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go faster or longer?

having recently taken up triathlon and my wife recently taken up running our training is going well. My wife yesterday ran her first half marathon and in two weeks i'll do my second triathlon (tatton park).
last night my mrs was saying she might stick to shorter races and just try and do them faster.
that's the opposite of where i want to go as my ultimate aim is to complete (not compete) an Ironman,,,which i hope to have a crack at next year.

so i thought i'd ask the question,
If you're new to the sport, is your aim to find a distance you're comfortable with and just try to improve your times at different races etc.....or is your aim to increase your endurance and eventually 'go long' doing a half ironman or even a full iron man?


  • GGGG Posts: 82

    I think its upto the individual. Certainly saying you have run a marathon or completed an Ironman is more impressive to Joe Public than saying you run a 30min 10k, suppose it depends on what your motivation is.

    My coach recently said to me anyone (respectfully) can train for distance, but its speed that kills. Its true, think of the ammount of people in their 80's running marathons each year, compared to fast 5,000m times.

    I think your quite right in saying that you will naturally find your distance, and find new goals from there.
    The thing with triathlon though is its not nessecary a "fair test" as from race to race there are so many variables eg a hilly bike leg compared to a flat one of same length could have a massive impact on your time. Where as running 1500m on a track is the same anywhere with the exception of weather conditions.

    I think this is possibly why people like going long as the achievement of finishing is the key motivator.

    Whatever you decide, make sure your having fun.

  • andyb99andyb99 Posts: 229
    Hi GG, i've already decided i'm going long...i'm just not built for speed. I'm just asking other people what their motivations are...to go long or get faster...just for something to discuss really.
  • JulesJules Posts: 987
    I'm going to have a go at the half IM distance next year, to see how I get on.

    I can see myself however eventually concentrating on sprint distance. I only have a few hours a week to train. I reckon I have a better chance of making bigger improvements at the shorter distances.
  • Great question, and one that I have thought about before (for about 1 minute).

    I am a 'go faster' man. Without question. Going long just doesn't do it for me at the moment. I'm new to triathlon and started as most do with a sprint. That was a big enough challenge to start with as I didn't previously do any swimming/cycling/running.

    Now i've done sprints all i can think about is getting better at them, i have to be MORE competitive at sprints before I even think about anything else (ok, not entirely true, as i do want to get in some OD's next year, but to be honest thats nothing to do with distance, its more about extending the length of time i'm racing for, because i want to be actually doing it for longer, if you get what i mean).

    But getting back to it, I can't think about going long before I get close to maxing out in the shorter distances.

    I have an issue with the whole 'go long' brigade who seem to think that sprints are the poor cousin of Ironman. I don't buy that at all. Bet more people know who the current 100m World Champ is than the current mens marathon Champ....

    Not very coherent i know, but i think its enough to keep the thread going......and i like this subject!

  • i'm with gary here,
    sprints and oly's can be done regularly i.e. every few weeks,
    its great motivation knowing you only have a few weeks between races,
    this is what works for me,
    i do fancy going long at some point, just for the expirience,
    but finding the time with a young family etc. can't be easy.
    another factor is, after all the training for IM. it could put you of tri's for life, and i enjoy it as it is at the moment to much.
    so i'm in the faster rather than longer camp.
  • ZacniciZacnici Posts: 1,385
    Again as above whatever floats your boat.

    I train as much as I can but I am 52, have very little strength in my left (and now arthritic) shoulder, dodgy knees, spondilitis and a dodgy back. I therefore have to try and train/compete smarter as I know that I cannot sustain too much in fact NO damage. I am not 25 and stuoid again, get a knock, shrug it off and go for it.

