Monday, September 28, 2015

Short vs. Long Course

As a short course triathlete, I often find myself explaining to non-triathletes that I don't do "full triathlons."  I find myself saying things like, "I just do short ones," or "maybe one day," or justifying why I ONLY do sprints and the odd Olympic distance race. It is not that they aren't impressed. It's just that somehow the Average Joe thinks that if you do triathlons, you are an Ironman (way to go on the marketing there). 

When I was competing at Worlds, for some reason, I had this feeling that somehow my accomplishment of going to Worlds in a sprint triathlon was less of an accomplishment than someone who competes in a half or full iron distance event.  I tried to shake it off, because really, I work hard.  I put in lots of hours and I make sacrifices in my personal life similar to those made by people who do longer events. Just because my event only takes a little over an hour doesn't mean I should feel bad about it. Obviously it takes guts and perseverance to complete longer events, and I have tons of respect and admiration for those who take on that type of challenge. But for me, at this point, it has not made sense to try for anything longer than an Olympic.

As I contemplate my next move, I wanted to talk about why I love short course triathlon and why I think it is perfectly reasonable to not be an "Ironman" at this point in my triathlon career. 

Shorter races mean less training time. 

I can't imagine what my life would be like if I had to add an additional 4-8 hours of training per week.  I also can't comprehend how people with families do it. Again, I'm totally impressed by those long course athletes.  At this stage, I like having a semblance of a life outside of work and training. (I also have found it really difficult to convince anyone to date me, even with the lighter training schedule I have... I'd probably be dooming myself to cat lady-hood if I decided to do a longer race right now.)

Shorter races mean I can RACE.

I like racing. I like trying to go fast.  Sure, it's possible to be really fast at longer distances. I'm just not ready to give up on going really fast over short distances.

Shorter races mean I can do local races.

We do have several nearby options for long course races, but that can't beat the plethora of local races at the sprint and Olympic distance.  Local races mean familiar faces, sleeping in my own bed, and easy travel time.

Sometimes it feels like there is an expectation that you'll go longer and longer distances in triathlon.  It is okay to "just" do sprints though (or even super sprints if that's your jam).  As a relatively new triathlete, I feel like I still have a lot to learn and a lot to improve upon in the shorter distances (like staying injury free). While there is a chance that I may attempt a half iron distance race next year, I will most likely be sticking to the sprint and Olympic distance.

What is your distance of choice? Why? Are you jumping up to a new distance next season?


  1. Oh gosh... I love when I get snide comments about how I don't do "full" triathlons. Excuse me, but short course is still hard work! (And I'm not even fast, haha.)

    I think I like Olys the best since they're long enough to be worth the drive out to the race. Sprints are over so quickly. I've done/tried to do a 70.3 the past two years (this year's got canceled for weather) and it gets old having to dedicate almost all of your Saturday to your ride with prep, driving, riding, refueling, etc. You can do 2-hour rides to prep for an Oly and still have the rest of the day for whatever else.

  2. No one has any right to tell you or make you think that just because you aren't an Ironman you are any less a triathlete!! You work hard and train hard and that is all that matters!! I think that doing an IM is something that you have to want to do. Not just something to do. I think a lot of people sign up for one and then have no idea what they have gotten themselves into! I think you stick to what you like!! No pressure to do any distance that you don't want to do. :)
    I like long course because I am not fast. I do like olys but sprints just aren't my jam!! I have had a lot of time in the past to train which always helped. I have less time now but contemplating another full. :)