Beginner’s Luck: 4 Questions to Ask Before You Hit Register

Setting up your 2018 race schedule? Take this advice from "Beginner's Luck" columnist Meredith Atwood before you hit that register button.

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Setting up your 2018 race schedule? Take this advice from “Beginner’s Luck” columnist Meredith Atwood before you hit that register button. 

As a newbie, I found that much of my time was consumed with looking at The Google for races that I might want to do. In fact, I did my very first triathlon in 2010 because it was the end of the season and I found a race called “Last Chance Triathlon,” and I thought: Oh my goodness. This is my LAST CHANCE to be a triathlete! I better register STAT.

Of course, it was not my “last chance,” but you never know, right?

Over the years, I have found some of the most important questions to ask myself before pressing “register” are these.

1. Where IS this race?

Location can be a super exciting reason to pick a race. The idea of a race-cation is not a new one. I think for shorter distance races, it’s super fun and easy because you are good to (ah-hem) walk afterwards.

Sometimes a tropical or exotic or new location for a long-distance race is lost on the person racing—because before the race, you don’t want to spend too much time on your feet, and after the race…well, you can’t seem to move your legs. Unless you have an extra five days on the back-end of the race, I opt for fancy location for a “real” vacation—for true and deep relaxation.

For a first race of any distances, I do believe that picking a location within driving distance is the best advice. You need not worry about bikes on planes, transport, or cases and the like. The money savings is, of course, notable. It’s the simplest trick in the world to take a ton of pressure off of yourself. Pick a race within 250-300 miles and do that one.

2. What time of year am I the best version of myself?

Over the years I have come to terms with the fact that if I register for an early season (March, April, May) triathlon that I will likely not start the race—whether it’s injury (from over-training/cramming for the race), simple unpreparedness, or timing, I simply don’t thrive in early-season. I also do not train well in the winter months because I deal with a little bit of seasonal disorder and well, winter laziness and Christmas cookies.

However, when I have a full summer to train? I tend to do well. I am outside and sweaty, and I thrive in these conditions. I take into account this when I pick races.

3. What’s going on in my life and family?

When my kiddos were very young, it didn’t really matter what their schedule was—because they were in preschool and didn’t have activities. However, now that they are in soccer and baseball, as well as other activities, I do not want to spend all spring riding my bike. Rather, I desire to be on the baseball field and soccer field watching spring ball and eating greasy concession-stand French fries. #Truth

Sometimes it’s easy to forget what’s coming when races require advance registration. Keep in mind what’s going on with the family schedule, significant other’s travel and kiddo’s events—it will make you much happier in the long run.

4. How bad do I want it?

Race Registration Compulsion Disorder is a real thing. It’s easy to sign up for all the things, and then proceed to freeze, like a deer in the headlights when it comes to training and preparing for the races. I used to think that registering for the race was half the battle, but now I know that putting money on the line isn’t really that big of a deal. The money is a big deal, of course, but by the time the race rolls around, that money has long been spent. Something bigger has to drive us to the start and finish line of the race. Thinking about how bad I really want that particular finish line is another vital question in picking and choosing a race.

Meredith Atwood (@SwimBikeMom) is a recovering attorney, motivational speaker and author of Triathlon for the Every Woman. You can download a free copy of the book here. She is the host of the podcast, The Same 24 Hours, a show which interviews interesting people who make the best of the 24 hours in each day. Meredith lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children, and writes about all things at

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