Chances are, there is one big triathlon race you have your eye on for the year. (Maybe two.) As you imagine, dream and train to get there, it's important to lay out your calendar for the year to support yourself in having a great day.A rookie mistake is to register for a big flashy event that's inspiring and challenging, but fail to throw in a few local races on weekends leading up to it to get familiar with the flow of race day, practice transition, and catch small problems that can become big problems, such as the fact that the clothes you swim in work fine on the bike when they are dry, but not when they are wet.Another easy error to make is "practicing" too hard for your big race; for example, planning an enormous training weekend equal to the distance of your big race, and doing it way too close to the race so that your body is damaged and exhausted on your big day, instead of energized and ready.Here are some tips to dodge these common problems:
Most people aim for a race that is toward the end of the good weather in their area, giving them the maximum amount of time to train outdoors in good weather. To do the opposite presents some problems. If you choose a long course race in the spring, you'll likely have to put in a lot of hours training indoors, completing your very long bike workouts on an indoor trainer, and not getting a chance to practice open water swimming before the big day.Once you've identified your "A-race," register immediately. Yes, it's expensive. No, you probably can't get your money back if you aren't ready. But if you don't commit yourself and put something on the line, it's very easy to have one bad workout and quietly walk away from your inspiring and exciting goal. Get that confirmation receipt.Now that you have your race date, you can make a training plan that leads up to it. There are plenty of training plans online and in fitness apps such as Strava. Here at BeginnerTriathlete, we have a unique Custom Training Plan Creator that factors in your current speed and your experience level, and allows you to choose which days of the week you want to do which workouts. Maybe Wednesday mornings are your best day for a long bike ride, instead of the standard Sunday.
Looking at your training calendar, you'll see some high volume weekends, often with a bike and run back-to-back (called a "brick"). These are good opportunities to substitute that brick workout with a shorter race, perhaps half or a quarter of the distance of your big race. It's OK if the total distance is shorter than your long training block on your plan. There are many benefits to completing a shorter race, even if you don't quite hit your training mileage. For one, you'll get a chance to practice your nutrition, including waking up early, standing around for a couple of hours, and then doing all three sports in order. For another, you'll probably be working out during the time of day when your big race will be, which might be different from your normal workout block. That can affect digestion, energy levels, sunburn and more.
Although Ironman (World Triathlon Corporation) is well known, has great marketing, and puts on a very grand event, you can certainly find smaller, less expensive triathlons closer to home that will help you prepare for your big day. Check triathlon calendars in your area and check in with your local tri club, if there is one.
An easy way to ruin your race day is to start off with a bad swim. And the easiest way to have a bad swim is to be swimming in novel conditions. If your big race is an ocean swim, do some ocean swims in training. If your big race is in choppy water, purposely take yourself to a swimming beach on a windy day.
If you plan to get a wetsuit this year, order it in the spring so you can swim in it while the water is cool. If you plan to get a new bike, do it now so you can troubleshoot any fit issues and get comfortable in your new saddle. The rule is, "Nothing new on race day." The way to comply with that isn't to avoid getting new equipment. The way to comply is to get it early and try it. Mess with it. Send it back to get a different size. There's no stressing out if the shoes fit a little weird, as long as you have two or three months to figure it out.Five is a pretty good number of tips, so we'll stop there. The point is, planning your season is more than choosing your A race and working backward from there on training distance. Put the thought in. Plan it out. And you'll likely enjoy the journey more.