I often get asked “what race do you think I should do” or “what events would you recommend”? I am, of course more than happy to share my views, thoughts and experiences but I also try to encourage you, the athlete to think about what you really want to do? What would really excite you? The popularity of races and events these days, notably the long-course triathlons, mean we have to register months and months often up to a year in advance. So, it is never too early to be thinking about what next and next season! There is also such a plethora of choice that you may be finding it hard to select one. Here is the thought process I go through when thinking about my challenge for the next year and encourage all athletes / participants to do the same:
What’s on the bucket list?
Is there an event you have heard of and really want to do it? For me being genuinely excited about the race and really wanting to do it should be one of the most influential factors. I have never done a race because somebody else told me to do it, of course my choice may have been influenced but I have always made the final decision. There are still many, many events on my bucket list (and it keeps getting longer!!)
Location: UK, Europe, further afield?
Is there a place you really want to travel to or visit? Can participating be tied in with a holiday or adventure?! If you are jet-setting, does a different time zone and or jet lag need to be considered? I have been able to tick off many of the “to visit” places on my list by choosing the race in a country or destination I have wanted to visit.
Following on from the point made above, what will the weather be like in your chosen destination? It is also worth considering, what is the weather typically like where you train versus where you will race? Our bodies get used to the environment we are familiar with so choosing a climate or conditions that are wildly different to our norm can be fun but can also come with its challenges. Simple question to answer, do you prefer competing in warmer or cooler conditions? I know favourable race conditions for me would be slightly better than the classic British summer, notably the water temperature!
Time of year
This is something that is often over-looked in terms of the timing of your training in relation to your race. If for example you choose a triathlon at the very start of the UK season, you may not have the opportunity to open water swim pre-event, and the water temp can be freezing! It also places more emphasis on your training over the winter and spring months. A race later in the season July, Aug, Sept gives you more time, the longer days and (fingers crossed) the warmer summer conditions to train in. You also have the advantage and opportunity to get some “practice” races in. There is of course the option to race outside of the UK, with the popularity of the multi and single sport events there is always something on Northern or Southern hemisphere to tempt you!
Training and racing buddies
Lots of people choose races where they will have some company. I totally agree racing with friends or having a support crew with you can make a huge difference. Signing up to a race or races with others may also mean you have the opportunity to train together. Some company can never be over rated, especially if your chosen event is more on the endurance end of the spectrum!! And who doesn’t love a bit of friendly competition!! I am very fortunate, since meeting my partner Ben in 2010, I have always had someone to train and race with (and against!!) More recently since we started ABCpure, we have also had our athletes to keep up company on training sessions and on our toes when racing!!
My checklist when choosing an eventAs a triathlete I will always consider the following
Swim: Where is it, lake, river, sea? For a novice swimmer or triathlete I would probably advise against a sea swim as your inaugural dip! Instead, opt for a lake or river swim where conditions are generally calmer and the water a little warmer. A rolling, wave or mass start may also influence your decision. As a non-swimmer myself (not growing up in the water), I am influenced by a non-sea swim.
Bike and run: What is the profile / terrain like? Is it flat and fast, undulating, hilly or mountainous?? What terrain do you enjoy? What suits your strengths? If you hate going up and down something with lots of ascending and descending is not going to float your boat. On the contrary you may be a bit of a “mountain goat” and love the up’s and down’s. Let’s say I can hold my own and I enjoy climbing on the bike but maybe due to my size / stature and a lack of “real” descents on my door-step to practice going down on, I can give away time to my competition if the descending is very technical. If “switch back’s and hair pin bends” are used in the description of the bike course I may do some additional course homework. If I want to be really competitive at a race, I would not only choose a course I want to do but one that I believe I can do well at. I often ask myself does the course suit me, will it take advantage of my strengths?
Coach at ABCpure
Cat Benger is a personal trainer and triathlon coach at ABCpure who took up the sport in her late 20’s when she got hooked on the triathlon endorphin high! She was looking for a personal challenge outside of her work in luxury retail and ultimately swapped her Louboutin’s for Lycra. Cat has teamed up with Queen of the Mile to share coaching tips on triathlon, running and cycling challenges