Triathlon is a lifestyle and training is a huge part of who you are. You get up early, work out at lunch, and have training equipment in your car. You were recently voted "most likely to not go out because of a morning workout" by your friends and colleagues. You debate lane etiquette on Twitter and have an impressive display of witty bumper stickers. You are…a triathlete.
But while all our training constitutes 95 percent of the journey, we train because we race. We don't judge our year by how well that Open Water Swim went on July 9, rather we remember our races as the place in which we put our fitness to the test and earned a result.
There's just one problem: Race day is about execution, not fitness.
More: 4 Keys to Ironman Execution
Unfortunately a great race is made up of a ton of different elements, the intersection of which is the ultimate performance. And while training is important, it's not the only arbiter of a good race.
If you are on the quest for that elusive outstanding performance, here are Endurance Nation's top 10 reasons (in no particular order) why you are most likely undermining your own ability to perform at your peak.
1. You Race Too Much
I'm always amazed at just how much the average triathlete competes…and it's not just in triathlons. Fall is filled with long-distance running relays and marathons. Winter is filled with running or winter events like XC skiing, skate skiing or snowshoeing. Springtime brings the eternal quest for a Boston Marathon slot, not to mention any number of early-season cycling races.
And amidst all of this other noise, you're trying to become a competitive triathlete.
Done correctly, a season full of different events can make you stronger. Since so many of us choose races for social reasons, instead of competitive ones, we are often our own worst enemy. There is simply no way you can be your best in August if you have been racing hard every month since January.
More: How Many Races Should You Do?
2. You Don't Prioritize Events
An overflowing race schedule isn't always the worst thing. In fact, it might be only thing that's keeping you sane. The real culprit isn't the volume of races, but rather the fact that there is no prioritization.
It's totally fine to race eight times between January 1 and March 31. Just make sure that one of those events is your key race, which you intend to taper and target. Focusing on that event will enable you to choose how hard you need to train as well as how hard you can race at all of the other events. In fact, it will let you know whether or not you should do those other events at all.
Learning to sacrifice the immediate for long-term gain, building an effective season, is a skilled discipline.
More: The ABCs of Planning Your Race Season
3. You Start Too Early
If your key race is in August, there's no reason why you should be racing hard in January. Every season has a progression, regardless of which coaching philosophy you subscribe to. Just be sure to understand the fundamentals of how your fitness will be built and what your responsibilities are in regards to scheduling events.
One of the consequences of participating in such a popular sport is the fact that many events sell out long before race day. Registering early is a requirement, not an option. This early action also brings with it much anxiety, putting beginner athletes in a place where their head is already focused on the next race that is 365 days away.
Training for an event that's that far away is a recipe for mental and physical breakdown. Do yourself a favor and pick intermediary events that will allow you to build your fitness and maintain your focus, never losing sight of your overall goal for the season.
More: 3 Rules to Ramp Up Your Training