'Coach, what about racing in other sports?'
Even though triathlon might be your key focus, I often get athletes asking if they can do a race in another sport. One of the most common is 'Coach, I've got time before I do my main race. Can I do a race in another sport?'
My answer changes depending on the sport, the amount of time before the main race, and the possibility that doing that race could cause injury that will impact on the main goal of the season.
Let's start with an open water swim race. The answer is nearly always a yes, great idea. Any time we get to practice open water in a real race scenario is a big positive for me. If it is not the day before the race, I'm more than happy to give it the big thumbs up.
Let's move to the run race scenario. Again, I like this as a training aid to a better triathlon run. In saying that, we break it up into two categories:-
1. To help improve speed, choose a race that is much shorter than race distance. If one is racing Sprint or Olympic distance triathlon, then a 3 to 5 km road race is a great stimulus for future.
2. To help improve race pace for long course / Ironman athletes, then races from 10 to 21 km are ideal. My favourite is around 15 km, as I have found it gives a great stimulus of both above race pace and endurance, but without flattening the athlete, or interrupting too much their training due to needing a longer time to recover. When attempting this style of race, we insist it must be done negative split, or as a build run. This ensures we don't build up a lot of unnecessary lactate during what is a glorified training session.
Running Races can complement our triathlon training well.
I left the bike to last, as when an athlete tells me they would like to join a cycle race, I ask if they would like a broken collarbone before their main event of the year?
In a perfect world I'd love to say yes, but rarely does this occur. Safety must be the ultimate decider of bike racing, and I just don't see pack riding being beneficial to an Ironman racer. If they ask can I do a time trial race, I'm the first to say, 'what a great idea'.
Let me be clear, if someone asked me to pick between a 1-hour criterium or a 1 hour time trial on a turbo, I would say there is no comparison. (I have only seen one, no two athletes fall off a turbo - but that is for another story!)
Racing other sports, I find to be a great benefit if you put them in context with your long term goals and can help you enjoy your fitness without breaking the bank - financially, or physically.
When the time comes get out there and give them a go!