    Whilst trying to get faster I know my limits and I want to be active and do this for as long as possible. So for me yes please faster a bit, but yes the appeal of Long is tantalising.
  • it has to be distance for me
    different people have different traits, different natural inclinations and blueprints if that makes any sense
    i have never been fast in anything from packing my suitcase to making the bed and it is the same with sport - i can go on for hours both mentally and as body endurance but i just do not have speed in me
    my opinon is there is no point in fighting it..you either have it or not; i have a mate who did his first tri sprint in 1:16 with non structured training, only one o/w session before race, wrong swimming technique and 2-3 outdoors rides on his starters pack bike ...imagine what his man could do if he had done everything the 'right' way, but he is a naturally fast person!
    by this i do not mean we should not try to improve...for instance it would be nice if/when i race an IM to finish it in lets say, a week's time but i also think you got to find what you are made for and what you enjoy doing ....for me it feels like on long events i get on a trance ......i love it and my mind can develop the mental strength to go on; on the other hand the shorter ones just kill me...i think this is why i hate interval training and most probably did not exactly love my 1st 10k race yesterday either!
  • willtriwilltri Posts: 436
    why can't you do both???

    i'm in my fiurst year but next year's target is to try and smash this years Sprint and OD times and try to push the distance as well....up to 70.3 maybe the year after IM

    I know you'll lose time to work on speed work but as a beginner i'm sure that training for both will make me quicker all round.

    My opinion is that if your going longer your going to try and do it fast as you can anyway..

    So same, faster, longer, fast as poss!!

    Having said that OD is for me - i'll probably do a bit of HIM/IM and then concentrate on the OD - with time restraints etc.

    I'd rather be up there on the OD times than lower down on the IM times - just the way my brain works

    early to bed has long gone zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
  • This is a subject that I've given a bit of consideration this year, my first year of Tri. Never been a competetive athlete, just a social gym freak. Mid life crisis, so thought I'd have a go a Tri, and entered a couple fo Sprints. Got the bug after my first event. Did four Sprints, and then got talking to someone who said that doing Sprints was lunacy, as you have to max out the whole way, there is no real pacing strategy.

    Quick scan of the Internet and found a local OD race, so entered, turned up, and gave it a go. Felt slightly dfferent to a Sprint, as you felt you did have to hold back slightly, but not significantly, to make sure you had enough to finish, and also had to start considering hydration and nutrition. For Sprints I only ever drink, and sometime don't even do that. Enjoyed the OD, but recovery was slightly longer, so felt at my age I couldn't do them weekly/fornightly, as I'd done with Sprints.

    Did a few more Sprints, but then always had that voice in my head about going long. So as i'd trained pretty consistently, without any real injury, I quickly signed up for a HIM which I completed in August. So from no Tri experience or training at the start of the year, i've far exceeded my expectations.

    In a sadistic way I enjoyed the HIM. It just seems so much more relaxed. All three were done at a more leisurely pace, and even Transtion was pleasant. Bike taken off of you, guided to a seat, and your running kit brought to you, and then you bike kit packed away for you as well.

    However, downside is that HIM is still only half an ironman, and those who don;t know much about the sport, seem to look down at you for only doing half a race.

    So my current plan for next year is to keep up the endurance training over the winter and complete an Ironman next year. Then I can sit back and consider all my options based upon experiencing all distances, and whether I'm buitl for speed or distance. Or maybe just a mix of the two.
  • I'm not even a rookie, still to do my first ... but from a general sporting background I've always been pretty quick at most things so my mindset is definately to go faster over shorter distances, no question.

    Like most of you when you started out with this tri lark I'm sure, the intention is to start with a few Sprints early next season then see what happens from there.

    I wouldn't rule out doing HIM and IM in future but I'd want to nail a couple of seasons at OD and being comfortable with swimming before even contemplating those distances. Its inevitable that I'd just do one IM for the personal achievement and kudos... you know... something to tell the grandkids and all that!!
  • Myself, I'm all for a bit of both, but I don't see any reason why anyone should feel they have to go longer.

