Measuring success in long course triathlon racing

Posted: May 10, 2012 at 6:13 am

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Triathletes often find themselves attracted to the allure of going long. Doing a half or full Ironman distance event seems to be a bucket list race for many who take up the sport. This isn't to say that there's anything less magical about shorter races but for most, our association with the sport is directly tied to the big race in Hawaii.

Athletes et goals. We may have taken up the sport to lose weight, improve our appearance, or simply to get healthier. But soon we realize that we enjoyed the training and started to race. Crossing the finish line for the first time opened up a new world to us; a world where we could measure our performance. We were now able to quantify our results. After all, in that first race, we set a personal record (PR) and our quest to beat that record grows stronger every time we toe the starting line.

When working with an athlete before an event, we often discuss specific time goals. While I try to discourage getting too caught up in time, I know how a triathlete thinks and there's no getting around the fact that there's a specific number on that clock that each of them wants to beat. In this case, we usually set three time goals. The first is what they would like to achieve. Given that things go relatively well, no unforeseen problems arise, and the conditions are favorable, this is a time they would be happy clocking. The next is a "perfect" race goal. This is a goal in which everything went as planned, the conditions were ideal and things just clicked perfectly. The final goal is the fall-back goal. This goal is one where things don't go as smoothly. Maybe a mechanical issue occurs or the weather is terrible and well, you're simply happy to cross the line in one piece.

However, things change when we delve into long course racing. This is especially true for athletes attempting the distance for the first time. In these cases, I stress that time isn't an issue and should be the last thing you use to measure your success. When you're out on the course for upwards of 17 hours, you have a lot of variables to deal with and obstacles to overcome.

Instead of measuring your success by the time clock, assess your effort level. Executing your race plan as designed and how you overcame the myriad of challenges thrown in front of you throughout the day is a much more accurate measure of your day. When things don't go exactly as planned, knowing that you did your best to get past them and continue on truly becomes a badge of honor. At the end of the day, when the time clock is finally taken down and the crowds have gone home, you can rest easier knowing you set a new PR.

Jeff can be found at on Facebook at and on Twitter @CayenneTriCoach

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Measuring success in long course triathlon racing

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May 10th, 2012 at 6:13 am

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