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Which distance...?

I’m sure this age old question has been posed plenty of times before, but I wanted gauge you fine folks’ opinions on my specific situation and, who knows, it may help others in the same boat. So basically I am going to do a couple of triathlons this year and they will be my first. My local race is quite late on in the season and the ultimate goal is to do the Olympic distance there. The question is, should I use an event next month as gentle ease in to the sport and do a sprint distance (though not at “sprint” pace) or do I just jump in at the deep end and do the Olympic distance straight off.

The dilemma is fuelled by a mate who has done loads of tris and a few Iron men saying “don’t bother with the sprint distance, you’ll barely have time to enjoy it”, plus the time, expense and effort pretty much being the same for both; pitted against the generic advice to first-timers given by race organisers of sprint distance races being ideal for novices.

Bit of background, I am a keen mountain biker and can regularly go out for several hours in the saddle (though obviously not covering the same kind of mileage as one would on a road bike); I can comfortably do the 1500m swim in a pool in about 35mins and intend getting some open water training under my belt before the first race; and I run almost daily in my lunchbreak and comfortably cover a 10km route in about 45mins roughly 2-3 times a week (with shorter runs on alternative days).



  • atforrestatforrest Posts: 7

    I don’t want to appear arrogant or too (naively) self-confident, but I have been burnt before when entering a mountain biking event that said, based on my experience, I should go in the easy category. On race day, I was in amongst guys who’d barely ridden a bike before and stopped to push up or over anything remotely steep or technical. Needless to say this was frustrating and should I enter the event again, I’ll be a little more confident in my ability and not listen to the website’s advice.

    A further factor is that if I do enjoy it and end up doing a few triathlons, I’ll always see the initial sprint distance as a bit of a waste of time, money and opportunity because I’ll never look back at time improvements etc.

    So, confession time guys, has anyone been in the same boat and have any pearls of wisdom. Perhaps you did a sprint first time and regret not pushing yourself and going Olympic. Or perhaps you did go Olympic and crashed out with exhaustion and I should heed your warning.

    Any thoughts or advice welcome. Cheers
  • I believe Spencer Smith said something like "Triathlon isn't just Ironman". And I really agree. I have been tempted by Ironman races as they have the lure of being cool and it is great to tell people you are doing them, but you can so much enjoyment and fitness gains from shorter races/

    I get annoyed when others suggest you should forget about Olympic and Sprints as they are not worth it or not a challenge. However, I totally disagree with this. For instance, I have spent the past year training in a Uni squad that includes the Brownlee Brothers (no reflection on my ability ha!) focusing on speed and Olympic races. I can honestly say it has been more rewarding for me to train at these high intensities, pushing myself everyday rather than slowly pooterling along for IM distance. Sprint and Olympic are worthwhile as you have to work extremeley hard to be in great shape. Even the coaches suggested you need a higher level of fitness to do well in Olympic oppossed to IM.

    However, do the distance you want to do. I would suggest starting at sprints and Olympics and then if the lure of IM calls complete that.

    But do remember that sprint and Olympic distances are just as worthwhile as Ironman if that is what you want and don't get swayed by people who suggest you're not a proper triathlete because you haven't done an IM!

  • I have delved towards IM more but my points still stand. Plus, a sprint shouldn't be "easy", they are suppose to be blowing out your arse the whole time, you could arguably hurt more in a sprint tri than a IM or longer race.

    Best of luck to what you decide to do and ENJOY it
  • wayfarerwayfarer Posts: 34
    I would certainly recommend signing up for a sprint before the "big" day.

    It will enable you to put into practise all your training in a "live" environment without the pressure of completing the longer distance. It will also give you a sense has to how far you have come since starting the journey, and highlight specific area that you need to improve on.

    Before I competed in my first "olympic", I entered 3 sprints the first had an undulating course, the second an extended run and the last an open water swim.

    For me, this experience was invaluable.

    Good luck, whatever you decide
  • atforrestatforrest Posts: 7
    Rest assured I am not being pressured into doing an IM as my first tri - goodness me no! I am solely weighing up between Olympic or Sprint. Thanks for your advise and thoughts.

    ...Anyone else?
  • nivaghnivagh Posts: 595
    I'm somebody else who is going to come out strongly in favour of doing sprint triathlon whether for fun or as a stepping stone to longer distances. I would argue with anybody who suggests that if it's not 140.6 miles then it's not triathlon. A sprint is certainly a bit different from an olympic but the skills learned in a shorter race are eminently transferrable to longer efforts - get slick in a sprint transition and you will benefit in longer races. Get used to the discomfort and pace of a sprint and, provided you can go the distance, the speed training will pay off at OD.

    As for the issue of value - well yes, if you're looking at races like Blenheim, which was (in my opinion) a ridiculous £75 or £70 for BTF members, for what, 70 minutes racing? If you're in the south and you think that all events should cost that, then you need to get in touch with local clubs and look at the BTF site to find events that are better value. Marshalling at events is also sometimes a way to get a race voucher or free entry. Club events are often in the £5 region!

    So, given that you're looking at your first tri, I would say dive in, get a couple of cheap sprint races under your belt so that you can try out your gear and your routine in race conditions. A couple of sprints will be more valuable than a hundred miles of training in terms of race experience.

    Personally I'd rather race flat out for an hour than grind out 140 miles at medium intensity. But maybe that's just me.
  • ZacniciZacnici Posts: 1,385
    Do the Sprint.
    Short, sharp, intensive 100% racing. If you cock up in transition it has a big effect so it's excellent to hone skills. I've done about 50 Sprints, 2 Iron distance and a 70.3 and enjoyed and gained satisfaction from every single one.

    Each distance has its own merits, Chrissie Wellington in one of her interviews related how she did an Olympic and came fifth.
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