Chomping at the Bit 5 Tips for a Successful Racing Season

by CJ Hitz February 27, 2020 5 min read

Cyclist riding down a paved road along a foggy forest.

5 Tips For Your Best Running Season In 2020

It’s hard to believe that (as you’re reading this) we’re moving quickly toward the spring season. Although here in Colorado, we sometimes bypass spring and move right into summer. If you’re like me, you begin getting a little more excited about your summer racing plans this time of year. You’ve been working hard over the past months to build a solid endurance base which will prepare your body for faster, more intense workouts.

We sometimes use the phrase “chomping at the bit” as we get closer to toeing various starting lines throughout the endurance world. The phrase actually comes from the sport of horse racing. The ‘bit’ is part of the contraption that goes into the horse’s mouth to connect the bridle and reins in order to be controlled by the jockey.

The bit fits into a toothless ridge of the horse’s mouth, so the horse never really bites the bit. But it can grind his teeth or jaw against the bit, and if it does, it means that the horse is either nervous, or really excited about racing. Apparently, the original phrase used the word champing which has a similar meaning of “to grind teeth.”

So whether you’re chomping or champing, here are five tips to consider as you look forward to a successful racing season:

  1. Register for Races that Spark Excitement
  2. Pace yourself and don't peak too early
  3. Dial in your nutrition
  4. Specificity is key
  5. Plan on quality recovery time post race

I explain these in more detail below, check it out...

Tip #1 – Register for Races that Spark Excitement

First of all, notice that I used the word register. It’s important to actually register for a goal race which helps you stay accountable to the necessary training. Things get serious after we’ve dropped that wad of cash on a race fee. In my case, I recently spent over $170 registering for the Pikes Peak Ascent. It will be the first time I’ve run the race since 2016. I absolutely love the race but I needed a break after getting a little burned out.

We all go through seasons when it comes to our racing passions. One year you might be into sprint triathlons while the next year you want to bite off that Ironman. One year you’re into road marathons while the next year is dedicated to trail races. Listen closely to what excites you and then ask yourself, “Is this a race I would enjoy training toward?” In other words, “Is this going to be fun?”

Tip #2 – Pace Yourself and Don’t Peak too Early

When you find yourself chomping at the bit, these 5 tips will help you have your best race of the year!When I toe a starting line regardless of distance, it’s difficult to hold back in terms of effort. If we’re not careful, we can go on an energy spending spree that leaves us broke for our goal “A” races. If you must register for a “training” race, find someone slower than you and run, bike, or swim at their pace which will ensure that you don’t overdo it. In the process, you can pour encouraging words into them during the race. For some of us, we could easily find several races we’re interested in all twelve months of the year. I’ve learned the hard way when it comes to feeling burned out and over trained by the time summer rolls around.

Save your very best effort for 3-5 races a year depending on distance. There’s a reason that most elite marathoners run two marathons a year and perhaps one or two half-marathons as tune-up races. They fully understand energy expenditure and the need to recover.

Tip #3 – Dial in your Nutrition

This is the time of year to be experimenting with foods and supplements that may or may not work for you during racing season. We want to eliminate as many surprises as possible between now and the day of our first big goal race. And I definitely would not recommend trying something new within a week of race day.

I made this mistake back in the summer of 2008 on the morning of a 50k trail race in Michigan. Being a newbie, I decided to try several goodies we received from various companies in our race packets. My digestive system scolded me big-time for introducing it to all sorts of new things. It also didn’t help that temperatures topped out at 90 degrees with 75% humidity.

I recommend experimenting before key long runs or workouts which usually taxes our digestive systems more than normal. Once you find the right combination of hydration and nutrition, stick with it and simply adjust the amount based on the distance.

Tip #4 – Specificity is Key

Whether you’re training for a flat road marathon or a technical mountain trail race, it’s crucial that you get very specific. This simply means that your key workouts closely resemble the conditions you’ll face on race day. Training for the Badwater 135 in Death Valley, California? You’d better get your body used to the heat and distance between now and then. Happen to get into the Mount Washington Road Race? Don’t wait last minute to get your legs familiar with running uphill at 12% grade. Hoping to set a new personal best in a local road 5k? Run the course a few times and do leg turnover workouts on the road.

I made a monumental mistake in my lack of specific training for the 2009 Way Too Cool 50k in Cool, California. It wasn’t necessarily the distance that I was unprepared for but, rather, the terrain. I failed to fully research the course and severely underestimated the amount of downhill I would be running. Coming from flat northwest Ohio, my legs were toast by the time I reached the halfway point in the race. Needless to say, I walked a good portion of the final five miles of the race. I sometimes refer to that race as the “Way Too Cruel 50k.”

Tip #5 – Plan on Quality Recovery Time Post Race

One of my general rules is to try sticking to no more than one race a month during the peak racing season. For those who have marathons, ultras, or Ironman triathlons on your calendar, you may need 2-3 months between those goal races.

When we race, we’re taxing our bodies physically, emotionally, and mentally. From a physical standpoint, we deplete hormone levels, break down muscle tissue, and stress our cardiovascular system more than usual. You could say that we make a full withdrawal from our fitness account on race day. We do the same thing mentally and emotionally. It takes time to rekindle the competitive fire. Listen to your body, mind, and spirit and you’ll usually have a good indication of when it’s time to race again.

Take these five tips into consideration and you’ll be one step closer to enjoying a healthy and fulfilling racing season!

CJ’s 2020 Racing Schedule:

May 16th – Black Canyon Ascent 6 mile – Montrose, CO
June 20th – Mount Washington Road Race – Gorham, NH
August 2nd – La Luz Trail Run – Albuquerque, NM (lottery pending)
August 22nd – Pikes Peak Ascent – Manitou Springs, CO
September 6th – Pier to Peak Half-Marathon – Santa Barbara, CA
December 12th – Sun Run 5k – Palm Beach, FL

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.