Learn How to Crush Your 'A' Race This Season

By Ross Hartley | July 23, 2019, 2 p.m. (ET)

competitors race to the finish line at age group nationals in cleveland in 2018

Happy summer! As you progress both through your purposeful training and calculated race calendar, I invite you to keep several ideas in mind for the rest of the season.

You first began this season by (hopefully) setting goals. I am a big proponent of deliberate goal-setting using the Goals-Targets-Outcomes template. With this exercise, you plotted the required actions that it would take for you to accomplish your desired outcomes at your championship or 'A' races.

Revisit this template, especially the goals that you set (the things that you can always control). How is your execution and follow through? Accomplishing your goals will lead to your accomplishing your targets, which will put you in the best possible position to achieve your desired outcomes.

As you begin competing, these early season races should be viewed as fitness assessments. They are practice for the 'A' races at the end of the season. The results from these races are not indicative of where you will be later in the season; rather a snapshot of your current fitness level.

These races do a great job of shining light on both current strengths and weaknesses. With the information from these races and training sessions, you can better tailor your training to address theses strengths and weaknesses.

Learn from the races and apply this knowledge for the future. The race outcome is feedback on your preparation. If you do not perform how you wanted to, that is the feedback that your preparation was not sufficient. Take this information and begin again more intelligently.

These early season races and training sessions are a great time to practice various things that you will want to have nailed down for your 'A' races. They are a great time to both experiment and practice with the following:

  • Nutrition (night before, morning of, in-race)
  • Uniform
  • Equipment (wetsuit, googles, bike, wheels, socks, etc.)
  • Pacing strategy
  • Race week workouts
  • Race day warm up
  • Mantras

By the time you get to your 'A' races, the above mentioned should not take any mental energy on your part — it is just what you do because you know it works. I like to call this the "Automation of Success."

As we all know, some things will not go as planned on race day. Applying the Benjamin Franklin quote, “Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other,” I have incorporated two methods that have helped me in these imminent situations:

  1. A decision making framework: Logistics-Strategies-Tactics
  2. Pre-Mortems

Read more about this in Things Will Go Wrong.

Let your success in preparation (both in training and races) fuel your self-trust during your 'A' races. Consistently and repeatedly training to the very best of your ability creates and fuels a courageous mindset. This is called acquired self-confidence. During your 'A' races, do what you have repeatedly done — revert back to your training and habits.

Don’t prove how good you are, be how good you are.

The best way to acquire self-confidence is to do exactly what you are afraid to do. Sometimes you act because you are confident. Your confidence fuels your actions. And sometimes you take action and then build your confidence because you have acted. Confidence is built by action. Both of these require action, you taking the first step, to begin the process. Taking action leads to more actions. Opportunities multiply as they are chased.

Your future first begins as a narrative that your brain tells you. Your future first begins as a narrative that you tell yourself, what are you saying?

Stay hungry!

Ross Hartley is USA Triathlon Certified Coach serving as the age group Team USA coach for the ITU 2020 World Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland.


The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.