Monday, February 1, 2016

The Purpose of Early Season Racing

by Gina Kehr

When I started the sport of triathlon you could barely find a race earlier than Wildflower which was, and still is, the first weekend in May. I was living in San Luis Obispo at the time so of course the famous Wildflower Festival was the marker that triathlon season had officially started. It wasn’t until I started racing as a professional a few years later that earlier races even entered my mind.

What is early racing and what is its purpose? My definition of early racing was anything before May. That was because I took my off season a bit further than most -- for me, the word “off” really meant I would not start any training until January. With at least six weeks of less than a couple of hours of working out a week, by the time I felt ready to actually hit the race circuit with any clout it was May.

Due to my longer than average off season, in my eyes early racing did not serve any purpose; it was not even a consideration because I felt so sluggish in February and March that I thought it would be a waste of my time. But one year I decided to do something different and took the advice from the ever amazing Karen Smyers and decided to “race” myself into shape. I picked a few races in February and March and off I went, just me and the six weeks of fitness I had developed. What I learned was that as funny as it was trying to “race” with no real speed, I did have so many years of base and speed built in that my fitness actually came to me a bit sooner that year. The act of racing early helped kickstart a system that was dormant for the winter much sooner than any key session could have done. My “no purpose” attitude turned into, “Wow, early racing can have a huge purpose!” It was like unclogging some pipes that typically took longer to do, therefore allowing my key sessions during the base building phase to be better executed and in the end I had raised my fitness bar.

One other purpose that racing early can serve is to simply get you to race more, since you’ll be getting so many more races in during the year. The more you race, the more experience you gain, and the more experience you gain, the faster you get. Why do you think professionals race so much? Why do you think all those age group studs you know are studs? If you look at their background I bet you would find that at one time many of them raced a lot in one year.

The act of constant improvement is one of the things that makes triathlon so attractive. There are so many variables that each race brings new experiences and new levels to push yourself and a new confidence. How can you lose racing early? So, whether you are new or a veteran of the sport, get your calendar out, sign up for an early race and let your fitness begin.

If you are a San Francisco Bay Area athlete looking for an early race, consider the Stanford Treeathlon, a nice sprint distance race in Redwood City, California, this coming weekend (April 28). Come help support Stanford Triathlon Club and be part of collegiate triathlon!


Gina Kehr was a professional athlete for 15 years, competing in events ranging from Olympic Trials to Ironman World Championships, where she achieved five Top 10 finishes in her career. She coaches athletes of all levels and all distances. Her experience comes from her journey as a novice age group triathlete who quickly worked her way to becoming an established professional triathlete. Gina also works with the Stanford Tri team, is a coach with Stanford Masters and leads a squad of short and long course athletes. You can read more about Gina at GinaKehr.com.
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