There’s been quite a bit of talk and banter going on within the Team Texarkana squad about what next big race they should do in 2015 (yes, they’re already thinking that far ahead). So the question arises of how should you go about choosing your next race? There are a number of factors to take into consideration when making this important decision considering the amount of money and time you’ll be spending in preparation for it.
Choosing which race, or more specifically which Ironman, you want to do comes down to much more than just “What race are my friends doing?” Don’t discount the role that friends and training partners can have in your preparation though. Having someone behind you that’s going through the same ordeal that you are can be quite motivating. They can give you motivation when it’s hot/cold/windy/raining outside or when your tired/sore/burned out. It’s also very helpful and calming to have a group of friends with you on the days leading up to the race. But if this leads you into a race that you don’t want to do or that doesn’t suit your strengths then it’s all for not because on race day it’s just you and the course. Sure you’ll have volunteers and other racers rooting you on but you’re the one swimming, biking and running so you’d better be mentally and physically strong enough to perform on the course you’re racing.
Here are some things to take into consideration:
- Time of Year – Training for an Ironman is basically like having a part time job in addition to all your other family and life commitments so selecting a time of year where you can devote the time necessary is paramount. Many people’s jobs are demanding at different times of the year. For example, I wouldn’t recommend an accountant to plan on an A race in the early season since their March and April months are smashed with helping people or corporations prepare their taxes.
- Weather – We’re lucky enough to live in an area of the country where we can get out and train pretty much year round. Being able to go out for a ride in February isn’t really a problem as long as you have the attire for it. But when selecting a race you have to look ahead and make sure that you can tolerate the weather conditions of race day as well. For me, I don’t handle the heat very well so I have to plan my A or longer races around that. You can acclimatize to the heat but acclimatizing to the cold is a completely different story. Your body just doesn’t make the switch in that direction as easily. If you’re not tolerant to the weather that you’ll be training or racing in then it’s time to rethink things.
- Course – I hear all the time that course A is easier than course B. In the end they’re all 140.6 miles of agony and discomfort. The race that you choose should suit your strengths. I’m not the strongest person on the climbs but I find that they help me break up 112 miles into more mentally manageable pieces so I raced IM St. George and IM Coeur d’ Alene.
- Strengths – Talking more on your personal strengths. If you’re a strong swimmer then IM Florida might be more for you with its ocean swim and swelling crests. If not, then maybe IM Lake Placid with a calm, clear swim. It even has a cable under the water that you can follow, minimizing the amount of sighting needed.
- Destination – Will you be making this journey with your family. If so then think of them when selecting a race. After all, while you’re out swimming, biking and running they’ll be twiddling their thumbs waiting for the split second that they’ll get to see you come whizzing by on the bike. Your family has supported you, cleaned up and washed your dirty workout clothes and put up with the endless talk about your latest race simulation, the least you can do is take them somewhere that they’ll enjoy too. Cost of travel should also be taken into consideration. Plane tickets and shipping your bike are not cheap endeavors in a sport that is already able to empty your wallet pretty fast. One final point on destination is the ability to train on the course of a close race. The mental strength that riding and running the course of your Ironman brings is priceless.
- Ironman vs. Iron Distance - There are hordes of fantastic racing organizations that are putting on some of the best races out there. Yes, Ironman has become the standard by which 140.6 is measured but it’s not the only available race organization. Some have gotten it into their heads that it’s “Ironman or nothing”. These people are short changing themselves on opportunities to have a great race at a fraction of the cost. A typical Ironman race costs about $650 while a HITS Triathlon Series iron distance race is only $300 and there’s one just down the road in Marble Falls. We’re also lucky enough to have Redman just to the north west of us for only $350. These races are also far easier to get registered for and don’t require you to make a commitment a year in advance. Who among us can tell me what their life is going to be like a year from now? Don’t pigeonhole yourself into Ironman only races. I definitely understand the appeal and would say that everyone needs to race one Ironman to experience the expansiveness of the event but don’t let yourself miss out on other great races. If you haven’t already then you need to read Chris McCormack’s article in last months Triathlete Magazine called “Why I Race”.
USAT Level I
USMS Level II