9 Things You Need To Know About Getting Back to Racing in 2023
Whether you took the last few years off or raced at any opportunity available during the pandemic, there's no doubt things are different this year. Here are 9 things you need to know as we rev up for the 2023 season.
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The 2023 triathlon season is upon us, and after 2 years of uncertainty, we can all agree it is more like 2019 and years prior, thankfully. It’s been a while (a whole pandemic, as a matter of fact) since we’ve had a full year where there weren’t concerns about pandemic shutdowns, race cancelations, heightened safety protocols and extra paperwork.
There’s no doubt we are all ready to race a full, uninterrupted season again, and the excitement within the community is palpable. Whether you took the last few years off or raced at any opportunity available during the pandemic, there’s no doubt things are different this year. Here are 9 things you need to know as we rev up for the 2023 season.
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1. The competition is better
Remember when you won your age group at the local races with a hangover, flat tire, slow transitions and rock-like swim? Yeah, those days are probably over. The pandemic brought a new fad of home fitness enthusiasts, and they’ve been riding and dying to get outside and compete. This brought a new influx of athletes, and you can bet they will be formidable.
Additionally, while you might think most of your fellow triathletes sat around lazily and got out of shape, many doubled down on training and worked to build a solid base of fitness, which they’ll be glad to show off at the races. Your competition is better than ever – prepare accordingly.
2. The basics haven’t changed
We all know the world has changed, but training and racing at a high level in triathlon hasn’t. The basics are still critical to your success in triathlon: You still have to be consistent, balance volume and intensity, have a good bike fit, pace yourself, get your nutrition right, sleep well, and have the right attitude.
If you’re looking for the lowest-hanging fruit to your improvement, then sure, a supershoe will make a difference. But if you’re competitive, the basics of volume, intensity and consistency still reign supreme in helping you maximize your training time to accomplish your goals. The higher your goals, the more important the basics become.
3. A destination race requires more attention to detail than before
If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that travel with crowded airports and public transit stations are a potential season-wrecker. It seems like the airlines have changed everything in their favor, and thus travel has become more exhausting, more expensive, and more debilitating to our immune systems than ever. We have to make sure we pay attention to the details of our travel, through itineraries and through comfort and protection during travel.
If you want to stay healthy when traveling for a destination race (which is critical if you have high goals), then you need to be sure to be as cautious as possible during travel. The longer the travel time, the more important it is to follow protocols for safety and hygiene during travel.
4. Communities are important
One of the biggest things we’ve all come to realize during pandemic times is that our sense of community within our sport helps keep us going. This shouldn’t stop now that things are getting back to normal. In fact, now is the time to search for communities like triathlon clubs or group workouts. Even the friends you do coffee rides and slow long runs with are important to keep enjoying the sport for the long term. Without the community found in training and racing, we’re all just exercising (albeit better than others). It’s not all about pushing ourselves – it’s about the people we surround ourselves with.
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5. Undertraining is the new fad
Remember when doing epic stuff was so cool, like Everesting? Well, those days are over, especially if your race results matter to you. Posting on social media about your marathon runs on a treadmill, long rides to Mexico, and KOM’s was fun when we all didn’t have many race opportunities to flex on, but now that type of training just shows up on the results sheet. When the results are recorded and posted for the public to compare, we’ll all see firsthand how all those hours and bad training ideas don’t lead to real improvements in performance.
Athletes who do just what is necessary, who search for the gains outside of just pounding out big yardage and mileage, are the ones we will see breaking through at races in 2023.
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6. Technology matters
There’s no way to escape it: If you have the means to the best technology in the sport, it will help you. Technology in triathlon takes a lot of forms, from bikes, bike fits, aerodynamics, smart trainers, supershoes, nutrition formulations, data collection, training hardware, and therapy (both mental and physical).
If you’re thinking to yourself, “I can’t all afford all of these,” know that you don’t have to throw money at every single piece of expensive technology that promises to make you faster. Instead, you should be looking at the gaps in your approach. What haven’t you considered? What are the free and low-cost options available to you? What small, inexpensive changes might make a big difference, and what are the big purchases you feel are worth investing in to help you achieve your goals?
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7. Climate change is real, and affecting the sport
If you think the climate isn’t affecting the sport and your ability to race, see #3 above. Weather has wreaked havoc on travel this winter, and though we can’t fully predict the months ahead, it’s fair to say things aren’t trending in the right direction when it comes to Mother Nature. Just try to race in the southern United States in the summer, and tell me how fun and easy it is.
Water pollution, rising tides, dangerous heat indexes, harsh winds, and air pollution– these are just some of the examples of the climate issues that challenge our sport. Better prepare for it all, from canceled swims to hot and humid runs.
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8. Your favorite pro triathletes are more accessible than ever
With the explosion of social media and video channels, we are seeing more elite triathletes connect with their fan bases and grow their personas more than ever. Many of them are dealing with the same parenting or work challenges as you at the same time they are winning championships or getting on the podium at the most prestigious races. We are seeing a connection among the top athletes and their fans that has never existed before. We are able to do a virtual ride with our idols from anywhere in the world, watch them compete live online, communicate with them via social media, and enjoy their journeys with them on an almost daily basis. Few sports can match triathlon’s relationship between pros and age-groupers. It’s part of what is making our sport so special.
Is this important to getting back to racing? If you’re looking for motivation, then absolutely! After all, there’s nothing like being able to brag that you raced on the same course where your favorite pro set a world record, or at a historic race where you followed in the footsteps of our sport’s biggest legends.
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9. Ironman isn’t the only show in town
Like the rise of gravel events in cycling, we are seeing a growth of other events in the mutlisport arena, even despite the pandemic shutting down so many races. In fact, getting out and exploring more grass roots or one-off events, like destination races, draft-legal racing, e-racing, or swim-run races has become so popular, you may need to start looking at your calendar a little differently. Why not try something new this year? A new distance or race format could be an excellent way to return to triathlon with a renewed focus.
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So welcome back to triathlon in 2023! It’s time to enjoy the journey and soak up all the wonderful things this sport has to offer.
Jim Vance is an elite endurance sports coach, author, and sport technology and training consultant based in San Diego, California. He has coached Olympians, world champions, and national champions across short- and long-course disciplines, and is the expert coach behind 10 Weeks to Your Best 70.3.