 12/7: Tough Mudder B Race –want to do well, but also training
- 12/14: Central Coast Spartan A Race — want to place well/podium
- 12/22: Santa Hustle 5k C Race — running for fun
As you can see, although we have had a lot of races on our schedule, we only want to be peaking at a handful that are important to us personally. Out of the 20+ races on our schedule, we only classified 5 of them as an A-Race. We’re using other runs to see where our fitness is, and others as fun runs. If you end up still doing well at your B and C runs because you just can’t hold back, that’s totally fine; it’s just helpful to plan out your goals and where you’ll be expending the most effort/energy in order to time your peaking most efficiently.
Questions? Leave ‘em below!