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Tips for Early Season Races

Like many athletes in the Northern Hemisphere, this winter has been particularly tough for triathlon training.  We have seen record snowfalls in the Sierra Nevadas and Rocky Mountains which means I have spent more time running with traction devices then any other winter and of course many staple indoor sessions.  To keep that stoke high through the cold winter months I encourage my athletes to sign up for an early season race with a few caveats.

  1. Motivation.  An early season race can be great motivation for winter training.  Making a goal timely by having a date that is not too far in the distance can encourage some discipline for those early morning sessions that are too easy to skip.
  2. Adjust expectations.  Your first race of the season is just that, a starting point for the season not an end point.  Of course you want to be prepared for the distance, but be aware that fitness gains might not immediately translate to speed in your first race. Realize that a few race experiences might be needed to express your fitness. 
  3. Get outside.  If all of your biking has been inside, make sure you can at least get a few sessions completed outside, ideally your last few longer sessions. Open water might not be a possibility where you live, but maybe you can mix in some simulations in the pool by sighting once per length, turning before the wall, possibly pulling the lane lines and getting some other swimmers to battle with.  I like to refamiliarize myself with my Synergy wetsuit for a long warm up of 1000 continuous once or twice before the race.  At the very least, make sure to get in the open water at the race venue in the days before the race. 
  4. Check the weather/climate. Check the forecast for air temperature/humidity and water temp.  Sometimes you can find race photos from the previous year to get an idea of the conditions on race day.  If the water temp is in the 50s (F) then consider if you will need a full sleeve wetsuit, neoprene cap, possibly booties.  If you are headed somewhere tropical you may need to prep for the heat during your indoor sessions or add a series of sauna sessions before you head out.
  5. Practice your race nutrition.  Dial in your race fueling strategy and test any new products in training. 
  6. Tune up your equipment.  Make sure your bike is in working order with a full tune and replace any worn parts.  Hopefully your bike is not still in the box from the world championship last fall!
  7. Make a race plan.  Since it has at least been several months since you last raced, it is important to detail a gear list and race plan.  This can be a good way to reduce race day stress if you have all of your gear and nutrition planned in advance.  I also like to make a timeline for race day with the time I will wake up, what I will have for breakfast at what time, any supplements or race-day nutrition that needs to be included, and any little things that you have the tendency to forget.

Finally, have a blast in your first race and enjoy the experience.  Don’t put any more pressure on yourself than necessary and learn from any mistakes.  Follow up the race with a race report with the good, the bad, and the ugly, and share it with your coach. 

–Josiah Middaugh