I read a post the other day that had a quote by a professional cyclist or triathlete, but I cannot remember who the post was quoting. I do remember what the quote was, “I race to train, not train to race”. This is something I have told my wife for many years. I love to train. I love to train more than I actually like to race.
I always pick a few races to do every year. I space them out and plan for them. I mostly do this so I know when, where and what type of training I am going to do. Once I have paid for a race, I know I am committed to it, which pushes me to train harder. Without a race, most of the time, it is hard to focus on training. However, once the races are all paid for, I can sit down and build a plan. Without a race on the calendar, it is hard to put the dates in and build different phases of training into the plan.
When on a training ride, it is easy change the route and add or subtract mileage. If I decide a ride along the river is better and more scenic, I can ride along the river instead of a boring straight route alongside the corn and bean fields. If I run into another rider on the road, I can change my plans and ride along aside them and chat. Try any of that during a race, and you will find yourself disqualified for leaving the course or blocking.
Take nutrition, I can try new solids and liquids on a training day, but I would never try that on a race day. I can get new products that a friend was talking about on a previous training ride and try it out without having to worry about it upsetting my stomach. On midday runs, I can see if I can make it more than 5 miles without any water. I would never try this during a race, but the use of training rides and runs to push the limits on lack of solids or liquids is way to train the body to go without, and for the athlete to learn new things about themselves. I would never do things that could cost me a race, but on a training day I have been known to push my limits to see what happens and make notes.
During training swims, runs, bike rides, and strength training, I can do different training sets from day to day; I can do hill repeats on the bike or run, long slow days, intervals in the water or on the track, group training sessions or etc. On race day it is one pace, even though going all out is more fun than anything else.
So, I guess what I am really saying is, that while racing is fun, training is so much more enjoyable. I have said before that I will continue to do this as long as I am having fun.