It’s that time of the year again, where the 2018 calendar is starting to fill up, and activities are beginning to be planned out. Triathlon season is approaching, and although we are in a bit of a lull with training right now, the girls have not stopped talking about races that they would like to complete in 2018. A question I get asked quite often is, “How do you find the races? How do you know if they will be a GOOD race?”. Over the last 6 race seasons, we have this down to an art, although I can say there is always a race or two each season that really surprises us and is much higher quality or much lower quality than we expected.
The search starts by laying out the basics. I get on my trusty computer and search both in the Google search engine and review the listings of sanctioned events on the USA Triathlon website. I lay out a rough draft of dates and names of races that I think we could possibly go to, and that list is usually about 30 races long. I then start to weed the races out until we have a complete calendar, which can take until we are mid-way through the year. The earliest of races we have attended start in April, the latest being in October. This may vary depending on where you are situated in the USA.
When we first started doing triathlons, there were a couple companies that put on race series that were pretty prestigious and consistently a good race. The Ironkids series is an example, but they went defunct in year 2 of our racing. Now, the big players in the Midwest are Kids Triathlon, Inc. which hosts about 5 or 6 races a year, and Riproar, a newcomer, but dedicated to Midwestern races. Both series are known for good competition, but Riproar will inevitably have more seasoned racers than Kids Triathlon, Inc. races. You will find good race swag and a race party with both company’s races. And if competition is what you are looking for, go to races where the kids triathlon training teams are located. For us, that is anywhere near Dallas, Nashville, New Orleans, or Houston.
I try my best to also hone in on local races. They are easy to add to the race calendar and it is always good to support our states’ economy. You can be surprised at the competition found at local races, as friends vie against one another. We certainly do see that at races around our state.
What do we try to avoid? First year races. Time and time again, these have proven to be a struggle. First year races tend to be understaffed and have not worked out all of the race “kinks” that a 12th annual race has already encountered. I made the mistake of booking a first year race locally last year, and it was the biggest mess we have encountered in several years of racing. We avoid “fun races” and “splash and dash” races, as the first are not going to be timed, awarded events and the second just aren’t what we are looking for as they omit the bike. Sometimes, you may find that kids triathlon races on the same weekend as an adult race by the same name, done at the same venue, are an “afterthought” and may not be as well planned as the adult race.
Lastly, we look for races that provide for a fun weekend. A lot of the kids races can turn into “destination weekends” and we get to do a lot more as a family besides just the race. We try to make it to at least one bucket list kids triathlon a year. We may not be able to return on subsequent years, but the experience was worth it. A kink this year in race scheduling is that a couple of my girls now meet the age qualification for sprint and super sprint races, which adds more options to the list!