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Triathlon Goal Setting: Mapping Out Your Season

Updated: Dec 30, 2020

The New Year is all about setting goals, and runners and triathletes are planning where and how much they want to race. Not every race of the entire season needs to be set in stone, but it's a good idea to give yourself -- or your coach -- an indication of what your main goals are so that a training plan can be mapped out.

Most athletes enter races with the hopes of getting the best possible performance out of their bodies. One of the most common mistakes I have observed, especially by those new to racing, is competing too often and not allowing enough recovery between the longer races.

This overzealous approach often results in performances that are below expectations -- or worse, in injury and time away from the sport.

Despite the incentives and prize money available to professional marathoners for competing, it might be surprising to hear most only race two or three marathons in a given year. This is because they know that to perform at their peak, there needs to be a build-up phase in their training, a period of diminished volume and intensity before the race and a recovery phase after the race to repair the muscle damage that such an event incurs.

There is a lot of individual variation, but, as a guide, I would suggest targeting three or four half-marathons, or one or two marathons for runners. For triathletes, I would think two or three half-Ironman, or one or two Ironman-distance races, over the course of a year.

These races should be spaced well apart to ensure adequate regeneration. Shorter races require shorter recovery times.

Five- to 10-kilometer runs and sprint-distance triathlons can be raced on consecutive weekends at a level close to an athlete's potential best. This might be the scenario for a cross country running series, or the peak of a summer triathlon season.

With careful preparation, five or six of these shorter races could be raced over a two-month period before taking some time off from competition to build up the training base again.

Spierings, M. (2010, December 31). In the Long Run: Mapping out an athletic year. Santa Cruz Sentinel. Retrieved from

You can use a training diary like TriLog to map your racing priorities and share with a coach. If your in Northern California use this regularly updated race calendar to see what races are available.

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