While most triathletes race multiple times per season, many have a single race they want to perform their absolute best at—whether it is a sprint, Olympic-distance, half or full-distance Ironman.
Your main event of the season is your "A" race. Your racing season should consist of at least two races to set up your key race of the year. The other races in the season are lead-up races—race "B" and race "C".
The other one or two races will be tune-up races that will be like a training day except you will have medical aid, food and water available along the course. Think of these races as dress rehearsals. While you will compete in them, your true goal is to be at peak performance for your "A" race.
It is important that athletes not get discouraged with their performance in tune-up races; these are really training events that serve to eliminate mistakes from the "A" race.
3 Steps to Plan and Prepare for Your "A" Race
Step One: Choose Wisely
Pick an "A" race for the season. Things to consider are: distance of the race, location of the race (can you travel to compete?), and weather leading up the race. A race in May will probably require you to train outside in cold weather.
Step Two: Find Some Training Races
Back out four weeks and eight weeks from the main event to find your two lead-up races. These races can be the same distance or a shorter distance. You will be racing at full capacity, but you will not have "peaked" or tapered for these events. These are training races to familiarize you with how a triathlon runs and how the distance feels.
Step Three: Find Some Training Partners
Join a team to train with for the season. This will surround you with like-minded people with whom to train and compete. Additionally, a good coach will be able to pace your workouts for a season as opposed to simply gearing you up for a single race.
When interviewing your coach, be sure to check that they are USA Triathlon certified and have experience coaching an athlete through multiple events in a season. Coaches should have different intensity zones for training. Training should involve increasing aerobic capacity, speed and threshold work, injury prevention, strength training and becoming familiar with racing.
Also, for a successful racing season, you should plan to take at least one day off a week to let your body recover.
Scott Berlinger is a USA Triathlon Level 2 coach and a long-time Elite Level trainer at the Sports Center health club at Chelsea Piers. He led the Full Throttle Endurance Racing team, which makes its home at the Sports Center at Chelsea Piers, to the USA Triathlon National Team Victory the past three years and has also led the team to two consecutive NYC Triathlon wins (2008 and 2009). Besides being a nationally acclaimed coach, Berlinger's many personal accomplishments include Ironman Lake Placid and more than 14 first- or second-place division finishes in various triathlons—including the NYC Triathlon, U.S. Nationals, Mighty Montauk Triathlon and West Point Triathlon. He was also named a top-five trainer in America by Men's Journal Magazine. Prior to training at Chelsea Piers, Berlinger was appeared as Viper on the hit television show American Gladiators.