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Silent Sports Column: When to Sign Up for Next Year

 

The last event of the season is often the most grand. It is the culmination of a year of training and you can lay it all on the line without worrying about the next event. All you have to look forward to is unstructured time off.

But that moment immediately after your last race is a fragile time to make decisions about your goals for next year. My rule is to wait one full week before deciding on what to do next year. This gives you a little time to absorb your accomplishment (or struggle) and look at your goals without the high emotion right after the finish line.

For most people, one of two things happens immediately after a race. Either an athlete suffered so severely or battled some unforeseen challenge that they vow to never put themselves through another self-induced torture again. Or an athlete is successful. They achieve their goal and can already think of all the ways to improve next year.

The Ironman Corporation plays to this latter emotion by opening the following year’s event registration the day after athletes finish the race. Athletes have to decide whether to compete next year while lactic acid is still coursing through their legs. Not only that, but registration for Ironman events typically sells out the day it opens, giving athletes no time to think it over.

Jackson Parr in the homestretch of the 2015 Door County Half Marathon. Photo by Len Villano.

Jackson Parr in the homestretch of the 2015 Door County Half Marathon. Photo by Len Villano.

At the heart of deciding whether to sign up for a big event next year is being realistic about how much time you will have to dedicate to the training. Some people like the commitment of signing up before they begin training, but delaying registration to ensure you are not in over your head on race day is not a bad idea either.

Immediately after finishing my first marathon in Des Moines, Iowa, all I could think about was how much faster I would have to go to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Luckily school distracted me long enough to be rational about my next race decision.

Extreme endurance athletes participating in ultra-distance races often sign up for the event on the day of the race. They would rather pay the extra $20 fee increase for signing up on the day of the race than finding themselves injured or undertrained in the few weeks before a race, forcing them to forfeit the entire entry fee.

Registration for the Door County Half Marathon opened Oct. 1 and I’m still deciding what to do. The course is my fastest half marathon I’ve ever run and the thought of setting a new personal record is attractive. Last year I ran for fun while wearing a Wild Tomato costume.

For now, I still sit in the offseason and think about my goals for next year. But the desire to compete is always knocking.

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