Monday, February 1, 2016

Early Season Racing is for Early Season Education

by Dave Latourette

As the sport of triathlon has grown it seems the racing season has not only started earlier and lasts longer but it appears many athletes are doing key races early in the year, with many of those athletes having zero racing under their belts. Ideally before a key race an athlete has a chance to do one or a number of races in preparation for their most important race(s). As athletes and coaches (even experienced ones) there are so many lessons we can we can learn from early season races to educate ourselves to improve later in the season.

Below is an outline of some items for planning and self education through earlier season racing.

  • Familiarization - Early season events reintroduce us to the sensation we get from racing: nerves, excitement, adrenalin, and most importantly how we handle these emotions.

  • Equipment - Use the opportunity to make sure all previous equipment is functioning the way you like it. This is also a chance to try new gear in a less important race.

  • Nutrition - Educate (or re-educate) yourself on timing, quantity, and make-up of pre race meals and race nutrition. Experienced athletes may find their bodies change over time and no longer tolerate certain foods and fuels as they once did.

  • Fitness, Racing and Pacing - These races are great opportunities to get a snapshot of the fitness you have (or don’t have), add race specific fitness to your training, and to either experiment with pacing or racing tactics. For most athletes a good idea is to race at current fitness levels… be honest!

  • Evaluation - Once your race is over and it has settled, approximately 24 hours later, do the best to have an honest evaluation of your racing day. Don’t overemphasize “race placing” at the finish, it’s best to put emphasis on evaluating personal execution, effort, and goals.

  • Planning - If your peak race is an ironman distance race, the perfect world might have a series of races (sprint, Olympic, half ironman) leading into that race. You can separate the short races up to the half ironman distance approx four to five weeks apart, but you’ll want to leave at least six weeks from half ironman distance to your ironman race. If you can’t string races together that cleanly I do believe any racing will allow you to help prepare for your peak race.

The biggest component of this process is not just evaluating what you can improve on, but acting on what you learn so that you make improvements going forward and avoid repeating mistakes.

Best wishes for steady improvement in 2014.

Dave Latourette is a full time triathlon coach living in Santa Rosa, California, who works with athletes from newcomer to elite. His top athletes have won USAT Age Group National Championships and raced in World Championship events that include the ITU World Championship and the Ironman World Championship. You can learn more about Dave and follow him at:, his blog, or on Twitter @dklatourette
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