Quite a few young triathletes struggle to pick their races. While many of my friends end up not doing any triathlons at all instead of possibly picking something that may be a little too hard for them, many youth are willing to jump into their triathlon seasons headfirst but just can’t decide where to start. In the spirit of youthful courage/ignorance/stupidity, read on to find out which type of race is best for you! This may not make any sense as a race guide at first, but it’ll come together at the end. I promise.
Two days ago it really hit me. I’m signed up to do a half-iron distance race in less than three weeks, and I have no real plan or trainingto do it. And it somehow slipped my mind while signing up for the tri that while 1.2 miles may not be that bad for somebody who swims year-round, biking 56 miles and then running 13.1 is not easy to do (especially when you have never biked OR ran that far)! So I started to ask around and see what a Half is really like. Caitlin Begg (Ms. YoungTri herself), told me about how she sprained her ankle in one of her halfs. My friend Heath told me that he couldn’t walk for at least five days after his first Half. And that left me scrambling to find some research on the effects of such long races on teenagers, which ended up with pretty much nothing. Thanks, Google. Then, like every normal person, I opened up the thesaurus to see if I could gain any insight from its infinite knowledge. And surprisingly enough, I did.Taking the YoungTri slogan, I found something interesting: “YoungTri: Informing, engaging, and connecting the international community of young triathletes.” Hmm… young… (turns the pages to find it)… is synonymous with the word “inexperienced”. That sounds about right. How do you know what race is right for you without trying it out? You may think you can do something or think you can’t do something else, but in reality, you don’t know until you’ve actually tried it.Us youth are pretty inexperienced, and we might as well soak up all the experience that we can. Whether it’s a youth-distance triathlon, a sprint, an Olympic-distance, a Half-Iron, a full Iron, or anything in between or beyond, it may or may not be your perfect race! You can say things like: “Oh, I can’t swim that far” or “running is stupid and there is no reason for me to go that long”. But what really makes the difference in what you do in triathlons (and in life) is saying something closer to “Oh, I’m not sure if I could do that, but I’m definitely going to give it my best shot!”
Now comes the fun part, actually picking the race. Don’t look at something as being too long or too hard. If you motivate yourself enough, you can do anything that you set your mind to. Go ahead, sign up for that Half Iron! Sign up for that daunting first youth-distance triathlon! And if you like the race, keep on doing that distance! If you don’t like it, you have plenty of other triathlons around the world to chose from. What’s the worst that could happen in a race that’s too difficult for you? I am not a doctor and don’t actually know the answer to that question, but I do know that if you don’t try the race, you’re never even going to find out if you like it or if you could be successful with that distance. (It is important to know that you can actually finish the race and that your body can handle it though…) You only live life once. That’s what I told myself when I signed up for the Half Iron, and what I told myself again when I signed up for the sprint triathlon the day after. And yet again when I signed up for the youth distance triathlon the weekend after. And while my young, inexperienced self may be in for the most painful two weekends of my life, at least I’m giving it a shot.
*DISCLAIMER: I don’t take any responsibility for any harm that may come to you or anybody else as a result of this article. If you’re going to pass out from sheer exhaustion during a race because this post motivated you to sign up for something really challenging, PLEASE DO IT ON THE RUN PORTION OF THE RACE. (preferably not at all…) Passing out while swimming is not very good for you. Same thing applies to when you’re moving 20+ mph on a bike.
Sign up for the Half I did for this year: http://www.setupevents.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=event_detail&eventID=2230