Coach Drew Sapp breaks down the basics of building up to the biggest race in your season.

Asking when to begin training for your target event—or “A-race”—is a common question. First, assess your current and past involvement with triathlon, current fitness, and years of experience. An introduction to fitness and the training lifestyle is the first phase of your journey. This can take anywhere from one month for experienced athletes who only took a short off-season to three months for athletes who are new to multisport. This also a great time to focus on the discipline that needs the most improvement.

The next phase is commonly known as base training, but I like to call it the preparation phase. The goal of this phase is to get your body and mind ready for race-specific training, which may take anywhere from one to three months. The factors that determine the length of this phase include when your last A-race was, level of experience in triathlon and how intense your next phase of training will be.

Next, we have the race-specific phase, which will last about two to three months. This is the meat and potatoes of your training and will include more training stress than the rest of the year.

Finally, you have the taper phase, which will last one to four weeks, depending on how you respond to rest. The goal of the taper period is to feel your best on race day, so it is extremely individualized, but it typically includes a 15- to 50-percent drop in peak training volume. Based on your goals, current level of fitness, and experience in the sport, you should start training for your A-race anywhere between four and 10 months before the event.

Drew Sapp is a USAT Level 1 triathlon coach with Crew Racing, LLC. He has over 12 years of experience in the endurance coaching space and has two degrees focusing on health and wellness from Edinboro University in Pennsylvania.