How do you pick which race to build your season around?
While some of us may have already gotten a jump on registering for races in 2020, many wait until the first month of the year post-holiday season to commit to their big race. For those with greater capacity – whether financial, time, and/or athletic ability – there may be two or three major races, but there is always that Big One that determines how you (or your coach) plan your training throughout the season.
So, how do you choose your "A" Race? If you don't already have one in mind, here are three important things to consider.
For something to be the "A" race in your mind, it has to be a big enough challenge. "Big enough" will depend on your current ability as well as your capacity for improvement in the given time period.
A beginner's "A" race might be their local sprint triathlon happening in six months' time which could also be their first triathlon ever. The challenge there will be to cross the finish line happy and looking for the next race to do.
A more experienced athlete might have their sights set on getting a new 70.3 personal best under their belt, and the challenge there will be to hit the training targets so that on race day they can push themselves to go faster.
Consulting with a coach or an athlete whose opinion you trust can help you determine if you could potentially be biting off more than you can chew. The important thing is to give yourself enough time to make the necessary improvements in fitness and performance so you can do your best on race day.
The Course and Location
Some races become people's "A" race because of their courses. Destination races give opportunity to race exotic locales or set new personal records.
For instance, the Alpe d'Huez Triathlon offers a chance to take on the 21-bend climb used on the Tour de France. The Laguna Phuket Triathlon lets you race in a tropical paradise with a saltwater/freshwater swim, a bike course with near-vertical climbs as well as fast flat smooth tracks, and a steaming hot run. Ironman Arizona is one of the flattest courses in the world over the Ironman distance, while if you're looking for a 70.3 PB then Ironman 70.3 Bahrain might be your best bet.
Meanwhile, races close to home mean you can train on the course you will race on. "Home-court advantage" allows you to perform at your best because you are acclimated to the temperature and humidity, know where to push and back off on the course and how to approach any technical descents, even know how the currents run on the swim course.
Once you've identified potential "A" race candidates, it's a matter of how committed you can be to see yourself through the training you will need to undertake to be successful at the race. Do you have the time, the energy, the motivation, the resources, the support for what the "A" race requires?
For this reason, one might race closer to home if travel cost is a consideration. Triathlon can be a money sink, and unless you're minted you need to make wise decisions about spending. Additionally, one might choose a shorter race if their weekly training time is limited. Training for an Ironman takes considerably more time than training for an Olympic distance, and if you have work and family commitments then for an Ironman you'll need your family's support and sacrifice for the duration of training leading into the race.
These three considerations should help you narrow down your "A" race for the year. With the global reach of the MX Endurance community, we hope to race alongside you one of these days!