If triathlon is your hobby and maybe an addiction, but not your primary moneymaker, here are nine tips for setting up your triathlon race season. Triathlon is an amazing lifestyle where training leads to racing, but you have to make sure it doesn't take over your life. Before each race season, I sit down and plan out the next season's races. This schedule will then help you be able to set up my training schedule to coincide with the competitions you are going to select. Here are nine tips for setting up your next triathlon race season:
1 - Selection
Select the distance you want to participate in - One of the great characteristics of triathlon is that there are various distances of triathlons you can participate in. The most popular distances are a sprint, Olympic, half-ironman, or full Ironman. The sprint distance is usually a 300-750 yard swim. A lot of these swims take place in a pool so the open water concept is not so prevalent. Then you transition to a 14-18 mile bike ride. Finally, you will have a 5K or 3.1 mile run. Most beginners start with this distance of race. The next distance is the Olympic distance which consists of a 1500 yard swim in open water, a 24-28 mile bike and a 10K or 6.2 mile run. This distance is a good one for those who have a year of racing under their belt. The next distance is the half-ironman distance which is a 1.2 mile open water swim, a 56 mile bike ride, and a half marathon run which is 13.1 miles. The ultimate long distance is the full Ironman distance which can also be called an ultra distance. This distance consists of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike, and full marathon run which is 26.2 miles. The first tip for setting up your triathlon season is to select the mixture of distances you want to compete in the next year. If this is your first year you will want to stick with the sprint distances. I have known individuals who have jumped right to an Olympic or half ironman distances. These individuals usually don't stick with the sport because they are so frustrated. If you have been competing a year or so you may want to mix in an Olympic distance, especially if you are wanting to complete an Ironman distance as I did in 5 years. If you are further along in your racing you will want to think about your goals and what you want to accomplish in the next year, then select distances that will get you there. My goal is to complete an Ironman distance this next year so I am going to have a mix of half ironman distances and an Olympic. I may compete in a sprint distance for fun.
2 - Quantity
Decide how many races you will race this next year - The decision to race will always bring up the question of how often will you race. If you have a family and enjoy family time, then you certainly do not want to race every weekend. You also want to make sure if you have a race you are really shooting to do well in that you don't over race so that you wear your body out before the race you want to shoot for. If you are like me, then you have other limits such as the amount of money you can spend on racing. Remember that the longer the race then the higher the cost. I know that I have to have a race budget and not exceed it. I know that usually, my budget will cover between 3 and 5 races per year.
3 - Timing
Decide the months of your race season - I know that my race season is roughly between the very end of April and the middle of October unless I am going to travel more than usual. The weather where I live turns really cold and there are no races available at certain times of the year. It is important for me to choose my race season for training purposes and also to clear the months with my family. I want to make sure I have a long enough offseason to get the gains that I need. By defining the months, I have cleared with my family commitments then I can choose races that will not stretch that timeframe.
4 - Quality of Races
Pick races that have good reviews - One of the areas that I wish races did more was to receive public reviews, but through blogs like this one you can find reviews on particular races. I like to make sure the races have plenty of volunteers, plenty of nutrition, and plenty of challenge to the course. I choose races that have a good reputation and will make my race experience the best. I can't just participate in any race, so I need to know the race is done well.
5 - Get the Most from Your Time
Organize your races around what you want to get out of it - This is really about being strategic with your races. I don't want to schedule a half-ironman race too close to an Ironman race. There are many theories about this type of strategic planning. Some people say you should have a smaller timeframe between long course races, but I know my body at age 40 won't recover satisfactorily. I leave plenty of time to recuperate and train. I also want to improve from race to race through the year. Since I do not race every weekend, I need to maximize my efforts. I want to make sure that I take what I learn in any given race and put it toward my training for the next race. I found that when I scheduled enough time between races that I was able to improve greatly in the next race. I also want to target a certain race to do my best. Many people call this your A race and the others are B and C races. I want to maximize my races so I don't do this as much as some professionals might. I want to target a race for my best effort and all my training effort but probably this is my last race of the year.
6 - Travel
Determine your travel expectations for scheduling your races - I know that the longer races may take me longer to get to. I may have to travel to these races and thus may incur more costs such as gas, hotel, and food. Not to mention if my family travels. I live in an area where some races are within an hour or so, but most of the long-distance races that I want to race are farther away. These travel plans may have me choose a different race simply because of when I can get there with my other responsibilities.
7 - Location
Choose races where you want to race - In triathlon, you can choose to race anywhere you want to. You may choose to race near your house or you may select a race on a Caribbean island for a destination triathlon race. I may choose a race because of where it is above all other reasons. If a race is located in a beautiful part of the country then I may pick it so as to get to travel to that place. I like picking places that have a beautiful natural scene so as to enjoy another aspect of triathlon.
8 - Repeating
Choose races that you have done previously - I like to go do a race that I have done before so as to compare my times from year to year. If I enjoyed the race then it is easy to sign up for the next year because I know it will be a good experience with the volunteers, race organization, and the course. If I hated the race or had a bad race, it is harder to choose the race. If the volunteers and race organization was good, and I just had a bad performance, then I will pick it. If the race had bad nutrition, bad organization, or the volunteers were not helpful then I probably will move on to another race. I sometimes want to go back to a place that I had a tough time racing to just see if I can compete better.
9 - Fun
Lastly, pick a race that friends are going to attend - Sometimes triathlon can become so individualistic that we forget this sport is fun with friends. If your friends are all registering for a race then it is a good idea to register with them. You can save on any travel to the race location including splitting a hotel if need be. You get instant support before the race to get your equipment in order. It is fun to compare to the other athletes. I know that when I have attended with a friend, I want to beat that friend during the race. This gives me another competitive aspect to my racing. You also get a chance to cheer on your friends as they finish. Lastly, you get to celebrate with friends after the race which is always an enjoyable experience.
These 9 tips will help you make the best choice in choosing your races. I hope you will schedule your races in an intelligent way so as to maximize your enjoyment in your triathlon race season. Happy racing!