    Do sprinters think... "Well, I've nailed the 100m and 200m, next season I'm doing the 400m. After that, the 800m, 1500"? (apart from Usain Bolt of course who could probably run a marathon in 1hr).

    In the words of Take That.... "Do what you like". Go longer, go faster, or just enjoy this triathlon lark for the sheer bl00dy fun of it!
  • words of wisdom from the davemiester....
  • danny_sdanny_s Posts: 235
    Joe Friel wrote an interesting blog post about just this question:


    The last sentance sums it up: Finishing is a lot less challenging than going fast.

    If your goal is simply to make it over the finish line before they turn off the lights, then that is applauded by everyone. If you run a 5k in 17:04 then people wonder why you're not running a marathon instead because that is what 'real' runners are all focused on.

    For me, I want to know that I can do it. In the next year or two there will be an IM in my future, but for the autumn/winter my focus is going to be all on bringing down my 5k run times and increasing my 20 minute power on the bike. Once I've got a base of speed then it'll be time to stretch it out. Just racing for 17 hours in an IM sounds so miserable even though I'd bet anyone that in 12 weeks it'd be possible.
  • I like this question as it opens up so many other questions and addresses issues of who we are and why we do what we do. I think it's driven by a mix of a number of different things like physiology, pyschology and the ever ephemeral soul, that little spark that can't really be explained by either.

    If you take Lance Armstrong as an example he had a physiology which gave him an aptitude for sport and endurance and a competitive pyschology. This allowed him to taste success as a young kid which then reinforced the drive. He also had the soul for cycling, he talks about having loved the feeling of being on a bike from a very young age.
    He tended towards shorter races initially due to his strong build and mentally he was happy knowing he could win them by pushing himself at less than 100%. After his cancer his physiology changed to be much leaner and mentally he added a new perspective. With his new mix he was told and began to believe he could win the Tour, going long. So did Lance just decide to choose long endurance or was he "fated" in a way to do so as that's what his new mix was now built for? And how does this relate to us?

    Well, I'm like sporteve where I like to do things at a slower pace. That's just my pyscholgoy. I hate to be rushed. I've never been good at fast sports, perhaps because of my physiology which reinfored my pyschological dislike of fast sports due to failing at them at a young age. I much prefer longer, slow paced stuff and can see myself being drawn to distance over speed. So am I really choosing distance out of free will or am I simply following the almost pre-determined path which feels most natural? Could I, through force of mind, push my physical make up towards the one that doesn't feel so natural and what would drive people to do this? Could I be happy doing this given that I'm setting up a tension between my pyschological self and my physical self?

    Speed or distance? Well, do whatever makes you happy using whatever definition you have of happiness. One, the other or a mixture of both. It's all good and it should all be applauded.
  • jacjac Posts: 452
    I'm with Gary on this.
    Completing doesn't cut it for me. I have to compete.
    Going long to say I've gone long doesn't matter two jots to me. Not really bothered what other people think - I'd rather be v good at one distance than say I've 'done an Ironman'.
    Each to their own though.
    There are other considerations - like motivation (eg for charity etc), time to train, ability.
    I'll be sticking to sprints until I'm top 1-2% (currently top 15% so a way to go!).
  • MowfMowf Posts: 272
    Just racing for 17 hours in an IM sounds so miserable even though I'd bet anyone that in 12 weeks it'd be possible.
    You've summed up my view on this perfectly - and without sounding elitist (which i never seem to manage...). I always think that doing an ironman before you have had a proper bash at the shorter stuff is kind of like training for your black belt in Karate before you have gone through orange, red and all of the other shit colours. You can wear the badge/belt, but it wont mean anything. Simply because, as the man said, anyone can do a 17 hour ironman.

    The thing i keep thinking about is this blog i read where this guy was obsessed with becoming an ironman. After explaining his goal times for the swim and bike, he worked out that that would leave him needing a 6 hour marathon in order to beat the cutoff. A 6 hour marathon! What does that prove.

