How to Train for the TC Challenge Race Series
We all know that one of the BEST ways to stay inspired to run is by signing up for a race. There is something psychologically motivating when you pay your registration fee and begin a training plan with a set date. Tangible goals help you get out the door and keep running all the way to race day.
For years, I would run a spring half marathon (usually Lake Minnetonka Half), then a mid-summer race (like the Red, White & Boom! Half), followed by a big fall full or half Marathon (like Twin Cities Marathon or Monster Dash). The races were spaced out well enough so that I never had much more than a week break between training cycles. Instead of starting from scratch, I could build on the previous fitness I’d gained, and at each race, I felt a little faster and a little stronger.
Sara Hamilton is a relatively new runner (2.5 years) that I connected with online. After doing a number of races, she decided to tackle a marathon. She used the TC Challenge Race Series as a way to build up a consistent aerobic base to prepare for the marathon distance.
After talking with some runner friends who confirmed that Twin Cities in Motion puts on amazing, fun, well organized events, I decided to register for the Ultra Summit Challenge. My inspiration for doing so was definitely the marathon, but I figured registering for a challenge would be a great way to guarantee that I kept up with my mileage and overall fitness throughout the year. It was also a way to naturally increase my mileage over the course of a year to train for the 5k, 10 mile, half marathon, and full marathon over the course of 7 months.
If you need a little extra help like Sara did, I highly recommend you participate in the next round of the TC Challenge Race Series. Here’s why: Registration is filling fast for the six challenge packages! In fact, it’s more than 80% full at the time of publication.
What is the TC Challenge Race Series?
The TC Challenge Race Series, from our friends at Twin Cities In Motion, offers six different options to help you stay active from February through October. Now in the fifth year, Twin Cities In Motion is constantly making improvements to the series. Last year, they added the TC Summit Challenge MNy version (3 5K races and the TC 10 Mile) and introduced different medals for each one. They also introduced the ability for runners to track and compare their progress online to that of others in the series. If running for the pure joy of running wasn’t enough, now you can find motivation from those around you.
Races in the Series
The Challenge Race Series allows you to chose any one of the challenges based on the number of races and distances you want to run. Included in the challenge series are the Valentine’s TC 5K, Hot Dash 5K and 10mi, the Red, White & Boom! 5K and Half Marathon, and the TC Marathon, 10 Mile, 10K, and 5K.
If you’re new to running, the TC 5K Challenge may be perfect for you. If you’ve been running for awhile, and want to focus on one big year end goal, one of the Summit or Ultra Summit Challenges might be a good fit. If you simply want to test your physical and mental limits over the course of one weekend, there’s a Loony Challenge option for that!
Here’s a rundown on the different challenges:
A note about pricing: registering for the Challenge Race Series allows you to lock in the lowest pricing (and pay just once) for every race in your chosen series – that’s a serious deal if you were planning to run a bunch of races in 2017 anyway!
I connected with Jason Halvorson over email about the Loony challenges. He has done the Ultra Loony Challenge (10K 5K, and the marathon) three times, and for him, it’s more about the mental challenge they present.
“My reasoning behind signing up for the Ultra Loony Challenge was simply to challenge my mental limits. I guess you always hear people talk about physical limits and for me, it isn’t so much physical but mental.”
How Do You Train for a Race Series?
One of the first questions you may be asking yourself is, “how do I train for a year long series of races?” The answer depends on your goals. If you simply want to stay active all year, you can probably get away with running 10-25 miles per week to be ready for race day.
If on the other hand, you’d like to use 2017 as the year when you start to chop some significant time off your race PR’s, it’ll take a bit more coordination. Sara told me that she decided ahead of time what her goal would be for each event. “Would I work on a PR? Treat it as a fun run? Use it to gauge marathon race pace, etc.” Planning her goals out in this way helped her know how to approach each race.
I’ve put together a sample of a 2017 race calendar using our free training log template. For purposes of this example, I’ve used the races in the TC Ultra Summit Challenge (since this most closely resembles my training). It wouldn’t be terribly difficult to switch to one of the other challenges by simply adjusting the mileage.
The TC Challenge Race Series is ideally suited for someone who wants to peak during Twin Cities Marathon weekend, be that in the 5K, 10 mile, or Marathon. This isn’t to say you can’t have some amazing races before October! Remember, if you find yourself getting sick or injured earlier in the year, it’s O.K. to take some time off to get better. There no sense in killing yourself at Red, White & Boom! if it means you can’t run for two months.
Sara told me she did plenty of adapting as she went,
The week of the half marathon, my long run for marathon training was only supposed to be 8 or 9 miles. I had to adapt my marathon training plan a bit to account for this.
How to Train for the Loony Challenge
If you’re planning to tackle one of the Loony challenges (three races in the same weekend), you don’t need to do three simultaneous training cycles. Train for your longest event, and then make sure to incorporate appropriate speed work for the shorter distances.
More importantly, try to simulate race weekend conditions a few times if possible. One simple way to do that is by running a 5K or 10K race on a Saturday morning, followed by a hard 5K or 10K effort in the afternoon or evening. On Sunday, do your long run. Not only will this help your body get used to running when tired, but it will help train your brain to run multiple hard efforts close together.
Krysta, one of our writers at Minneapolis Running, ran the Loony Challenge (10K, 5K, and 10 Mile) back in 2014. “I really just wanted to run the 10 Mile, and you know how elusive those lottery spots can be!” But she still needed to run all three races. To prepare, Krysta incorporated ‘doubles,’ the term for running twice in one day, about once a week. As race day got closer, she signed up for the MDRA Victory Labor Day Races in Minneapolis.
At the Victory Races, you can opt to run both the 10k and the 5k back to back, similar to the [Loony] Challenge. It’s a great training race for marathon weekend, and takes place almost exactly a month before TCM – perfect timing for a peak week race simulation effort.
Make sure you’re well prepared before tackling this type of training. Racing takes a significant toll on the body, more so than just a hard run. Most runners tend to run faster and harder than any of their training runs during races. You will need to be extra aware of incorporating rest into your regular training schedule for this reason.
If you have participated in any of the TC Challenge Race Series in the past, what were they like? What advice would you share with other runners?