How to Incorporate Athletic Events into Your Triathlon Training Plan

Saturday, July 7, 2012 by Coach Kristen



I often get requests from my clients to work other events into their tri training schedules. Some ask because they want to do these events with their friends, some are fundraising for organizations like Team in Training, some like to use them as catered training days, and some just get bored when they’re not racing.

Here are some examples showing how you can incorporate other athletic events into your triathlon training plan while still focusing on your A race.

Example A: Susie

It’s May and Susie’s A race is a sprint triathlon in August. She has a series of monthly 5Ks with her running club that she would like to run. She would like to get better/faster on the bike. She has only done one sprint triathlon before.

Some events Susie might consider:

As long as Susie has been building up to running the 5K series, this would be a great opportunity for her to use these as test runs once a month. She will more than likely run these slightly faster than her sprint triathlon 5K pace, but it will give her a good estimate of where she should be off the bike. She can also make sure her training is going in the right direction as she should get faster over each of these from May through August.

Bike Rallies
These are great opportunities to get in some longer training days with SAG support and aid stations. Susie can use these rallies to build up her bike base by doing longer rides over the four months leading up to her A race. Additionally, in the two months leading up to the A race, she can find a pace group or even a few individual cyclists to hang on to and get in a good long tempo ride. Come race day it will be easy for her to maintain a higher intensity for her sprint bike mileage because Susie already knows what it feels like to “suffer” and hold the faster tempo pace.

A duathlon or additional sprint distance triathlon at a minimum of four weeks out from A race would be used as a training day to practice transitions and nutrition. It is not used as an all out race, but for pacing in only one of the disciplines, such as the swim. It takes discipline to put this in your schedule because you don’t want to exert yourself to the point where you have to take time off to recover after this race.

Example B: Sammy

It’s March and Sammy’s A race is an Ironman in November. He wants to do a century ride in June and an Olympic-distance tri at the end of September to raise funds to fight Leukemia. He also likes to do events to keep motivated. This will be his first Ironman.

Some events Sammy might consider:

Since Sammy likes to use events to stay motivated, I would have him pick something each month. All events would be focused around longer distances and the majority of the time he would do them to practice something for Ironman such as pacing, nutrition, clothing, bike fit, form, etc.

Olympic-distance tri
While the timing of the Olympic-distance tri is not ideal, it’s for a good cause so its hard not to do it. I would advise Sammy to turn it into a swim and bike and then instead of only running 6.2 miles, add extra miles after and run a total of 15 miles. To work things in like this, Sammy would have to be willing to stay focused on the end goal and do the necessary work. Or if it worked out, this would be part of an easier week, or be followed by an easy week. There would be no taper for this race as it is of low importance in the whole plan.

Century rides
Typically part of bike rallies, but find ones that have more than 100Ks and 100-mile distances available. These can be worked on in August, September, and October. Using bike rallies to build up to these century rides earlier in the year are also great options.

Aquabike (full or half distance)
Aquabikes are an excellent opportunity to work on swim to bike transition. You can figure out how you feel after your full distance swim and full distance bike without having to worry about the run afterward. You can learn whether you pushed too hard, stayed too low in your heart rate zone, ate too much, ate too little, had hot spots on your feet, chaffed from your wetsuit, etc.

Half Marathons
To become comfortable and strong at this distance works well for Ironman. So picking a couple half marathons to work into the mix just gives you another catered training day. No need to push the pace on these, just use them for mileage. Typically, I do not suggest doing a marathon within six months of your A race (it takes too much time to recover).

Example C: Alex

Alex has two A triathlons picked out for the year. One is an Olympic distance in June and the second is a Half Ironman at the end of October. He doesn’t care about adding in events, but is still a little anxious about the swim. He has done Sprints and Olympics for a couple of years.

Some events Alex might consider:

Swim Races
Find events that have just an open water swim race option. Typically they will be 1.2 miles or 2.4 miles. This will help get over the anxiety of being in a group, cold water, covering the distance, sharks eating you, or whatever your fear is. The more often you do it, the better it gets. If your A race is done in a wetsuit, try to find a swim race in cold enough water so you can practice in it, and vice versa if your A race doesn’t include wetsuit.

List of Athletic Events
Here is a list of events that I typically use for tri training. Use them intelligently to stay motivated and accomplish your goals. And feel free to contact me if you have any questions.


  • Fun Runs
  • 5Ks
  • 10Ks
  • Half Marathons
  • Marathons
  • Ultra Marathons


  • Bike Rallies
  • Road Races


  • Open Water Races


  • Swim and Run


  • Swim and Bike


  • Run Bike Run


  • Swim Bike Run
  • Sprint
  • International or Olympic
  • Half Ironman
  • Ironman



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