Picking A Race

14 Aug

It is time to pick my training races – albeit very late.  In full disclosure, I have only completed two sprints (one had a mechinical – but I finished!) and a 5K.   And before my full Tri (sigh, as she wipes sweat off her brow), I need to ideally do a 5K, Sprint and a 10K – all before November 14th.  This got me thinking as to how do we pick/go about selecting the race we compete in?  What are some things to consider?

First – you need to find race listings.  A great place to start is http://www.active.com and http://www.trifind.com/.   However, not every race is listed there.  Often a local running, bike or swim shop will have race listings/signs in their store or a pamphlet that offers listings for months (see http://www.raceforum.com – New York Metro area only).  Keep your eyes open.  You will be amazed at how many races there are – especially 5 Ks. 

Second – you need to examine the race listings and ask yourself a number of questions. 

  • Does this fit my schedule?
  • What is the race course?  Am I ready for this? (perhaps this should be the first question).   Race courses can vary dramatically.  For example, the swim could be in a pool, lake, river or ocean. The bike and run course could be flat, hilly or both?  Is it paved/trails?   If you are new to the sport/race – you should pick an easier course that is similar to what you have been training on.  I picked the Miami Man International because it is flat and the swim is in a lake (what I have trained in). 
  • How pretty/fun is the race course?  Seriously, this matters to me.   Another reason I picked the Miami Man is that I get to run through a ZOO how cool is that! 
  • What is the weather most likely going to be?  Again, think about what you will be able to tolerate.  Running in 90+ degree weather is a very different experience than 70 degrees.
  • How far away is the race?  Most tri races start early in the morning.  So, if you need to travel, chances are you need to get a hotel room and spend the night before the race.   For some folks, a race can be an excuse for a vacation.
  • Are there available hotels in the area?  Before booking a tri that is far away, make sure you have a place to stay.  You never know what other conferences/conventions might be in the area.
  • How big is the race?  How big do you want it? Some races are small and intimate, whereas others are NOT.  It is very hard to determine the size of the event by simply looking at the race listing.  However, it is always wise to see if the race has a website (a majority of small and large races are now doing this).  Often they will tell you the size of event on the site.  Better races fill quickly – so you need to sign up early.  But, chances are if the website is professional looking and there are a number of national sponsors – it is big.
  • How competitive is the race?  How competitive do you want it?  Again, something else that is hard to tell from a listing.  First – every race is competitive! However, some races do, in fact, have professionals racing.  A race website would highlight these players and give you a pretty good feel for if the race was ubber competitive.  The type of prizes ($$$ opposed to a coffee mug) also indicate this. Also – if a race fills up very, very quickly expect a higher caliber of performance (FYI and example:  The Nautica NYC Tri has a lottery system to compete and you sign up for the lottery Nov. 1-3). 
  • Swag and Prize Money – You will get at least a t-shirt at a Tri.  Most, even small, Tri’s have a bag of stuff that local vendors have given them.   Also, if you are competitive (if you are reading this you probably aren’t), the prizes are also something to consider.  However, my understanding is that coffee mugs, trophies, and small cash prizes are the norm.  
  • How expensive is the race?  This isn’t a cheap sport.   Tri fees are more expensive that 5K or 10K.  I have paid as little as $70 to as much as $129.  Please note that if you are not a member of USAT (the sports governing body – http://www.usatriathlon.org.) you will need to pay an additional amount of money at registration orrace day.   As mentioned earlier, you also need to add in the cost of the hotel, gas, plane/train fare, food, etc. in determining the full cost.
  • Is there something to entertain my kids/keep them busy during the Tri.  A sprint will take anywhere between an hour or two to complete – whereas a Full Tri could last 4.  Your kids/spouse might need some entertaining.  

What things do you consider when signing up for a race?  Is there anything that you would like to add to my list?

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2 Responses to “Picking A Race”

  1. mostlyfitmom August 14, 2010 at 11:10 am #

    I think this is a pretty comprehensive list! The top 2 things on my list tend to be date and location.

    This year I did a local tri as my first one, and I picked a race that few do as their first tri – but the one first-timers usually do was during finals, so it wasn’t doable for me. Because the race wasn’t huge and it was more experienced athletes participating, I was last in my age group by a fair margin. I guess if you’re the type of person to be discouraged by being last in your age group, maybe you want to choose one that’s geared to newbies.

    • 45before35 August 14, 2010 at 1:18 pm #

      Good point – I did forget to mention a race having a Athena category (weight 150llbs. and up) or not. I don’t know if this is just an American thing.

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