The Short-Course Lesson: Go Race!


Posted by Coach Mark Sortino

After closing out the ITU short-course season this weekend with the ITU World Championships race in Chicago, it reminded me of how racing, and racing well, is a skill. Traveling all year to ITU races as Head Coach of Team USA Paratriathlon, I saw elite athletes, in the best possible shape, have both good and bad (sometimes unlucky) races. Why is this? Certainly our goal is to perform well at every race. But in triathlon, there are so many factors that influence the race that it sometimes can be overwhelming to think about. There are the things the athlete can control: physical fitness, mental focus, working equipment, correct nutrition, knowing the competition, pacing correctly, creating and executing a plan, etc. Needless to say, there is a seemingly an endless list of things an athlete has to prepare for and can control in a race. But then there's the other side: things that are out of an athlete's control. Things such as weather, course changes, course conditions, competition fitness level, mechanical on bike or with shoes, dangerous actions by other athletes on course during race, flats, etc. exist.

So what makes an athlete a good racer and why would it be a skill? Because good athletes recognize what they can control and can't control, and they make sure that everything they can control is prepared and they are ready to perform. Good athletes learn all these things by racing and racing often. Do they always achieve their goals - of course not. But the more they race, the more the things that they can control go well. It becomes a habit for them to prepare and correctly execute each race. And that habit becomes a skill.

This is what short-course (Sprint and Olympic) specialists develop quickly due to the sheer number of races they compete in throughout the year. It's also something that many Ironman distance athletes take forever to develop or never develop due to lack of racing. Short course athletes know that it may not be their day, but they fearlessly go and race as often as possible. So what's the lesson we can all take from short-course triathletes? Go out and race, and race often. If you're signed up for an Ironman, work with your coach to determine what other races you want to compete in to help you to develop the skill of racing well. Go Race!

~ Coach Mark Sortino

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