2014 Race Schedule: The Year of the Triathlon! / by Jonas Caruana

Ragnar Relay Niagara, Ontario: one of my favourite races in 2013!

So this is the year of the triathlon. I’ve talked about making myself into a triathlete for the longest time. I’ve always loved the bike, and have become a respectable runner, but put me in a pool and I’m out for the count after 50m. This is the year that changes!

Structuring a Race Schedule

I followed the race planning ideas in Joe Friel’s “Triathlete’s Training Bible”, which basically says your races fall into three categories: ‘C’ races are done for experience, as hard workouts, as tests of progress, or simply, for fun. You train through these races and don’t ‘peak’ or rest up for them.

‘B’ races aren’t as important as ‘A’ races; you won’t build to a peak for them but you might plan to rest up for a few days beforehand. I like to think of ‘B’ races as preparing you in some specific way for your ‘A’ races.

‘A’ races are what you plan your season’s training around - they are the races most important to you in the year.

Priorities; Trade-offs and Getting Real

What made scheduling this year tough was letting go of two races that I was really attached to doing: Ironman Canada in Whistler, and a lead-up race for it, the Oliver Half. I was attached because most of my fellow triathletes were gunning for this one-two combo, and I thought it would be a ton of fun to share those specific race experiences together. That said, two big considerations were front and centre for me: race readiness and financial priorities.

First, I was concerned about my ability to get race ready for an Ironman distance swim by mid-year. I was starting from zero competency in the pool, and, having struggled with trying to acquire that skill previously, I wasn’t certain that I was going to be able to pull something magic out of the bag and be ready on time. There’s a time to be ambitious and set stretch goals, and there’s a time to get real. After a couple of starter sessions in the pool, I got very real about how much work would be required.

Second, the financial commitment of Ironman is significant, and adds up to a lot more than just the $700 registration for your ‘A’ race, by the time you factor in everything involved with getting ready for it and getting to it.

And third, I approach my races as opportunities to compete - not just participate. That’s a personal choice born out of a motivation to test my own physical limits and compare them to peers: so showing up and just getting through an event isn’t something I’m up for. When I show up, I show up to race.

So all that considered, I came around to letting go of IM Canada and the Oliver Half, and opened up to other possibilities - which turned out to be awesome.

Here’s how my race season is shaping up….

The Races

April 12: MEC 10k; ‘C’ priority. Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) has a race series that’s relatively new and really well done: they’re organized, chip-timed, and best of all, $15 a pop. Athletes talk a lot about the importance of race-day experience so I’m doing a couple of the MEC events as training races. I wanted to ‘break the seal’ on my race season early in the year, get back into the race-day mindset and this 10k was a low-stakes, easy way to do it. Also, getting that first start line under your belt early only helps build the sense of urgency and resolve around your training plan for your ‘A’ race – you’re really in it now.

April 27: Sun Run 10k; ‘C’ priority. The Vancouver Sun Run is one of the largest races in North America and this is its 30th year. I’ve wanted to run this race ever since I first visited Vancouver back in 2011 and this year is the year! See my race report here.

May 25: Subaru Shawnigan Lake Triathlon, Olympic distance; ‘B’ priority. my first solo triathlon, this is where I will go through all the motions of a full triathlon for the first time. I’m excited! People in Vancouver rave about Shawnigan Lake and I’m told the course – which is in and around the lake – is beautiful. Stoked!

June 8: MEC Half-Marathon; ‘B’ priority. Another training race, my goals for this race won’t be around speed so much as good form, comfort and confidence over half-marathon distance. Because next time, it will be after having swam 2k and ridden 90. Five weeks later will be…

July 13: Subaru Vancouver Triathlon, Half-Ironman distance; ‘A’ priority. This is the big one! What I’m structuring my training around for the first half of the year. It’s on the home turf and the course is very spectator friendly. This is going to be a wicked summer race!

September 6: RBC Granfondo Whistler; ‘B’ priority. For me this falls into the must-do-as-a-Vancouverite category. It’s an opportunity ride the Sea to Sky highway all the way up to Whistler, taking in the views with a couple thousand other cyclists. YES!

November 2: New York Marathon; ‘A’ priority. This one was a surprise. I was originally planning on doing the Malibu Marathon this year as my first ever marathon – my friend Blue Benadum puts on this race and I couldn’t imagine a better event for my first marathon. But at the beginning of the year, another friend – Sam Sykes – says “I’ve got an entry to the New York Marathon this year. Why don’t you throw your name in the lottery and maybe we could run it together?”. And the next thing I knew, I’d won a spot in the TCS New York City Marathon. New York baby!

I’ll post updates here if anything changes - it’s highly likely I might pick up another race or two!

UPDATE: I didn’t do the MEC Half-Marathon on June 8. I’d just come back from some travels, felt I was in good shape preparations-wise for the half-Iron on July 13, and decided I needed rest more than half-marathon race practice.

UPDATE: Added a race. September 1: Stanley Park Triathlon, Olympic distance; ‘B’ priority. This one’s for fun: home turf, on the ol’ stompin’ ground. YESSS!