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Race hard, race often

Updated: Sep 29, 2023

Brett Sutton racing age group athletes trisutto blog race hard race often

As I get more involved in providing guidance for age group athletes, the question of racing and the ideal number of races one should do is a popular topic. There are many who criticise the race schedules of the modern professional triathlete and warning of the dangers of 'over-racing' for age group athletes.

I'll state from the outset that the racing needs of each athlete, whether that be a pro or age-grouper, are totally individual.

At our philosophy is quite simple: We train so that we're able to race. We don't race so that we're able to train. As a coach I try to instil a sense of gratification in helping individuals set goals and plans for achieving these in the safest possible way.

I have learned over many years of experience that everybody has a Mt. Everest to climb, but each one is different, varied and most times complex. It is not always about being able to do the fastest performance once a year, but a more cerebral approach.

To suggest that age groupers should restrict their racing so that they can have a 'couple of peaks and plenty of time for training' just highlights how divorced from reality many ex-athletes are as they catch the elevator down to the coaching floor while peddling their own individual racing habits as gospel.

So, for all our age group athletes out there:

Guys, you train to get fitter to enhance your lifestyle. You race to enjoy yourselves. If racing gives you innate pleasure, then our position is you have race pass to compete as much and as often as you can afford and enjoy.

Do not be put off or made to feel guilty for racing because of advice from people who don't possess the coaching skill-set to be able to incorporate a healthy race schedule into your training, while still being able to peak for your big events.

As for the criticism of the current professionals and 'what goes through their minds' as they plan their race schedule - it's frustrating on a number of levels.

It's unfortunate many people giving the ‘don’t race too much’ advice never had to feel the fire of racing to support themselves like we witnessed in Australia during the 90s. Yes, this generation saw many 'over-racing' individuals who would go on to have short careers: Crowie (Craig Alexander), Macca (Chris McCormack), Welchy (Greg Welch), Croc (Brad Bevan), Miles Stewart being just some who would prematurely burn out into their mid-30s or later...

Australian racing back then was fierce, fair, fast and more importantly frequent. It had to be as there was no sponsorship money of any note.

It was no coincidence when these battle-hardened warriors then went to the promised land of triathlon goodies in the USA and laid waste to the 'please don’t race too much' boys. And I'm not just talking about Macca or Crowie – Michelle (Jones), Waldo (Craig Walton), Boom Boom Reed and the like all hardened racing machines that came out of the same high-intensity race circuit and had long careers.

This is not to pick on the US. They have in my opinion the best Ironman athletes of all time: Legend Mark Allen, the Great Dave Scott, Mercurial Scott Molina and we won't forget Scott Tinley because he had the will and foresight to get a real job outside of the sport, while still racing 5-6 Ironman races a year.

But what did these giants of the sport have in common back in the roaring tri-days of the early 1980s?

I'll remind our new fans of the sport that they raced everything! Short, middle, Ironman. They'd race an egg and spoon race if the cash was good enough. Yes, some of the same esteemed ones who now tell us with Ironman U “best practice is no more than 9 races a year” would have raced 9-times a month if they could have as they travelled East to West Coast and everywhere in between supporting themselves on paying races.

Did the tough race schedule harm their careers? I'll let their results and longevity speak for themselves. Same deal with Lothar (Leder). A couple of summers I saw Lothar do three races in a week! Shorten his career? Just like the others, he raced with great distinction into his late 30s, because he knew how to incorporate it into his training.

So, to all our age group athletes, please don’t be fooled by the nonsense talk that you should be feeling guilty about your healthy race schedule. Supervised races are the lifeblood of why you do the sport. I say race and let live. Go get 'em.

The above was written in response to the below article (2015)

Why Following A Pro’s Example Isn’t Always Best
Download PDF • 2.06MB

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