Racing is some of the best preparation one can do. Sometimes there is no better way to test yourself than to simply get in there and do it! In a previous article, I talked about how to maximize your time in training races.
Many times, Ironman athletes lean toward 70.3 races as their preferred events to use as preparation for the big race. However, there are lots of reasons why the shorter sprint-distance races can be just what you need to get ready for going long.
1. They Are Cheap
Triathlon entry fees cost a bit more than dinner at the local pub, but sprint triathlons are some of the least expensive races you can enter. Register early and you can shave a few dollars off the price tag. This is good for the wallet and might allow you to rent that sweet pair of race wheels!
2. Local Events
Traveling can take a lot out of you. Assuming you are already going to take a few rest days before and maybe after the event, and adding in a long car drive, some less than ideal road food and an unfamiliar hotel bed, and you have the makings of a week or more of stress—and not the good kind.
Not to mention all of this stuff costs money (see number 1). Usually you can find many local sprint tri's to compete in. That can leave you the afternoon to spend with the family, catch a movie, or even get in some additional training miles.
3. Shorter Rest/Recovery Period
Even if you are looking to set the course on fire, two days of easy tapering for a sprint can be enough to put down a solid effort. Also with the shorter distance, particularly in the run, your recovery time will be pretty low. Some athletes can get back to training after only one day.
4. More Opportunity for Training After the Race
With the normal early tri start time and a race that only lasts an hour to 1.5 hours, there is plenty of time to get in some more training after the race. If it's close enough, maybe you can ride your bike home, or even ride there and back.
If not, a quick cool down after the race, maybe a ride on the bike or a swim, might be in order. You can still make it home for lunch and have a few hours for some more training of your choice.
For example, last fall I did a sprint tri in Denver. The day basically boiled down to the following: 1+ hour drive, 1 hour race, 30-minute cool down on bike before the awards ceremony, 1+ hour drive home, and I still had time for a three-hour ride with time enough to make dinner for my wife. That's over four hours of training and brownie points with the family. It doesn't get any better!