Planning your triathlon year

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It is important to plan your season in advance, not just ensure your training is effective but also driven to a large extent by the popularity of the sport and the fact many of the major high profile races fill their entry list within days of opening. Even the smaller novice friendly events fill up long before the closing dates, so now is when you need to plan for next year.

What to Consider?

Triathlon is a diverse sport, every race is different, some short, some long (some very long), some hot, some cold, some flat, some hilly, pool based, open water, home or abroad. Generally these events are open to you just by submitting an entry form, but some require qualification to get your place so this must be considered in your plan.

You must first review your sporting background, along with the results of this years training and races. Consider your strengths and weaknesses, for example if swimming is a challenge you may prefer to stay away from long sea swims until your skills and confidence improves. If you are a strong biker, consider races with tough bike courses so you can gain time on the other racers in the tough sections. What do you enjoy? If you like short fast events seek them out, if you fancy the challenge of longer distance and even ultra events you can consider those. How much training have you done this year? This will give you an indication of the time you will have next year, consider family and work commitments, a new baby or more stressful work will not fit well with a decision to train for a long distance event.

What do you want from the sport, are you able to compete for wins and places or just to complete the event to the best of your ability? What are your longer term ambitions? It may be to keep fit, complete an Ironman, race for GB or just tour the world racing in exotic places. If you have high ambitions you may need a two or three year plan to get yourself to the level you need to be at. Racing can be expensive, the cost of events is steadily increasing, ensure you add the travel and accommodation to get the true cost.

Finance may well be a limiting factor, do you decide to compete in one major race or two or three local club events for the same cost? Staying injury free is key to improvement, you may have the time and finance to race every weekend, but will

your body take the strain, will you be nursing injuries through each race never achieving your potential. You may have a holiday planned or friends and family in other parts of the UK, or even other countries. Consider combining your racing with a trip, it gets you racing in other interesting places and even the most jaded triathlon widow/widower will be enthused by a week on the beach in return for a few hours standing at your race.

What races are out there?

There are many ways to find out what races are available to you. In general without internet access you are unlikely to find many races, but as you are reading this you should be ok. Speak to other athletes, see where they raced and what they liked and disliked about the events. Read the specialist magazines such as 220 and look on the web at sites such as Tri 247 and Triathlete Europe which contain race reports and race calendars. Use the British Triathlon website to access their event calendar which should hold all the sanctioned races. Early in the year you may not find all next years races listed, but look at the equivalent period the previous year to see what races are likely to run next. It should also have links to the clubs and major events stand alone websites where more information can be found. The smaller events can also be found on event management websites such as Entrycentral giving you details of the race and an easy application process.

Keep it real

As you look through the mass of racing opportunities it is easy to get carried away with the thought of finishing a really cool event. Many events are promoted for first time or novice racers, even major televised events such as the London Triathlon are accessible to first timers. Some are not really suitable. This does not mean you couldn’t finish a very long distance race having never done a triathlon before, but you won’t race to your potential or enjoy the experience as you should. Don’t get carried away by the success of your friends and club mates, most will admit they were a bit naive on their first races and suffered as a result. If that race is local and an hour or two long no harm done, its part of the process, if it’s hundreds of pounds and many hours of pain and suffering it’s less clever. Even if you have the fitness and experience to race over the very long distances, only consider including ‘one’ of these races in your plan for each year. A pro or semi pro may be able to do more, but if you need to read this advice you can’t. Be realistic about your goals but challenge yourself.

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What’s an ‘A’ race

When you have decided on the races you really want to do these are your ‘A’ races. They may be your GB qualification event, your Ironman, part of a race series, a target for a personal best or just your first ever open water standard distance. They are the races which are really important to you, where you want to go fast and enjoy the experience. Where possible they should be spread evenly through your season, four weeks or more between each so you can properly recover and phase your training to maximise your performance.

You may only have one ‘A’ race in a season so all your training and other races will be intended to maximise your performance that day. Once you have set these dates there may be other events you want to do with friends, as part of the club, or as race specific preparation for your ‘A’ events. Fit these around your ‘A’ events but be aware you may not be able to race to your maximum if you are recovering or training hard for your most important races. These races should really be considered as part of your training, if you do well it’s just a bonus.

Now you have decided

Once your season is planned out you need to make sure you submit your entries in good time. Check web sites regularly for information about when entries will be accepted, if funds are limited focus on your ‘A’ races and take a risk with delaying the

others. Tell your husband/wife or partner about your plans so holidays, late parties, family celebrations and other domestic arrangements can avoid your key races. You may also need to book leave from work if you work weekends or your event involves travel. Book any accommodation you need in good time, the longer you leave it the more expensive and further from the start it will be. With all these things in place and all the money spent you will also have a great incentive to train through the cold weather. With your season planned so carefully and well in advance you can concentrate on staying fit, healthy and injury free. To help this you build your training plan around your race calendar but that’s a whole new subject……………

Mark Harman

Positive Sport