The 2019 triathlon season is getting to the tail end. You are looking forward to a few weeks of end of season recovery. A few weeks on not very structured training but instead doing some stuff for fun. Having a go at cyclocross or mountain biking, doing those long walks you have been meaning to do for ages, going open water swimming, sans wetsuit, and seeing whether you can keep dipping all through winter and maybe catching up with those people you have not seen as much as usual while you have been engrossed in your season.
The itch for next year’s events is there; what to enter, what distance to do, what has already been entered on a whim. Now you need to step away from the race entry screens and take a logical look at what your next season is going to look like.
What are your strengths and weaknesses? Break down the different elements.
If you are a nervous swimmer, a course that is renowned for a tough exposed sea swim is not going to be an event that you enjoy. Spend another year improving your swimming and making opportunities to get into the sea and swim. A coach who will do 1 -2-1 sessions in the sea with you will be a worthwhile investment. If swimming is your strong point, go for the hard sea swim!
Do you love cycling up and down hills or do you hate them and end up going backwards? Maybe you are a speed demon on the flat? Have a look at the route profiles that events provide online. If you can’t find one, ask on social media. See if you can get any info from someone who has done it before. If it is a new event, Strava data from those in the area can give you a good idea of the local terrain, maybe even the course profile from their own attempts at the course. Study it. Does it suit you? Is it so hilly for your current ability that you will end up getting a DNF or missing cut-offs? Is it pan flat, but you are used to the changes in effort and pace that come from cycling up and down hills all day. If it a bucket list event for you, take another 12 months to train to the event so that you can really do it justice by working on your weaknesses. You will enjoy it far more.
For the run, look at the route profile and see how much climbing there is, but also look at the surface you will be running on. Tarmac, trails, sand, they all need to be considered.
Then comes the choice of distance, oh boy is that a minefield! We have all been there. A few other friends are doing an event and start the badgering for you to enter as well. Well… resist!
You could indeed go straight to long distance races from a standing start, but you will be at a higher risk of injuries purely because your body will not be used to the stresses that it will be under. Take your time and enjoy the process of learning what triathlon is about, the skills needed, and build your endurance so your body and mind can manage the level of training required. Remember that a sprint triathlon is still classed as an endurance event, yet they are also fast!
Don’t feel pressured into going for longer and longer events. You need to be realistic about the amount of time you genuinely have for training and how this will impact your everyday life, family and social life, plus what you enjoy! Maybe book an event in a holiday destination and kill two birds with one stone… a race in a lovely location followed by a relaxing holiday. I have done it myself a few times and I can highly recommend it!
So there you have a few things to think about when looking for your new events. Be realistic, use your strengths, and enjoy learning about the sport. Push your boundaries, and be awesome.
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