When you ask intermediate triathletes with sprint and Olympic races under their belt “what’s your next goal?” it’s like they’re following a pre-destined path to 70.3 (half-iron). While having these lofty goals is great for some, for others there are several reasons why it may be better to stay put. Here are some considerations before making the leap (as well as some support for those in the middle of negotiating next year’s race schedule with your significant other):
- TIME – Quality always trumps quantity and there’s no golden rule for how many hours per week are required, but we can estimate. In the early stages it may be 5-7 hours per week, but at your peak training volume it might demand 12-16 hours per week! This includes a handful of 4+ hour bike rides, 2-hour runs, and a bunch of 2x per day workouts. On top of all that you need to consider sleep and recovery, strength training, and mental preparation. With family, work, friends and other “fun” demanding your attention, ask yourself the hard question: is it realistic to fit all this into your current lifestyle or are you going to have to make sacrifices to achieve your goals?
- CO$T – I believe training is an “investment in your health” and it’s better to have a clear picture at the onset than to constantly be re-evaluating your budget. Entry costs are typically higher than your local sprint or Olympic races and checking your bike in the day before means you’ll need a travel budget including hotel for you and any spectators (some have a minimum night’s stay). Plus, you’re still going to run in 1 or 2 other “B” races to tune up anyway. Next there are luxuries that you may have previously put off but with the increased mileage you will now want to reconsider including: hiring a coach, tri-bike with proper fit & regular maintenance, indoor trainer or membership to a bike group and multiple pairs of running shoes. And although not NECESSARY, some additional “fun but functional” gadgets that will further increase the quality of your performance include: aero-helmet, power meter, race wheels (which can be rented), GPS watch, swim gear such as pull buoy, fins & swim paddles and of course FOOD. I touch on nutrition below, but don’t forget all those bars, snacks, drinks & supplements add up. Oh, and make sure you save enough money for the race expo where you’re guaranteed to buy 1 or 2 souvenirs to mark your achievement!
- NUTRITION – While healthy eating and drinking is ALWAYS going to serve you well, with longer course racing comes more of a demand to refuel your body properly. This requires lots of experimentation to develop a fuelling strategy and tremendous discipline to stay focussed in the days, weeks and months ahead of the race.
- ACHIEVEMENTS AT CURRENT LEVEL – Don’t discount how far you’ve come and think there aren’t goals you can still unlock at your current level. I often ask finishers if they felt like they “left it all on the course”. Often they’re surprised that perhaps they could have pushed harder on the bike or been more aggressive in the swim. Consider running a really, REALLY fast sprint or Olympic race and set or beat a personal best or maybe even qualify for more races at the higher competitive level.
- COMRADERY – Chances are if you’re considering a 70.3 anyway, you’ve been around several races and know that the triathlon community is incredibly welcoming and supportive. When you become a FINISHER, it doesn’t matter what your time was, what kind of bike you were riding, or how many hours you trained, you are congratulated on your success and accepted into the club. And that is supercool!
Like any goal, the bottom line is that it has to be realistic. If you only have 4 hours a week to train and get bored after running 5km, maybe think about becoming a sprint master. However, if setting new and challenging goals is something that you long for (see what I did there?!) then I say go for it. You CAN do it and you’ll quickly learn that you may even be capable of more…!