Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Race Selection Criteria

So how does your 2012 season look?  Most of us are base building,  working on limiters, eyeing the calendar and trying to put together our race schedule.  Early bird registration discounts are expiring soon (those that haven’t already) – now is the time to act.

New races are added to the local triathlon calendar every year.  Good thing too, since so many of the races fill quickly.  It's practically possible to race every weekend in June, July and August (often both days) without leaving the Twin Cities.  Sounds expensive and exhausting.    How to narrow down the choices?


The easiest starting point is proximity to your home.  If you live in Minnetonka, Liberty Triathlon  is more convenient than the Manitou Triatlon held in White Bear Lake the same weekend. The reverse is true if you live in Lake Elmo.

Many triathlons have fostered close relationships with the communities in which they are held.  Let's face it; disrupting traffic (even early on a Sunday) doesn't always make us popular.  Donating over $32,000 like the Turtleman did to community charities in 2010 is one way to keep races going.  It’s nice to know that your race helps others in your own community.

Racing close to home also makes it easier for friends and family to come out and watch you sweat.  They might even get caught up in the energy of the event and give this whole multisport thing a try.  Sweet – more training partners.


Not all sprints are created equally.  The distance of each discipline (swim and bike) can vary greatly from race to race.  The run distance in a sprint is pretty consistent –  around 3 miles.

Not a big fan of swimming in cool water?  The New Bri Tri with its ½ mile swim in early June probably isn’t the sprint for you.  Maybe Minneman’s 1/3 mile swim/walk (the water is shallow for a long way) in late June is a better fit.

Bike distances vary as well – Chisago Lakes Tri has a 22 mile bike for the Sprint. That’s almost twice as far as your typical 13 mile bike in a sprint.

Course Characteristics

One of the great things about Triathlon is that each course has its own unique characteristics.  Lake size varies.  A big lake can lend itself to rough water.  Water quality varies as well – the swim in the Square Lake races in early September is in some of the cleanest, clearest water you can find.  The Twin Cities Triathlon is held in the Mississippi River in St. Paul.  It’s downstream and fast, but not so clear.

Lots of races advertise themselves as “flat and fast” – some are flatter and faster than others.  Other races tout the difficulty of the course profile.  Trinona’s tagline is Battle for the Bluff.

Liberty’s run is on rolling paths with lots of shade (and one climb on woodchips).  Chisago is mostly on roads with less shade (especially the half iron distance).  One Last Tri in Big Marine Park in mid September is run on a mix of paved and unpaved trails.

If you like challenging hills on your ride and run – there’s a course for that.  Hills make you . . . uh, run for the hills?  There’s a course for that.

Look at the race websites, talk to your coach, talk to the staff at your local tri shop, check out race reports at beginnertriathlete.com.  Course information is out there, you just have to look.


Sometimes you want to build your fitness over the season and finish with your “A” race.  Maybe it’s the first time you’ve tackled an Olympic, a half iron, a full iron.  Having that race cap off your season makes sense.  Although with the Olympic and half distances it is sometimes nice to have 2 of them in case the first one doesn’t go as planned.

Need some late winter/early spring motivation to get in shape?  Schedule a half as early in the season as you can.  Liberty’s ½ in early June fits the bill if you don’t want to travel.  Yes, you’re asking for a lot of quality time in your basement on the trainer, but we should all be there anyhow.


Not all races are priced the same.  Generally as your race gets longer, the price goes up.  Ironman Wisconsin will cost you $625 (normal registration) – that’s assuming you were there the day after the race last year and have already registered.  If not you can purchase a Foundation Registration for $1,250.  Mineapolis Lifetime Tri is probably the next most costly at $149 for either the Sprint or Olympic distance.

This won’t help for 2012, but FrontRunner USA (which puts on New Bri, Square Lake, St. Paul Tri among others) often has a ½ price sale towards the end of the calendar year.

A lot of race organizers offer free registration to one race if you volunteer at one of their other races.  Definitely worth an email.  Volunteering is a fun way to give back to the sport.

Whichever factors are most important to you, now is the time to act.