The Value of Short Course and Single Sport Racing for the Long Course Triathlete

150 150 Rich Strauss


As the Endurance Nation coach responsible for planning out the seasons of our athletes, it’s all too common for me to see new athletes with only on race on the calendar, usually a full distance Ironman, months and months away.

We like to see our athletes race often and especially like to see them race single-sport and short course triathlon events. Here are five reasons why you should consider doing the same:

The Split Season

It’s very difficult for athletes new to the distance to fully grasp just how mentally challenging the last 6-8 weeks of training will be. We prepare our athletes to pay that cost by having them conserve their mental energy across a long season by (1) training and racing shorter events and in the process (2) trick them into thinking they are not training for their AAA-race, when in fact they actually are.

We encourage them to develop a split season approach to planning their triathlon race season. For example:

  • Race local 5k’s and 10k’s during the OutSeason, giving them very fun and short term goals and testing opportunities across their OutSeason training plan. Finish the OutSeason with a half marathon which (1) serves as their training target across the OutSeason, and (2) a valuable tool for maintaining accountability for their run training across the OutSeason.
  • Take this OutSeason fitness and target a mid-spring century. Rides that feature a lot of climbing serve the additional purpose of helping create accountability towards your body composition goals.
  • Next, turn this fitness towards targeting a couple local short course races in May and June, for example.

This series of fun single sport and short course races outlined above serves as the first half of their season, one that is fun, relatively low volume and low stress, helping them conserve their valuable head space and Spousal Approval Units (SAUs) to be applied in the Race Preparation Phase of their training, which is only about 12 weeks long.

Experience and Manage Race Day Nerves

Racing smaller events frequently gives you many opportunities to develop and go through pre-race checklists, experience the excitement and potential friction of race morning, solve race day execution problems and more.

Racing is Testing

Single-sport races are valuable opportunities to retest and reset your training zones, particularly if you are training with power on the bike or with pace on the run, as you will nearly always go much harder in a race than you would in a solo time trial on a training day.

Test Out and Improve Transitions and Race Day Setup

Should I race my AAA+ long course triathlon with a wheelcover? What about this or that bottle setup? What should I actually have and do in my transitions? Short course racing offers you opportunities to test out any number of variables during race conditions, so you can refine your game day plans for your AAA+ race.

It’s All Just a Game

Triathlon, yes, even long course triathlon, is supposed to be fun! As you train for your Big Race, don’t lose sight of the fact that in the process you are building a very nice vehicle for doing cool stuff with fun people who share your passion and commitment for living a fitness lifestyle. So we encourage you to put fun stuff on the calendar, train for and race those events with your friends, then wake up about 12wks out from your AAA+ with a good, refreshed mental attitude, plenty of SAUs in the bank, and eager to do the hard work of converting that short course speed to long course endurance fitness.

Good luck and happy racing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.