    But then that's just my view, and before I get slammed for being elitist, I'm not saying they should not be allowed to do it. Just that, for me, just finishing is not what it is about. There are of course exeptions where just finishing is applauded circumstances (the Hoytes, Team Laws etc - and people overcoming severe physical disability, the guy who brakes both legs half way round and does the marathon walkingon his hands etc etc). But for everyone else, I don't get the appeal.
  • There's alot of "anyone can do an Ironman" in this thread-but I think that's the key. Any one can do an Ironman IF they're prepared to devote a considerable chunk of their life to training for the event-not everyone could do an IM with no training at all (in fact very few people could). In a similar way to running a marathon, just the achievement of preparing for and ultimately (hopefully) completing an Ultra Endurance event such as an IM is enough to focus my training for an entire year. It's not for boasting rights, but for the journey the training and event will take me through about self-learning (although boasting rights will be pretty cool as well!). Saying that I did my first OD this year in 2:25, and sure as hell I'll be trying to beat that time next year, but maybe due to my military background I'll always try to find something to push me beyond my limits, and currently the IM firmly fits into this category. If anyone wants to know why people like to go Ultra Distance I'd recommend reading "Ultra Marathon Man-the diary of an all night runner"-awesome and inspiring book.

    Hope that sort of shows some of the reasons for "Going Long", but as other people have said-each to their own. I can also see the desire for someone to be top 1-2% at Sprint Distances-it's all about achievement and that's going to be different for everyone.

    Finally-I also harbour the faint hope that I might be good at the event. I doubt I'll be Chrissie Wellington good-she came from being a decent swimmer in her youth to winning her first IM, then Kona and still hasn't lost an IM race! I'm not going to perform to that level-but give me 20 years of training and I might have a shout at a Kona 50-55 year old slot!
  • JulesJules Posts: 987
    I like that Joe Friel article.

    What's the "better" achievement -finishing a sprint race in under an hour or finishing an ironman in 17 hours? I'd say the former.

    As Han382 has said I will have a go at longer distances to see how I get on. If I'm crap at it, so what? I can concentrate on shorter races.

    Also, I can always (body permitting) revisit longer races when I'm older. Hopefully in ten years (I'm 34) or so I'd still be in good enough health, plus I should have more time to train (kids will be older) more free cash to spend on "stuff", older age groups might be less competitive etc.
  • I have had to ponder this exact point when I was putting together my training plan for the next 12 months. Do I want to go Sprint all the way or go for something longer.

    My compulsive nature has always had me thinking about IM from the day I completed my first sprint. It was my first season this year and have done 3 Sprint Tri's (started late) and fallen in love with the sport.

    That said I have decided I want to step up to OD next year and then I want to see how good I can get at that. I am leaving the IM till later.......

    So for me - speed (with a bit of distance)
  • jibby26jibby26 Posts: 261
    Next year i'm stepping up to half ironman. My speed has been fairly constant throught the season doing sprints (and sprints that are more OD). With the exception of 1 race I have always had the energy to put in a decent sprint finish. The reason I am going to HIM is twofold; 1. to give me a motivational goal for my training over the winter, building on both my endurance and my speed hopefully. 2. I may be suited more towards endurance than speed.

    I think this question is very much individual, I have stamina and I have guts but the one thing I do not currently have is the physique to excel at speed. Also my speed based workouts this season I think have contributed more towards injuries (ankle sprains, stiff shoulder) that have put me out of training than the long, steady workouts I've done. I think that with a bit of training I can 'go long' with little/no impact on my average speed as, so far, it is normally my muscles that tire before my heart does. Once i've done a HIM (UK 70.3 is the plan) then I can devote the rest of the season to working on speed and doing sprint/OD events.
  • andyb99andyb99 Posts: 229
    I'm glad i posted this question, its brought up some good debate.

    the reason i want to go long after just one race is to put it simply...i was inspired....when i took the sport up it was simply for a reason to go training...and its worked...but having done one with one to come i went to watch IMUK...and as its on my doorstep i started to think what before had been unthinkable....i could do this.

