Finding the right race is part art and part science. The ideal triathlon or running race will be in a location that is convenient, and occur at a timeframe that works with your training plan and personal calendar.
Considerations for finding the right race
Find a Convenient Location: While some people like to do what we call a “destination race”, more often it is important to race in a location convenient to you. With the tool above, you can search by city or zip to make sure you will not be driving too far to the race.
Consider that most races start quite early in the morning, anywhere from 7am to 9am, it can be nice to keep the race within 45 or 60 minutes from home.
Consider a “Destination”: While convenience is usually key, it is nice to go to a race that features a setting that is an attraction in and of itself. Perhaps you live near a state park or a coastal area that does a race, or just want to travel to one — such destination races can add to the memories.
Find a Date that Works in Your Calendar: This might go without saying, but a day that works well in your schedule is perhaps the most important factor in choosing a race. Be sure that you won’t be at an all-night party the evening before, or that you don’t need to be packing for a huge trip the morning of the race.
We like to find a date that allows us to not have a hectic Friday at work before the race, and if the race is on a Sunday, it might be nice to know you have a lighter Monday just to recover. There is no better feeling that vegging out the evening after a race, knowing that you can sleep well that night.
Find a Date that Aligns with Your Training Plan: People forget about this one. Look for a date that fits well with your training plan. If you want the month before the race to be your “peak”, then think twice about a race that comes right after a month of extra heavy workload at work.
Keep your races spaced out enough so you have time to recover, and rehab from any tweaks that you might get while going all-out on race day.
Give Yourself Enough Time to Train: Let’s say a friend convinces you to do a Triathlon with him/her, but you realize that race is only 45 days away. Don’t do it – you will risk overtraining and injury. We like a minimum of 100 Days for Training (here is a great 100 Day Training Plan Book).
We all know that most injuries come when you are trying to do too much, too soon. Give yourself a runway so that you can ramp up in a thoughtful way, with plenty of time built-in for stretching and rest days.
Think about Race Size. Some races are massive events with thousands of people. For some, it is a perfect fit with the energy and buzz. Other races are more subdued, perhaps 200 people with a common interest. More of a neighborhood feel. Know which one you are getting yourself in to.
Jim is an accomplished triathlete and endurance cyclist, and has raced in more than 3 dozen USAT-certified races. He is also an avid trail runner and gravel bike rider.
His areas of expertise are in endurance training, cycling, triathlon technique, race direction, and training plans. In addition to writing extensively about the endurance world, he has managed gyms and fitness centers in the US. Jim is a longtime writer for Complete Tri, Compression Design, and his work can be found on the resource pages of many triathlon and cycling clubs in North America.