So it has been few years that you are thinking about doing your first triathlon, but do not know where to start? Surely, picking a race or two and training for them sounds easy. But then you realize that there are tons of races around, dozen of distances and another handful of minor differences. How do you navigate through that mess and plan your first triathlon season in a way that sets you up for success in this sport?
Pick a distance
While it is great that you are racing hoping to complete an Ironman just as soon as you convince yourself to get up from the couch and go train for the first time in your life, be realistic – pick a distance that will be challenging enough, but yet manageable. Do not jump in the long distance right away. While some people introduce themselves to the sport with a full Ironman, they are ones in hundreds. Most of the athletes start small and work their way up to the longer distances. Some people will have one Sprint race for the year, while someone else might race every other weekend in every distance from Try-a-Tri to an Ironman.
Decide how many races you want to do
Now that you have a distance(s) in mind, you need to decide how many races you want to do. Some people will do one Try-a-Tri and then stop for the rest of their life., while others will squeeze 5-6 races in short few months of their first triathlon season. Even if there is nothing wrong with the either of these two ways, you need to decide what works for you. Keep in mind that most of the races aren’t exactly free either, especially when you get to the the Ironman level, so while you would love to race every weekend, your budget might have to make you settle for much less. Think about it and realistically decide how many races you want to do in your triathlon season.
Pick the races
Having an idea about the distances that you are interested in and a rough number of the events you want to try, you can pick the races. Usually we make a list of the races and other important dates in the order they happen in the year. As we learned this year, if you are in the sport with someone else, make one master list, and colour code the races by the participant (trust me, that will help you to avoid booking 2 events on the same weekend). Include everything that you are even remotely interested.
Once you have a list, start circling the races you want to do for sure and crossing the ones you will not do. A local Try-a-Try collides with a family reunion in June? Are you seriously planning to do two Ironman distances back to back? How are you planning to pay for 10 events in 3 months? Stick to the limits you set in the first two steps and make sure to leave enough weekends for recovery and just “life”. Once you put it in writing, it will be much easier to see your whole summer, and you will able to plan your perfect first triathlon season.
Most likely you will use this same pattern to pick your races for next seasons as well, but planning your first triathlon season has few additional tricks. First of all, do not overdo it! It is easy to go crazy right off the start and then hate it for the rest of your life. Start slowly with something you are comfortable with, and then make your races more challenging. Second, do not pick the races that are far away. Sure, we are going to Australia, but this is Alex’s 8th year racing. For your first triathlon season, pick races that are close to home. That way the drive there will not discourage you and ruin your day before you even get to the event. Expect to travel a bit farther for the Ironman, but still do not choose something half way across the world. Stay away from crossing the borders and flying in general for your first triathlon season – you will have enough stress without it.
And finally, start training! Surely, you already started preparing for your season, but I thought I would mention it. Not getting enough training before a race is a sure way suffer through the event and hate the sport altogether. This is not something you want to do in your first triathlon season. So get ready, new season is about to start!