How do you measure your success in triathlons? The obvious way to do this is to get on the podium and to win the race. This is so rare and if this is your only measure you will soon give up because of the difficulty in doing this. If you are someone who wins races most of the time then you are in the top 1% of our sport and my hat is truly off to you. For the rest of the 99% of competitors, there are different metrics for measuring success.
Age Group Rankings
In each race, there are age group breakdowns for every 5 years of age. You age up per the rules of the USA Triathlon on January 1st of each year. It does not matter when your birthday is during the course of the year, you add a year to your age on the first day of each year. You then compete against individuals that are in the same 5 year age bracket. For example, Jim turns 34 years old on December 31st, but will actually race as a 35-year-old all year long. He will race in the 35-39-year-old age bracket. Therefore, you can measure your success against individuals of your same gender and same general age. Once again, winning your age group will vary based upon your ability, but also on the overall number of competitors in any given race. You will have a better chance of being higher in the rankings if you are racing against 10 people rather than 100 people.
In triathlons, men and women compete against one another on the same course. They may be placed in different swim start waves, but they race on the same course. However, they will have the opportunity to measure their success against their same gender. The rankings in any race will be broken down by gender. Therefore, each race will have a male winner and a female winner. This is also true for age group rankings in that each age group is divided into a male and a female grouping.
For the most part, the vast majority of triathletes competing in any given race will not win the overall race nor win an age group. So, how does one measure their success? The best way to do this is to record your times from race to race. You can then measure whether or not you have a personal best in a given race or in a given distance. Personally, I like to race some of the same races from year to year so as to measure my success from the race last year. The difficulty in measuring personal bests over certain distances is each race has a unique flavor of its own in terms of temperature, swim current, or prevailing winds plus many other factors. I do like to compare my runs from each race because they are less impacted by the conditions of the course except temperature.
You should be recording your individual workouts to measure success from one workout to the next. This is difficult when trying to do this from one day to the next but when you do measure your workouts you can see improvement over time. You might see improvement over the course of 6 months or 6 weeks. There are programs like GarminConnect.com, TrainingPeaks.com, or nikerunning.com that can track your progress and show you how you are improving as well.
You can easily get discouraged if you do not measure your triathlon success in whatever way you can.