When it comes to mapping out a race schedule for triathlon season, I’m of two minds. There’s the Kristen with the fancy schmancy coaching certifications – she’s the one who’s done the coursework and knows her shit when it comes to picking a perfect A race or two, and from there can map out the best tune up races and other events to keep the season interesting.
(She’s a smart cookie. I should probably listen to her.)
But, if I’m being honest (and, here’s a secret – I’m always honest here, probably to a fault and much to my mother’s chagrin), that’s not necessarily the Kristen who wins out on my final race schedule. It’s not that I totally discount the importance of periodization, and I certainly want to give myself the best possible chance at … you know, doing my best. (Winning? Well, depends on your definition – because, in the traditional sense, I don’t generally have a great shot, but you count high fives and big smiles as ways to win, then all I do is win, win, win, no matter what.)
But, actual logistics that any good professional would recommend considering aside, I have a whole slew of other elements that factor into my decision. And, yeah, they’re not all exactly Coach K-approved.
Who else is going? Hey, it’s not a party if it’s just me and a few hundred sweaty strangers! At least, that’s not my kind of party. You do you.
I don’t need a whole team in the house, but I’ve done a few races where I was positively starved for a familiar face – and let me tell you, if I’d had a volleyball handy, I would’ve totally taken a page out of Tom Hanks’ desert island journal. Sure, I can suffer all by my lonesome, but it’s a hell of a lot more fun when I have a few friendly racers with whom I can commiserate, or at least a spectator who knows my name and might be moved to clap for me as I shuffle by. (Bonus points if they catch a picture of me either smiling huge or flipping them off – depending on the race, either is equally likely.)
Related to the whole “who’s gonna be there” question is this: Who’s your competition? Maybe you want to do a certain race because you know you’ve got a shot at placing or qualifying. Cool – get that podium, girl. Maybe you have a nemesis (dammit, Vicki *shakes fist in air, then continues writing*) and you know she’s going to be there and you are so ready to show her what’s up. Or maybe you want to do a race primarily because you know the competition is super stiff and you’re unlikely to come out in the top 3 (or 10, or 50) in your age group – but you want the experience of getting out on the course with these speedy so-and-sos. Rock. On.
(Fun fact: My first Olympic distance tri was St. Anthony’s, in St. Petersburg, FL, and I was in one of the last waves. The pros were literally running by us on their way to the finish as my wave began inching toward the water. And it was SO COOL AND INSPIRING … although, admittedly that inspiration waned a bit over the next three hours. But still! I was running/shuffling/walking/crying/regretting certain life choices right where Sarah Haskins had just raced to victory!)
Where is it? In order to properly train, one must memorize the topography, and be properly attuned to the course terrain and elevation, as well as the average temperature and humidi— yeah, no, I can’t even pull that off in writing. No, the location, for me, is about two things. It either needs to be a convenient drive (because I do not find bike assembly to be a relaxing hobby, especially the day before a race for which I’ve hurtled through the air in a giant metal tube), or it needs to be really interesting. That interest can be in the form of a super cool course, amazing things to do (or places to eat – let’s get real) after the race, or the people who are going to be there.
The race starts here? Oh...ok. count me in!
Okay, fine – what’s the course like? Obviously, the distance matters. Finding yourself at a 70.3 when you’ve been training for a sprint is something that I, as a Total Professional, would probably recommend you avoid. (See, all those classes and trainings paid off!) But if you will have zero opportunity to train on hills, maybe think twice about a course that goes up the side of a mountain. Personally, one of the main things I look at is the swim, especially in shorter distances. It’s kind of the only part of the race where I’m at all competitive so … if it’s a sprint with an extra short swim, I’m out. Give me a reason to get wet, people! (Oh, get your mind out of the gutter.)
(Or don’t, if you happen to be Thor. Hello there, Thor.)
Is it part of something more? There’s nothing wrong with doing a race just for the sake of doing that race, but there’s also nothing wrong with doing one because it’s part of a series and you like the idea of completing something bigger. Or because you know it comes with awesome swag. Or it benefits a charity you support. Or because you saw last year’s medal and it was dope. Or because it’s famous for having killer food and wine or a puppy petting area at the end (which … can we make this a thing? I would very much like to make this a thing).
The fact is, a lot of folks find what we do too intimidating to even attempt, so whatever your reason, whatever your motivation – whether you’re there for the craft beer tent, because your friend is doing it, because you have a super cute new kit that you want to justify having bought, because Mike Reilly is announcing it, because it’s a mile from your house, or because it’s 6,000 miles from your house and you’ve always wanted an excuse to go to Australia – any reason is a good reason to race.
About the Author
Kristen is a busy (and very funny) woman. She's a writer, a certified triathlon coach, a pet lover and she runs Fit Bottomed Girls which is a site dedicated to empowering women to live a healthy lifestyle.