It’s the time of year to look forward to the triathlon season ahead in the great Pacific Northwest. It’s not easy to pull yourself out of bed for early morning swims, bikes, or runs as the thermometer dips, and the sun sets not long after “the man” has allowed us to clock out for the day. With so many amazing adventures and races to prepare for in the PNW, a well-planned season can give you just the motivation you need at this time of year. So take a minute, step back, and think this season through with not only ambitions and PR’s in mind but adventures, new experiences, and times with pals scheduled in there, as well.
I know you’ve got a list of races you are just dying to do, so let’s start with the ones I think you should try, and I promise to not just recommend ones that I’ve personally dominated in the past.
Cobweb Buster: Beaver Freezer. Held in early April as a fundraiser for the collegiate team at Oregon State University, this sprint triathlon is one of the biggest indoor sprint triathlons in the country and a great way to start the season. With two different indoor pools in use, you’ll need to do it two years in a row to do both courses (so now you are set for ’18 and ’19). Sprint triathlons are a great way to bust through the cobwebs and get transition practice, so at your first big race you’ve ironed out the kinks by racing a fun event that opens up your throttle to FULL GAS!
Bucketlister: Wildflower. It’s slightly out of the PNW but 1000% worth the drive. This 30-year-old, iconic event has had legends compete throughout its history including PNW native, Jesse Thomas. If you go through a triathlon “career” without doing Wildflower, it would be a shame. The race is an old school triathlon vibe with an uber challenging, scenic, and mixed surface course that will keep you intrigued throughout the entire course. The camping and parties keep the action going long after the race is done which is partly why this race is so special.
Global Series Race: Victoria 70.3. The fact that you’ll have to take a ferry to get there seems reason enough, right? Located on the beautiful Victoria Island in Canda, this race is a must do and will give you the opportunity to race a competitive international field on a rolling, Northwest course with challenging Pacific Northwest conditions. It is also a chance to get your 70.3 World Championships qualifying spot in South Africa.
PNW Classic: Pacific Crest. It’s one of the hardest long course triathlon (“half”) there is as well as being one of the most scenic courses you could possibly find. The race includes a tough bike course followed by an underestimated run course that finishes in the resort community of Sunriver. With plenty of other events including kids races, 5K and a marathon, this is a great event for everyone in the family, not to mention great post race grub and local beer.
Stretch Goals: Dirt. There is no shortage of gravel grinders these days, including the Ochoco Roubaix, The High Desert Roubaix and the new, Bust Your Butte Gravel Race in Bend. Gravel has been a staple training ground for me since I moved to Bend 15 years ago, and for good reason. It keeps you off sketchy ice-covered roads, you move slower so you stay warmer, and you’ll often find yourself in some sweet new places. So this winter, train on the gravel and sign up for a super fun race to break up the summer triathlon monotony.
Six Hours of Hood is a great way to dip your feet into the ultra endurance mountain bike scene, while getting miles in for your next Ironman. The race is challenging with good competition, but also a lapped course that will give you opportunity to snack and visit with friends and family throughout the day.
Adventuring: Plan a multi day bike-camping, run camping or ski trip. Triathlon training does NOT have to be all about triathlon all of the time. Get some pals together and ride a section of the new Oregon Timber Trail (oregontimbertrail.org) for a summer goal or a spring training block. Coordinate a family camp expedition and run a couple days on the PCT while the family leap frogs you along the way. Downhill skiing is good base aerobic exercise, and scratches the adrenaline itch we don’t often get in our triathlon training.
We really do live in an amazing area to train and race triathlon, so take some time and plan to get the most out of it this season. There is plenty of terrain and adventure up for grabs in the best corner in the country, so get off your keister and go explore.
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Off season things to focus on for a summer of adventure and racing success.
Train your weakness, race your strength. It’s an old saying but nothing could be more true for triathlon training. It’s all about balancing three sports as best you can and would just be plain silly to continue to focus on your strengths when your finish time could most likely be affected by working on your weaknesses.
If you are a great swimmer and lack power on the bike, ride the trainer and do some high-end intervals when the total ride time outside is reduced. Maybe skip a swim session a week and throw in a long ride or a interval session.
Is the bike a strength while running is a bit weak? Swap an easy ride for another easy run, or make time for a weekly strength building hill rep session.
If you’re like most, your weakness is swimming. Well, you’re in luck. Swimming will take the least amount of hours to increase your current “mileage” and is often the easiest to fit in. If worked on, you’ll see results quickly. Don’t believe that a good swimmer is a good swimmer and a bad swimmer is a bad swimmer. Good swimmers often swim more yards/mileage than you can imagine. Use the time of the year when your total volume is low and work on getting that swim yardage up.
Most of us have some weakness in our foundation of strength and muscular imbalance. This is a perfect time to go back to the drawing board and make sure your “functional strength” is on point. I strongly suggest finding a consistent strength and functional fitness program that will get you ready for the long season ahead and help prevent injury. Read Jay Dicharry’s newest book, Running Rewired to get an idea of what workouts you should be doing along with insight of why these types of workouts can be beneficial. Or make an appointment with your physical therapist and ask what you can work on this off-season to make you stronger down the road.