As discussed in How To Plan Your Triathlon or Endurance Sport Season triathlon training is typically focused around a important or “A” race. Less than a decade ago triathlons and other endurance events didn’t happen that often and usually required travel to an event. Now-a-days running races and even triathlons are common in almost every city across the USA. This provides endurance athletes options when choosing what races to do.
So how do you decide what race to participant in? Where there is no right or wrong answer, as typically athletes chose whatever they think will be the most fun. That being said there is some things to consider when choosing your race:
DISTANCE FROM HOME
Traveling is the norm for most half-ironman and ironman athletes, however if the option is available I recommend athletes pick races closer to home for several reason. First travel time to a race can be exhausting and make your muscles feel tight from sitting in an airplane or car for several hours. Secondly there is a lot to be said for being able to sleep in your own bed, make a pre-race meal in your own home, and go about race just like a training session.
When choosing your races consider what the racecourse will be like and how it relates to your skills. For example if you’re a good climber on the bike, a hillier bike course may suit your strengths better. Additionally it’s important to ensure your training matches the course of your racing on. If you’ve only been running on trails leading up to a race on asphalt, you may experience some problems.
Just like everything in endurance sports, train as you race and if you can train on the racecourse or something similar.
Traveling to a warmer location during colder months in your hometown is very appealing. However, it’s important to consider the fact that when traveling to a different location hot or cold in temperature, you’re putting your body in a completely new environment that it’s not accustomed to at the moment. The best way to ease this transition is to get your body acclimated to the location of the race. For example if you’re living in the northwest in November but traveling to Thailand for a triathlon in a few weeks, do trainer session in a hot room, spend sometime in a sauna, and wear extra clothes when running. Doing this “warm-training” will prepare you to race in a hot environment much better than simply training in cold temperatures as usually.
If you live at sea lift and want to do a race in Lake Tahoe which is around 6,200ft above sea level, don’t expect a personal best on race day. Research goes back and forth on how to properly adjust for training at higher elevation, but having lived and raced at both sea level and in Lake Tahoe I personally recommend getting to the area as long as you can before the race to get used to the air.
Athletes jumping in elevation typically find they tire faster when climbing hills at an elevation they aren’t accustomed and are generally just a little slower at running. With that in mind, if you want to get your personal best in a race, I wouldn’t recommend choosing a race any higher than 2000ft of the elevation where you train.
The most important aspect when deciding what race to choose in your triathlon season is familiarity with the race as a whole. If you’ve been to certain race before and know exactly where to park, how to set-up your bike in transition, and all the other logistics of the race, your nerves will be at ease leading up to the race and you can focus on what’s important. Not knowing how things operate at a race can make the days leading up to the race just little more stressful. If you’re new to race, do your research on the event and if you can try to scope out the course in advance.