Planning Your Race Schedule for Optimum Performance

If you want to maximize your performance, enjoyment, and fun racing trails and ultras this year, you can’t afford to just wing-it. Your racing schedule must take into account which races that important to you, focused training, adequate recovery, race preparation, and race registration. The simple spreadsheet template provided below will help you schedule all of your races for the year, make sure you don’t miss a registration deadline, and prepare you to do your best when it counts.

The first step to planning your racing season is to get specific about your goals. What do you specifically want to accomplish this year? Are you aiming to complete a longer distance race, like a marathon, 50k, or 50 mile ultra? Do you intend to make the transition into trail running? Maybe you just want to put up some faster times, or place in your age group. Get specific about your goals before you start planning your schedule.

Online Race Listings
Trail Animals/NE Ultra Race Calendar
Cool Running Race Search
Trail Runner Magazine Race Calendar
Ultrarunning Race Calendar

With your goal in place, you can browse the local race calendar and pick out the races where your goals will be met. Your most important races of the year we’ll call you’re A races. You will probably only have a few A races on your schedule. These are the races that you are going to focus on with your training, tapering, and racing effort. You can’t do that kind of effort every week, so you have to be selective about choosing these races.

After the A races are chosen, you can pick some B races. These races will be opportunities for you to tune-up for you’re a races. They are great chances for you to see how your training has prepared you, test your racing gear, nutrition, hydration strategy, and pacing. You will likely give these races 100%, but you probably won’t include a full pre-race taper.

Finally, in the spaces that are left on the calendar, you can choose a handful of fun races. These may be races that aren’t really in your goal discipline. For example, if you are a trail ultrarunner, you might choose a local 5k road race or a half-marathon trail run. These races will satisfy your competitive spirit, but in a more relaxed environment.

ultra race calendar

With your races selected, I recommend putting them all in a simple spreadsheet. You are welcome to download the spreadsheet I am using to plan my racing this year. In addition to columns for the basic race information like name, date, and location, I have some other useful stats. I list not only the distances that the race offers (many offer more than one distance), but also the distance I expect to race. This allows me to see if I am planning a reasonable increase in racing distance over the year. With my desire to get into 50k and 50 milers this year, I can’t really expect to run those distances in my first couple of races. I also list when registration is expected to open for a race, and whether I have registered. With many ultras and trail races allowing only a limited number of participants, I want to make sure I register quickly so I don’t get shut-out. Finally, I color-code each race so I know if I am registered, plan to register, or don’t plan to race. It’s good to have races on my list even if I don’t plan to race them as my schedule may change.

With your schedule now in-place, you can make sure you don’t have any problematic conflicts. For example, you want to make sure you have adequate time before you’re a races to taper and adequate time to recover. You also shouldn’t have many A or B races on back-to-back weekends, as your performance will likely suffer.

Feel free to download my sample racing schedule sheet and use it for your own planning. Let me know how it works for you, and if you make any improvements. And most importantly, see you on the trails this season!