    Now i realise that some of you say finishing IM in 17 hours (6 hour marathon..etc) is no great achievement but for me it will be....it will be an incredible thing to do in my 40th year....and i'll no boubt be fitter than i've been for 20 years......so the focus cant be bad right??

    the funny thing is....the other side of the coin i also agree with...i will do sprints and OD's as part of my training....and i'll hope to go faster and harder in every one.
  • I think this involves more than just a question of distance, especially when you start to try and attach value to choices and make comparisons. If I choose to challenge myself by increasing distance rather than reducing time then why should this carry less value? From what I can see there are three things to consider.

    1. Does a 10% reduction in time, from 40 mins to 36 mins for a 10k require the same amount of work as a 10% increase in distance, from 10k to 11k? No, it requires a lot more. So what increase in distance would be necessary to equate to the same level of work, 20%, 50%? It's hard to gauge. I think we naturally attach more value to time reductions as we find them easier to put a value on.

    2. The reduction in time for a given distance is a function of two variables. Whereas often going up a distance just involves one, the distance. When we say we're going from Sprint to OD there's no mention of time. Doing an OD could involve a relatively small amount of work or a huge amount of work depending on what time you do it in. So how do you gauge how much work was put in and put a value on that for a comparison to the work needed to reduce time in a Sprint and so decide which is better? It's often highly subjective.

    3. We often put a higher value on comparison to other people than a comparison against ourselves. If we say we went from 15th last year to 5th this year over sprint distance this sounds more impressive than saying we did a Sprint last year and an OD this year, even though both achievements may have required the same amount of work. We are by nature competitive, social animals and often judge things in those terms.

    Sure, if you're a relatively fit person who floats down the river, pootles along on the bike and walks the distance of the run then no you don't really deserve any particular admiration. And sure, I admire the guy who comes in the top 5 of a Sprint race or improves his time by x% but I also greatly admire the guy who works hard all year, gives it everything he has in the race and completes an Ironman in under the allocated time.
  • Do both......Go long but go faster for longer:)
  • GGBGGB Posts: 482
    Both for me - I started off this year, first in tri, doing sprints and ended up doing a Half Iron - next year will be mainly sprints and finish off with an Ironman.

    Love the idea of going long, but also love the appeal of balls out fast - unfortunately I am not built for speed - so I have two challanges - faster and longer for next year.
  • great debate indeed and i read all posts with interest and respect for the individuality of us all
    this is maybe the reason why mowf i find your comments dismissive - you are worried they might be perceived as elitist because probably deep inside this is how you feel, an elite competitor...
    i do not know how old you are maybe you are in your twenties and have all the physical stamina that comes with it - maybe you have been doing sport all your life - it soulds like you are gifted with genes that help you excel in speed, great!
    why does this make you be dismissive to the efforts of others though?
    how high or not our goals are depends on how close we are at moving towards them and how hard we work to achieve them and they are relative and subjective to each individual and their abilities: if you can do a 10h IM then of course your aim will be to do the next in 9:30 but if you could only run it in 17hr then wouldnt doing it in 16hr be amazing? why do you think that the person that runs a 17h race is there just to finish? maybe they have improved on an 18h one - we all have our own targets to beat - what makes yours more worthy?
    actually i have loads of respect for somebody who manages to stick it out 17hours because it takes staying power and determination - whoever is out there for that long is for a reason, be it age,
    injury or physiology limitations and i find it unfair to be dismissed as the 'anyones' --- the 'anyones' of this world are still sat on the sofa as moonlight would say, they get on the bike at the gym with an issue of 'heat', they only run for the bus- if ever, and no i dont think they would finish an IM
    for all of us there is something we might not be naturally (or for some other reason) brilliant at, be it painting, singing, maths or needlework but i dont think that if we are keen to improve, our efforts should be dismissed just because they dont match the 'elite' standards !!!
    finally mowf thank your 'allowing' us to keep doing it!:
    I'm not saying they should not be allowed to do it.
    that's the spirit!
    i am sure all new comers to the sport/forum and the slow people are really grateful!
    oh and if/when i complete my IM i will actually wear a badge! i might even tatoo my whole back and include my time in it even if it will be 20hr because to my opinion i will be an ironwoman for the journey i travelled, the training i did, the kind of race i finished and that good ol' body that carried me though albeit slowly!
  • shadowone1shadowone1 Posts: 1,408
    I have no direct experience in going long except my intention next year is to do IMUK, however having saisd that, there is nothing wrong with adopting sprints/ standards to your race calendar. Going long to sprints have different traits in that you need to be able to adapt better to whats in front of you whereas with sprints its all in the constant effort.

