What does a coach mean when they talk about an A B or C race?
This is a useful way for a coach and an athlete to break events up into different categories depending on their importance. This helps with planning your season.
An ‘A race’ is your target or goal race. These events are your major focus for the season. Normally one or two and generally a maximum of three. Especially when it comes to long distance events. These are the races that you will work your fitness towards to that it is at its optimum, Optimal Endurance.
A ‘B race’ is a race which helps you in your progress towards your ‘A race’. While you want to do well this race is not as important as the ‘A race’. This means two things. One, the taper involved towards this event is not as large. Secondly the overall focus of your training is towards your ‘A race’, this means that while you will be fit you will not be in optimal fitness for this event.
A ‘C race’ is a race that you would just do for fun as part of your training. This means that there is not a taper leading into the race and it forms part of your regular training regime. You can certainly go hard in your ‘C Races’ but these are not what your training program is working towards.
As a coach I am careful with ‘C races’ not due to the load that they places on the athlete during the race. I am careful due to the recovery time needed if the individual races hard. As such I am often a fan of these being completed as a hard training session but slightly less than a full-fledged race intensity. This is however still harder than an athlete could ‘push’ in a regular training set and so still delivers a large increase in fitness.
Just to clarify a common question. Why can’t every race be an A Race, I want to do well in all my races?
While you certainly may do well in all your races and can aim to, periodization towards an ‘A race’ means that not every race can be an ‘A race’. This is due to the way fitness is built over time. Periodization however is something which will require a post all of it’s own.