With the holiday season approaching, most people think about the gluttony of the season, followed up with the New Year’s Resolution. Triathletes, however aren’t like most people. Our goal setting kicks in much earlier.
At this point in the year, the reality sets in that our “recovery excuse” for laziness is gone, and that the Turkey Trot or Jingle Bell races aren’t an end to last year’s season, but instead a kick off to next year’s season. It’s time to get serious about planning for and training for next season. Key races sell out quickly, and fitness needs to be found early in the year.
As two working professionals with two young children who have, together, raced Ironman-distance triathlons across the last few years, we have learned a lot. Here are a few helpful hints for how select the right “A” race for you, and in particular the right Ironman-distance triathlon for you and your sherpa (kids, grandparents and friends).
- Time of Year: First, think about your training time, and in particular, when your peak training will occur. This becomes an important data point because of the conditions in which you will be training. For us, we don’t want to do a century ride on the trainer, followed by a brick run on the treadmill; or have the chance of a late season snowstorm in March. So, early-season races in April and May are out. Second, we need to align our schedules with family commitments. Since we have two young kids in school, September and October races are much more difficult to coordinate logistically. That pretty much leaves us with June, July and August races to target. Triathletes with fewer family obligations may have more training and racing options. We envy you.
- Location: Triathlete can be selfish people. It’s true. But if you consider the needs of your sherpas early, then you’ll have a much more pleasant training and racing experience. We’ve been able to turn our races into family vacations, which allow us to see some beautiful parts of the the world. But, before we commit to a race, we think about the time of year for our sherpas , the cumulative cost to drive/fly and transport our bikes, the cost of lodging for the full group, and finally the experience that our sherpas will have before and during race day.
- Goals: Lead with your strengths, and align your course selection to give you the best possible chance to achieve your goals. If you want a bike PR, you can choose a hard bike course like Lake Placid but don’t be disappointed if you have a more difficult run afterwards. Set the right expectations in the beginning, and make sure that your training programs is designed to give you the best chances to achieve your goals.
- Training Terrain: Now that you’ve narrowed your time of year, location and goals, you can compare the terrain you will train in to the terrain you will race in. This is also important when it comes to goal setting. If you train on flat roads and then race in Boulder Colorado, you will have a different day that you were expecting. Choose a race that aligns with where you will be able to train. We are fortunate to have the Blue Ridge Mountains about 60 miles away from. These climbs are just far enough way that we can drop off the kids at school, climb over 10,000 vertical feet, have a short brick run, and make it back home for pick up. We like hills, so having this terrain available to us makes a huge difference when selecting a race.
At the end of the day, selecting your race has a lot of critical variables, but ultimately if you target the right time of year, select the right location, set the right goals, and train in the right terrain, then you’ll be much more able to have a successful race season. Good luck planning for your 2016 race!