Coach Tip Tuesday: Use Caution When Considering Black Friday Deals
Coach Tip Tuesday has arrived!
This Thursday, the United States of America will celebrate Thanksgiving, one of our biggest holidays. In the past, I have written posts that are holiday-inspired for Coach Tip Tuesday during the week of Thanksgiving, and this year is no different. However, this year, my Thanksgiving week Coach Tip Tuesday is going to center around what comes the day AFTER Thanksgiving.
Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) has been called such ever since police officers in Philadelphia coined the term in the 1960s to describe the phenomenon of people coming into the city to begin their holiday shopping on this day. It’s since been used to reference the start of the increase in sales that retail stores would experience after Thanksgiving in anticipation of the upcoming Christmas holiday that puts them back in the “black” from an accounting perspective.
Black Friday has become quite the...ordeal...over the years, and most especially since online shopping started siphoning off sales from brick and mortar retailers. EVERYONE wants to get in on the action, so to speak. In recent years, I’ve seen this trend extending beyond online stores and brick and mortar stores and spilling over into the endurance sports industry.
Each year, more and more races offer their best entry prices during the week of Thanksgiving (or around it). Much like the buying frenzy that ensues when traditional retailers offer sales, these advertised low race entry prices create a registration frenzy among endurance athletes. I’m here this week to offer this thought for your consideration:
Slow down. Think. Be patient. Don’t register for a race unless you have really thought it through.
I know, I know. A “bargain” is so, so tempting. But I want to share why race directors are offering these low prices:
The earlier athletes register for races, the better it is for race directors. It gives them cash flow that enables them to purchase critical items for the race (such as insurance, permits, aid station supplies, swag, etc.). This is a better option than borrowing money to fund the race (read: spending money that they are unsure that they will actually get back in the form of race entries). Offering a lower price early on is better from a business perspective for them, as that cash flow is more valuable to them than the extra profit they would get from charging slightly more on the race entry closer to race day.
All of this to say: Race directors offer low pricing early on (and around this time of year) because it’s what is best for them. I don’t say this to be disrespectful to race directors. I understand fully from a business perspective why they do what they do, and I truly do respect them for making a decision that is best for the operation of the race and their business. However, it’s true that they’re doing this because it’s best for them. And when they are making a decision that is best for them, it doesn’t necessarily also mean that that same decision is also what is best for you - the athlete.
Registering too early for an event - even at a relatively low price - can be very, very risky. The longer lead time you have before a race, the more risk that something unexpected might pop up, training might not go as planned, etc. You could get injured. Something in your family dynamics or personal life may change. You could get a promotion at work and have a higher workload than you anticipate. You could decide that something else seems more exciting in the meantime.
Personally, I have not ever been able to start a race that I signed up for a year in advance. I’ve wasted several race entry fees because of this. Since I lost the entirety of my race registration fee, it would have been better for my wallet if I waited until I was more reasonably sure that the race in question was one I could actually train for and race. Even though that would have meant that I paid a higher entry fee, the certainty would have been worth the extra cost.
Yes, it’s true that some races sell out immediately when they open for registration. In my case, I’ve personally decided that I have two options here:
I can register for the race and hope that things work out the way I hope so that I can do it. By making this choice, I accept that I am truly okay with losing the money if things don’t unfold the way I plan.
If I’m meant to do the race, I’m meant to do it. This means that I’m okay with not doing races that sell out in a timeline that doesn’t inspire a high enough level of confidence that I can reasonably complete the event.
Many races do offer “entry fee insurance” through third-party insurance companies that enable you to get a partial or full refund if you can’t do a race. These policies are often very expensive when compared with the actual race entry cost; the cost ranges from 10% of the entry fee up to 30% of the entry fee. These percentage ranges relative to the value of the item being insured are dramatically higher than what I pay to insure other very important things in my life (i.e. my home, my car, my actual life, etc.) and thus, I make the choice not to pay for “small insurances” like race entry fee insurance. I feel strongly that if I’m that concerned about losing the entry fee that I should be considering whether or not I can afford the race entry fee in the first place.
When I am coaching athletes who are wrestling with the idea of registering for a race, I give them all of the same advice (shared above) that I give myself. I also give them this advice:
A “deal” is only a deal if it actually works for you. Really think about the race that you’re considering signing up for. Are you truly excited and enthusiastic about doing this specific event? Be sure that you understand what it is going to take to prepare for the race that you’re signing up for. Are you SURE that you’re prepared to do the work that is necessary in the timeline leading up to race day? Sometimes, when we have a long timeline before a race, we don’t fully see or understand exactly what that preparation is going to look like and how it is actually going to impact our day-to-day lives.
If you’re not sure that you’re excited about it or that you’re prepared to do what will be necessary to be successful at the race in question, waiting until you are sure is best, even if it ends up costing you a bit more money on the entry fee. Being patient often gives you more flexibility and more options.
Many, many athletes end up doing races because they feel like they “have to” because they “already spent the money” even though they realized along the way that they weren’t as excited about the race as they originally thought. Not “tying yourself down” with a premature race entry gives you more options to be sure that you’re doing what you really want to be doing. And doing what you really want to be doing makes experience in endurance sports more joyful overall. (As you all know by now, I’m a big fan of The Joyful Factor.)
So this week, as your email inbox and social media feeds get clogged with offers that seem “irresistible,” I encourage you to slow down and really think about whether or not signing up for the race is what you really want and if it’s what is really best for you. If it is best for you, then that is wonderful! Sign up and be happy (and tell me about it so I can cheer you on)! But if you have even a bit of hesitancy, I encourage you to listen to that “inner voice” and exercise patience. Your future self will very likely thank you. :)
Coach Laura Henry
Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.