Written by Keri Ouellete, TriSports Ambassador Athlete
One of my favorite aspects of triathlon is that, in training for three sports, I rarely get bored. However, in my sixth season of triathlon training, I’m feeling less excited than I was last year about those same trainer sessions, speed workouts and more laps at the pool. If you’re feeling the same way, here are a few ideas to mix up your training and racing schedule with some new adventures and challenges.
Single Sport Events
Just one sport? Sounds boring, right? Not necessarily. Doing a single sport race is a great way to improve your skills in one discipline and is more fun than simply adding more bike or running mileage or time in the pool. Need to work on cycling endurance? Sign up for a century ride or Gran Fondo. This is an opportunity to try a new route and ride with a group while learning from more experienced cyclists. Working on swim speed? Try a US Masters Swimming swim meet or open water swim race. Pool swimming can get boring, but, if you’ve never done it before, a swim meet can be an exciting challenge and an opportunity to learn from faster swimmers. Also, you won’t have to worry about getting kicked in the face during the swim start or trying to get your wetsuit off. Longer open water swimming races (5K, 10K, or even a marathon swim) will build swimming endurance and make you more comfortable with the open water.
While training for a marathon during triathlon season might not be recommended depending on your experience and past training, racing a 5K, or other shorter distance, can be a fun way to add some speed work to your training. Look for a race with the best post-race party and/or some great scenic views. Road races are a great excuse to travel and to take a break from your usual running routes. With no bike or swim gear needed, the logistics of traveling to a running race are much easier and can make for a relaxed, but still active weekend away.
Triathlon tends to draw adventurous folks who are looking to be challenged. If that’s you, and you’re feeling bored with standard format triathlon races, there is a growing variety of multisport endurance events available and new events being created every year by adventure-junkies like you.
If you like watersports but want a break from swimming, there are triathlons that exchange the swim leg for a paddle leg (kayaking, canoeing or stand-up paddle boarding). Other adventure triathlons keep the three sports but vary the order and/or terrain and may have multiple legs of each discipline.
If you’re looking for a team-oriented event (and a more extreme challenge), adventure racing (also known as expedition racing) and SwimRun are relatively new multidisciplinary team events. SwimRun is becoming a popular sport in Europe and is now being introduced to the US with the first official SwimRun race recently held in Portland, Maine. This is not your typical aquathlon– the format involves multiple legs of open water swimming and trail running. This is a self-sufficient race, meaning you have to swim in your running shoes, run in your wetsuit and carry all of your own nutrition. To add to the fun of this race, you compete side-by-side with a partner for the duration of the course. Adventure racing (or expedition racing) involves navigating a course by mountain biking, hiking, climbing, white water paddling, skiing, or a number of other disciplines. Races typically involve teams of two to five people and can vary in length, anywhere from two hours to two weeks.
If a break from racing is what you’re looking for, consider volunteering. Anyone who has ever competed in a race knows that a successful race experience is contingent upon dedicated volunteers– attending to aid stations, course marshaling, wetsuit stripping, etc. There are numerous opportunities to give back to the endurance sport community by volunteering for a race or with a non-profit organization.
Race volunteering reminds us to appreciate the individuals who volunteer their time, before, during and after races, and also the race organizers who have the huge task of managing the coordination for three disciplines, thousands of athletes, volunteers and course support so that we can have a successful race experience. Experienced athletes make excellent volunteers because they understand the race logistics and are often able to provide better support to first-timers.
Organizations like Achilles International and Girls on the Run have chapters nationwide and are always looking for new volunteers. Achilles provides a community of support for athletes with disabilities and connects volunteers with athletes who require a guide for training sessions and races. Girls on the Run is a youth program that uses running and physical activities to encourage a healthy and confident lifestyle for young girls. These are just a couple, but there are many more organizations that are doing excellent work to improve access to endurance sports and provide support for athletes of all levels and abilities, offering endless opportunities to share your love of triathlon and inspire (and be inspired by) others.
Whether it’s volunteering or trying a different multi-sport or endurance event, these are all great opportunities to grow the sport of triathlon while challenging yourself to try something new.
About the Author: Keri Ouellette is a longtime runner and swimmer, as well as an age group triathlete for the past six years. She recently moved to Portland, Maine, where she’s now training, racing, and trying out new winter sports.