Wildfire and wildfire smoke seem to be the biggest reason races are cancelled in the Western US right now. Smoke used to roll through the small towns bordering wild lands, now smoke blankets major metropolitan areas for weeks cancelling events from 5k’s to ultramarathons. A cancelled race pales in comparison to the devastation experienced by people and land that suffer directly from these huge fires. It is still a big bummer to have apocalyptic conditions become the norm, and have something you worked hard and trained for, cancelled. This has been a reality for me every summer since 2013 when smoke over took the Rogue Valley for weeks. Events were cancelled and running moved indoors to the dreaded treadmill. This week the North Face Endurance Challenge events, for very good reason, were cancelled, leaving many runners wondering what to do. Zach Miller wisely advises runners on twitter to make lemonade out of lemons! I could not agree more, so lets dive a little deeper into what your options are, and how to make the best out of possible future cancellations.

1) Recycle your training: We all love recycling, so here’s how to do it in running. Say it’s race week, and your race gets cancelled. If you jump straight back into training for a new race that is say, 10 weeks out, you will have effectively added 50-100% to the length of your training block without a recovery period, and will probably burn out before you get to the next starting line. We often think of recovery as recovery from the race itself, but recovery is much more about resting and rebuilding from the 10-20 week training block you just did. Regardless of if you actually raced or not, you deserve (and need) rest from this hard training. So, unless you find a race that is 1-3 weeks out, you should probably take a little break, but not as much as you would have taken had you raced. Reduce your volume and intensity for 1-3 weeks. Taking a few “down” weeks with reduced volume and intensity will allow the body to recover with very little fitness lost. Because your rest period wasn’t 2 weeks totally off, you will be able to jump right back into training at a similar fitness level while being fully rested, allowing you to pile on another 10 weeks of hard training and experience additional improvement. To summarize, smart training is like taking 4 big steps forward, racing and recovering is like taking 2 (very necessary) steps backward. If you skip the race, still take the recovery period, and get back into training its like taking 1 or no steps backward.
2) Find an adventure or race: Get creative, there is probably a route, mountain, loop or FKT you have had in the back of your mind.  Get out and do it! You have a free day, your plans literally just got cancelled! Don’t you have a trail you have been itching to explore? There is likely another race within the next few weeks, probably won’t be the exact same distance or terrain, but hey, maybe you will surprise yourself. Was your 50K cancelled? Try a road marathon. Marathon cancelled? Test your speed at a 1/2 marathon! Be flexible and you will probably surprise yourself with your fitness.
3) Be Flexible: Know that cancelled races are always a possibility, of course you want to put 100% of your focus and effort into your event, but having a back up plan in the case of cancellation, injury or training hiccup, can be helpful.
Finally, and hopefully without getting too philosophical, a cancelled race can be a great reminder to keep running in perspective and to enjoy the process of training. A race can be a great motivator and goal, but remember to enjoy the daily grind.
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Posted November 19th, 2018 by David Laney
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