Signing up for a triathlon and not owning a road bike, much less a TT bike, sounds like a bad idea now, but at the time it felt oh so right! That was the start of my triathlon passion. I managed to find a bike on craigslist just three weeks before the race and I was off. I built up the race distances from Sprint to the Half Ironman in four years. As I looked ahead into what year 5 had for me I knew that it was time to do the one thing I said I’d never do; race an Ironman (140.6 miles).
Let’s speed up and get to the meat of this article and spare you all the details. In 2015 I raced and finished an Ironman and it was time to live up to the backside of the promise I made to my wife when I signed up for the Ironman; I would take the following year off from long course racing. So bring on 2016 and I raced five local sprint races and I had a blast! Racing Ironman events meant fewer races and traveling to different states to race – Utah and Arizona. With a schedule of local racing it meant less hours of training, higher intensity, and frankly, having more fun. But here’s the benefit that I am discovering in 2017. The year of short course racing prepared me for a breakout long course race in 2017. Ready to go back to long course racing I went right after Oceanside 70.3. I previously went 6:05 in 2014 and knew that I should beat that time pretty easily. Going 5:10 pleasantly surprised me!
This encouraging result got me to think about the high value in short course racing and how that translates into long course racing. First off, I am appealing to the age-group triathlete that has somehow bought into the Ironman or nothing mentality of triathlon. Just because it’s short does not mean it is easy. It shouldn’t be. Short course racing is full throttle; don’t slow down until you cross the finish line racing. And if you aren’t executing that, then you are missing the point of short course racing. It is in fact called a “Sprint” for a reason. In long course racing you cannot race with this mentality as you’ve got to measure your watts or heart rate on race day. In short course racing there is no conserving energy. In short course racing they still line you up with your competitors in your age group and the field is usually small enough for you to know who you are competing against. With the new Ironman rolling starts, good luck with that.
So how does this type of racing prepare me for a 70.3 or 140.6? In short course racing you show up to race and it’s a mindset that you bring with you on race day. Just because the course is long does not mean that you shouldn’t race aggressively. There is a balance of that output and pacing that a coach will help you dial in. But I’ve seen too many athletes play it safe on the long course and lean too far to the “pacing” that they never lay it all out there. I’m convinced you can go faster!
So if you’re ready to see your long course results improve, consider going back to the fast and furious pace of short course racing. Chase that podium spot at a local tri. Train and race at a lung-busting pace. When you’ve strung together a season of PR’s and fulfilling short course results, go back to the long course and you’ll love what you’ll achieve.