    Take Chrissie Wellington, master at going long but recently dropped down to do a coupe of standards and struggled. Emphasises the issue on effort and pace, going long you need to watch the pace more than you do with a sprint.

    I love sprints and next year I intend to do most of the sprints/ standards that i done this year to give me an indication on how much I've improved. So will I abandon the sprints - no, will I be going long - totally.
  • It all down to time, speed if you are doing olympic or sprint or distance if you are doing either 1/2 or full iron man

    There is no point in being the fastest runner or 10k but nothing left for the remaining 34 k if you are doing the iron man it's all about pace and distance. Where in sprint and olympic distance it's all out for an hour or two

    It good to build up the stamina over the winter in going long if you are doing sprints or olympic but there is no point in doing a steady 80 mile bike ride in march and april every week if you are only racing 40k , what you need is speed and more speed

  • Intreresting post this one and some interesting comments.

    For me personally it is, and always has been about going long. Even before I did my first tri the intention was to go long. Now that I have done an IM, the aim is to go quicker in them (and hopefully no fractures before and torn tendons during!). For me, as much as I love triathlons, there is something about pushing yourself to the absolute limit that appeals to me. but of course this is all relative. While I may find it takes an IM to push myself to the absolute limit, for someone who is new to the sport, they may find that a sprint pushes them to the limit. And they should be applauded as much as anyone else for their acheievement, which could have been tougher for them than other distances for other people/

    But sprints, ODs and HIMs are all fantastic anyway, and even though I will base my season around IMs I will race at all other distances. Even though I won't specifically taper for these, the aim will still be to go as quick as I possibly can it whatever race I enter. This is how I feel about the sport, and in that respects I am an elitist, I want to go as fast as possible, and I want to win whatever the distance and I will do everything I can to do so (even though this is never going to happen!). But for those who are in it for the fun, who want to just go round and complete a race then good for them and go for it! That is the great thing about triathlon, its open to anyone, whether their aim is to win Hawii or get round their local sprint course. And we should all have as much admiration for everyone in the sport as the average Joe Blogg has when you say youre a triathlete
  • Getting back to the original point, If you are stepping up to long distance then I would say forget about ANY speed work for you base building (winter) training. If you want to build endurance do long sessions if you want to tire youself out fast, do speed work.

    There is no point doing speed work (unless you aim for sub 10hr LD) your main aim is to be able to have your body used to exersizing for 10-16hrs so those hard 10k sessions should be a thing of the past and replaced by a more sedate 8-15mile or 1-2.5hr run at race pace.

    Oh and get used to taking nutrition on the move, far to many noobs dont practice their nutrition in training and fall to pieces on the day........an Ironman is basically an eating competition.
  • Firestarter wrote:
    an Ironman is basically an eating competition.
    I like you're thinking Firestarter. I'm good at eating.

    What about the other end though? Oh jesus... I can't go 15hours without poop-poop!
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