Am I Ready to Race a Longer Distance?
by Reem Jishi
When you tell people you race triathlons, invariably someone asks “Have you raced an IRONMAN (or other long course event)?” If your current answer is no, then read on for some important factors to consider in deciding whether racing long is the right decision for you.
The first question to ask yourself is whether you have the time to train for long course. Generally, your weekly training volume will build to approximately twice the time necessary to complete the race. If you anticipate the race to take 12 hours, your weekly volume approaches 24 hours during peak training weeks. Also, consider the time it takes outside of the workouts (e.g., driving to the pool, getting your nutrition ready, showering after a workout) plus any additional sessions (e.g., stretching, strength training).
To increase your training volume, your body needs to be prepared for the additional stress. A well-developed training plan builds over time and includes sufficient recovery . If you start with too much volume or build too quickly, your body will eventually yield to the pressure. So, if this season you completed a sprint triathlon, it might take you several years to safely build to long course.
Let’s face it, triathlon can be an expensive sport. You might’ve participated in your first race with the bike you had sitting in the garage and without a wetsuit, but as you progress, you’ll probably want to invest in a wetsuit, lightweight bike and countless pairs of running shoes. Next, consider the race costs. Long course events often have entry fees in excess of $500 and typically require significant travel costs like flights and lodging. Finally, factor in training costs such as clothing, nutrition, swim fees, coaching, gym memberships and massages, to name a few. Before you make the decision to shift to long course, list your potential costs and make sure the total number is something you’re comfortable with.
Do I have the support?
You’ve probably heard that it takes a village to train for a long course triathlon. If you have a job and/or family, you have obligations outside of training. In those peak weeks where you are training 20 hours or more, who’s going to do some of the things that you would otherwise do? Before making a commitment to train for long course, sit down with those around you and make sure they’re okay with you taking the time you need to train. Is your child okay if you miss their track meet? Is your partner okay if you don’t have time to cook dinner? As much as you’ll try to do everything, you’ll occasionally need to say no. It’s important that everyone around you understands that and supports your goal.
You’ve checked the boxes on the first four items. Now comes perhaps the most important question: Do you want it? This is a necessity. Training for long course takes a lot of commitment and sacrifice. To be successful, you must put in the time, there are no shortcuts. Consider what your life will be like while training. Do you want it badly enough to wake up and get a training session in before work? To miss important events? To train in bad weather? Now imagine yourself racing. Are you prepared to be on the course for the full day? Are you excited about swimming, biking and running more in a day than most people do in a week? Is all that worth the feeling you’ll have when that medal is placed around your neck?
Triathlon is an amazing sport. It lets you test your limits and explore what you can achieve. Train consistently and you will surprise yourself at what you’re capable of. It will change you as a person and become part of your identity. Racing long course brings with it additional challenges and rewards. Go in with open eyes and make the decision that’s right for you!