Choosing your season’s races

I know, I know, it’s already mid-May and by now you have probably chosen your races for the year but the question is, how did you go about that decision? There are many ways of deciding what races you are going to take part in, some you may have used and others you think would have been useful trick a few months ago.

Firstly, is this your first year for racing a triathlon? Your second year or have you many years of taking part in triathlons under your belt? Each of these scenarios require slightly different thought processes which I will give you some ideas. I will mention various race terms later in the blog so it would be good for the uninitiated to have an understanding:

Sprint – normally a pool swim of between 400-500m, followed by a cycle leg between 20-30km, finished off with a run leg between 4-7km
Olympic – this is known as the standard distance and is an open water swim of approx. 1500m, followed by a cycle leg between 40-45km, finished off with a run leg of approx. 10km
1/2 Ironman – more serious athletes attempt this event with an open water swim of approx. 1900m, followed by a cycle leg of approx. 90km, finished off with a run leg of 1/2 marathon distance (21km)
Ironman – some class this as the ultimate challenge in triathlon, historically known as the distance covered I the 1st ever triathlon which was a bet in an Hawaiin bar as to who was fittest, a swimmer, cyclist or runner. The distances are challenging with a 3.8km open water swim, followed by a 180km cycle, finished off with a marathon

If this is your first year, I believe you should follow the these principles:
– Look at local races, why? Because it is preferable to be close to home, that way you have more chance of arriving on time, your friends and family may be tempted to come and cheer you on (which will give you a big boost during the face) and you can also get home quickly for a well deserved rest
– Decide on what distances you feel you are able to train for and as importantly enjoy on race day. You want to enjoy the race, learn from the experience and take this knowledge into your training and racing further into the year. I would recommend, unless you are a very experienced cycling or runner, to look at entering a few sprint events as these will give you a flavour of the sport and also not take up too much of your free time training. My first year of triathlon (1988), I entered a couple of sprints and I was from a football background so anything greater in distance would have been a challenge.

If this is your second year, then you have completed at least one or more triathlons and have decided to take part in more events. What do you do? Do you increase the challenge and take part in an Olympic distance event or do you focus on sprints and work on building speed into your training, This is a difficult one but generally most triathletes in their 2nd year move up to Olympic distance triathlons. Again, look at local events if possible as the logistics are easier to contemplate and implement.

If you have many years of triathlon under your belt, there will be a lot of peer pressure to increase your distance to 1/2 Ironman or Ironman races. This is a massive commitment and one that if your training has not enabled you to swim, cycle or run sufficient km’s in training, is a bad decision. How many runners do you know who have signed up for a marathon, done insufficient training and then told everyone how they ‘blew’ up in the race. 1/2 and full Ironman distance events are very challenging, not just on race day but in the preceding months of training.

As a coach, I would recommend the following number of weeks of structured training to complete the various triathlon distances:
Sprint – 6 weeks
Olympic – 10-12 weeks
1/2 Ironman – 16-20 weeks
Ironman – at least 24 weeks but more likely 30 weeks

You can find lots of races on a variety of sites and magazines. For triathlon check out

For some running races:

For some swimming events:


For some cycling events:

Next week, if I don’t get distracted with another subject, I will cover some basics of building a training plan. Don’t forget that some tips and tricks and coaching options can be found at


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Level 2 Triathlon coach 3 x Ironman finisher British National Formation skydive silver medal winner (2004) Father of 2 boys
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