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Picking the best races for your season

Picking the best races for your season

Picking the best races for your season


The triathlon season has pretty much just ended for the North American market. It’s early December, and there are just a few races left on the calendar for this year, and that means you probably are already thinking about what next year’s race season is going to look like. At Playtri we have over 20 years of experience coaching athletes and that includes helping them pick the races that will help them reach their goals. So if you are already working on picking your races for next year, here are some things to consider.


Begin with these questions:

      • What does success look like next year?
      • What do I need to do training and racing-wise to achieve that success?
      • Is this realistic at this time in my life? If you just moved, started a new job, or have a new addition to the family, these add good stress to your life, but also limit your time and available energy.
      • What 1-3 races can I do to help me reach that goal? 
      • How much will it “cost” financially, emotionally, physically, and socially?

Use shorter races to prepare for longer events. Shorter events allow you to practice the mechanics of triathlon and build confidence. Shorter events also help evaluate fitness and break up the monotony of training. If there are limited triathlons in your area, then you can use individual sports races (open water swimming, cycling, or running) or virtual racing (as a last option) to help you prepare for longer events.


Don’t forget other life events. Unless you are a professional athlete, you are doing this sport for fun. Don’t lose sight of the other events and people in your life that enhance your life. Be fully present for those people and events when it is necessary and don’t be distracted by your triathlon training. For example, if you have a family vacation scheduling talk with your family about how much training you would like to get in and negotiate expectations.


Race Frequency. Racing is fun, but it is also stressful mentally and physically. So pick your races thoughtfully and space them out. If you are doing a mix of sprint and Olympic distance races, then you can aim to peak for 2-4 races during the year and plan on racing no more than once a month. If you are going to include 70.3 racing in your calendar, don’t plan on racing more than 2-3 in a year and space them out throughout the year. If you are going to include full Ironman races in your calendar, then don’t plan on racing more than 1-2 in a year and again spread them out. Here is a sample calendar from an athlete who has been racing triathlons for over 10 years and is trying to peak for the 70.3/Ironman races on their calendar:

  • mid-March — sprint
  • early April — 70.3
  • late May — Olympic
  • June/July — sprint or Olympic
  • August/September — sprint or Olympic
  • September/October — 70.3 or full Ironman


Work with a coach. Triathletes are very driven individuals which is helpful on race day, but sometimes gets in the way with planning. We are not always able to get a bird’s eye view of how things are going in training and race preparation. Working with a coach will help you get a better sense of what training is required to achieve your goals and can help you maximize your limited training time. Anecdotally, even as a triathlon coach I reached higher goals when I hired a coach who was able to be objective and thorough in planning my training and helping create my race schedule.


If you have any questions about anything in this article or would like to know more about our different coaching options, please contact me at Happy training and racing!


Jim Rowe is a Playtri Level 4 Coach and Coach Education Lead, a USAT LI Certified Coach, an NASM Certified Personal Trainer, and an Ironman and 70.3 World Championship Qualifier who works with adult athletes of all abilities from beginners to IRONMAN World Championship qualifiers. Learn more about Jim at

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