You have probably heard this before, but participating in your local events is a good long term decision. I am always somewhat baffled by athletes who only want to do some faraway 'premier' event but express no to little interest in a race that is down the street from them. It is unfortunate event elitism. Here are a few good reasons to participate in at least a handful of events in or near your town.
Doing a few events that are convenient to you allow you to run through all the activities you will need to do on the big day, but without the total stress of travel, competitor psyche-outs, and so on. You can learn what works and what does not. You can get a good workout in and call it a day. You can test out a few strategies to see what works best for you.
Sure, you can make the argument that you can do all this on your own in practice. But you cannot simulate the crowd, competition, and overall increase in stress that a real event entails.
Unless you are an elitist buffoon who looks down on everyone, you might like having actual friends. One way to meet new buddies is through athletic camaraderie. Going to your local events (and practices) and competing with the same group is a nice way to bond. I like my competitors, even when they beat me. A lot of my pals are through virtue of competition.
A local race is also an excellent way to test your lactate and/or functional power threshold in a real race environment. My best performances on these come when there is a little bit of pride and glory on the line. Sure, you can always do these by yourself, staring at a blank wall and crying in pain. I prefer to chase somebody.
Support your local!
Your local race directors are the ones still putting on events for you after Jumbo Johnny's Big Event Productions decides that a 40% profit margin is not enough and moves on, despite whatever ramifications that has to the local civics.
If you want to keep the option of having a few races down your street, or if you like having training buddies that may or may not be doing The Big Races, you need to show up once in a while. It's much like shopping - if you shop local you are supporting your neighbors. When you purchase at a distance you're likely supporting some random millionaire who doesn't care about highway congestion in your town.
Just some food for thought this month!
Marty Gaal, CSCS, is a USA Triathlon coach who lives in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Marty has been coaching endurance athletes since 2002. You can read more about OSB coaching services at www.osbmultisport.com.
One Step Beyond is the producer of the Powerstroke®: Speed through force and form freestyle technique DVD, intended to help new to intermediate triathlon swimmers become faster and more powerful in the water.