How to Set Up Your Next Race Season

By Robin Kremer, USA Triathlon Ambassador | Nov. 14, 2019, 3:20 p.m. (ET)

kremer at finish

1. Support Crew- Talk to your FAMILY or support system! Balancing your life should be your first priority.

Support can make or break a season, so make sure you have this key in your tool box for success. Talk to your support crew about the pros and cons of training, traveling and racing.  Competing in triathlons can be time consuming and will have expenses that can add up, so plan ahead and have the conversation before signing up for a race.    

2. Game Plan

Making a game plan is your next priority. I suggest you print a year at a glance calendar. This will help you map out your race schedule and make sure you have enough time between races.  Start with your “A” race (or races) — the main event that you are working towards. How many races should or shouldn’t be on your race calendar depends on YOU.  Make sure you have the support, the correct amount of training, and life balance in mind when picking these races.

3. Pick an “A” race

There are so many races in the world, so how do you choose? 

  • First, pick a distance – think about what you are willing to train for.
  • Second, pick a location and time of year.
  • Third, think about how long it will take to train for that distance.

Start with these steps, and move forward from there.

4. Training and where to start

How to know how long it will take to train for an “A” race and where to start can be overwhelming questions for someone who has not raced in the past.

In general terms, it is all dependent on you and your fitness level – are you starting from the couch or are you currently a runner who wants more of a challenge?  How many weeks of training is completely dependent on where you start from.

Some questions to get you started:

  • How much have you swim, biked or run in the last 2 months?
  • Are you racing to win an age group award or just trying to finish?
  • How much time do you have to dedicate to train for a triathlon?

Answering the questions above will help you move in the right direction, and you can then move to thinking about how you are going to train.

Here are a few options:

  • Hire a Coach. Coaches are perfect for giving direction, accountability, and lessons on swimming/biking/running. They can also help with tips and advice on nutrition, training and race day prep.
  • Group training and local clubs are also a good source of information – larger events and clubs put on clinics and workshops to assist people.
  • Download some internet plans.
  • Get a training partner! This will help with accountability and support, and may even add a competitive aspect to your training.

5. How much training time do I need for different distances of triathlons?

Here are some suggestions for the amount of time you may need to train. Note: These are suggestions/estimates of time and will vary based on YOUR fitness level and abilities.

Sprint distance: 6-8 weeks

Olympic distance: 12-16 Weeks

Half triathlon: 20-28 Weeks

Full triathlon: 24-36 weeks or up to a year

6. A-B-C Races – what’s the difference? 

The “A” Race is your main event – the race you are training for and want to do your very best at.  You will taper your training for this race and make sure your training level PEAKS for an A race. 

“B” Race(s) are support races – events that will help you polish your skills, set bars toward achieving your goals, and give you experience. Normally, for a “B” race you only taper a short period and your training should not peak.

“C” Race(s) are practice events. These types of races can give you experience, review your training skills, show improvement and endorse some fun while training for long periods of time. These races tend to be local 5Ks, open water swims, or time trials. These kind of practice events will help you gain experience and confidence for the main event.

7. Off Season

For some athletes, the off season is not a factor in season planning. However, in states that have moderate weather year-round it needs to be factored in. You need to take the time to let your mind and body rest, and the off season is the perfect time to focus on improving your weaknesses. Here are a few suggestions during the off season:

  • Hit the gym several times a week.
  • Take time to focus on your swim stroke.
  • Sign up for Pilates for Sports. This is a great online training program specifically for triathletes.
  • Run a half marathon.
  • Cross train with mountain biking.

Whatever you decide to do, schedule at least 4-6 weeks of down time.    

Don’t over commit

Racing is addictive, and sometimes you’ll want to compete in too many races, so you need to weigh your options and stick to your original goals.  Before committing, think about life balance, dates and locations, cost, recovery time, injury and injury prevention, and the off season. Make sure you have support and get out there and start training!