I spent a bit of time trolling through race calendars last night. It is an activity I used to do pretty regularly as I planned out my racing for the season, but something that I haven't done for a while now.
I must admit the event calendars I was looking through were for paddling rather than triathlon, but my reasoning for looking was the same.
I am a big believer in the importance of goal setting when it comes to training. In my experience people are more likely to train consistently when they are training for an actual event. Exercise for exercise sake will work for a while, if I person has a lot of internal motivation they can push themselves pretty far. However, from what I have seen, eventually motivation starts to wane and the bed starts to look pretty comfy on cold and dark winter mornings. When you have something to train for it helps provide a bit of external motivation to get you up and going. Knowing that there is something that you are preparing for can be the necessary urge to give the last little push out the door.
This is why I have always found planning a race calendar to be an important exercise. Once you have planned what races you have a motivational force behind your season, something to work towards. Knowing your race calendar also lets you know when you need to be fit, when you need to peak, when you can rest etc. Knowing your races allows you (or your coach) to build a macro training plan, which is a critical part of a successful season. I feel that without that plan you are simply rolling dice and hoping that it works out for the best at the end.
I also find planning a racing schedule to be pretty fun. Looking up races, learning about them, where are they, what are they, are they easy to get to, will they suit me, will they be fun etc. It was all pretty exciting, particularly when I was doing triathlon and races could be all over the place. Where am I going to this year, has there been a coup there recently? Having races planned in advance can give you time to make logistical arrangements, which sounds boring, but is important when you are heading overseas.
It is no secret that I am a fan of a good plan and I could perhaps be accused of over planning and over preparing at times (I still don't believe that is possible, but others would disagree). However, I think that putting together a season race plan is a no-brainer. There is a certain amount of planning that is necessary for a successful season, and for me that all starts with knowing what you are actually training for. Yes the plan may slip and change as the season progresses, but having a plan gives you a place to start. A foundation from which success can be built.
In the end knowing what your race season looks like and what your associated goals are will help motivate you to train and also help you make the plans necessary to achieve those goals. Those seem like pretty good things to me.
Oh yeah, while I was planning paddling races, don't think I haven't thought about triathlons. I am still undecided whether I want to race a triathlon again next season, but I certainly haven't ruled it out.