Six Big Reasons Why Small, Local Races Rock

Since my last race-report in September, I actually have raced quite a bit, yet I haven’t shared any of it with you! That’s a bit selfish now isn’t it. A lot has transpired in the Wild-life since then, but that’s no excuse not to write. I have four blog posts in store over the next coming months. In those you’ll learn about a race I never told you about, my take on coaching, a recap of my 2017 triathlon season by the numbers, and my six reasons why local racing is awesome and underrated. Follow me…let’s go for a ride!

Why should you race a small, local race that may not even hand out a t-shirt or finisher’s medal? Why waste time on a little event that no one has ever heard of? Here are my six big reasons why small, local races rock:

  1. The Adventure

You may have done a full Ironman already. You may have traveled the world for all I know. But you may never have run the Fourth of July 5k in your little town. You may think they’re small-fry and not important for your big goals. With that very attitude, it’s held you back from exploring something new! You love adventure, deep-down and a little race you’ve never done before could be just that dose of newness that you need in your life right now.

Maybe you’re new to the sport of running. Maybe you’re new to the sport of triathlon, or cycling. Local races are low-stakes and should be low-stress. These are great venues to try out a new sport. You could even end up entering a stand up paddling or kayaking event! When it’s short and nearby, just why not?

Whether you’re new to the sport or not, you can use these events to stretch your potential. You can expand your skill set by finding out that open water swimming is exactly what you’ve wanted to do to express yourself. Or maybe gravel-racing is totally your jam. Or perhaps trail-running is the only running you ever want to do because of its connection to nature. At a small local race, you get a chance to dare to brave.


2. The Physical

 There is nothing like the rush of the starting line. I feel it at a full Ironman. I feel it at a 5k run. I feel it at a 1mile swim. It’s real. There is a primal magic that happens when it’s “3, 2, 1, GO,”-time! Anyone who’s raced one can attest that it’s far too easy to go too fast at the beginning. Because there is a stampede around you. You’re caught up in the moment and you’re running a full minute per mile faster than you planned for. Sure, you shouldn’t do that and you should pace yourself. It’s an unparalleled feeling you cannot get anywhere outside of a race. It’s worth doing just to feel it at least once.

At a real big race, that’s the kicker. How will you deal with that stampede at your A-race later on in the season? You better know how to pull back, be patient, and humble. That takes practice. A local race can help you train for the big races by teaching you how to calm your ego and let the rabbits go. Small races can help you build healthy race-day habits.

How will you prepare the couple of days and nights before a big race? Well having raced your local, cycling time trial for example, will have you prepare you for that mindset. Use these small events as the focus for practicing healthy nighttime routines and including prerace nutrition and meal-planning. Find out what works for your body. Do you need more than 8 hours of sleep a night the entire week before a race? Do you need white rice, chicken, and fruit the night before race-day? There’s only one way to find out. Test your routines before a lower-priority race like a local sprint triathlon, for example.

Lastly on the physical benefits of a small event—use it as a test. Use it as a benchmark. There’s nothing that can truly replicate a race. What’s your FTP? What’s your heart rate threshold when you push yourself to the ultimate limits. What’s your top speed on that road? There’s only one way to find out. Go.

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3. The Gear

Endurance sports require a lot of toys. A lot of gear, equipment, and often gimmicky plastic junk gets purchased in our sport. Sports technology has made amazing strides, but also, the industry has gotten really good at marketing unnecessary, beautiful pieces of trash as well. How will you know what to use on the Ironman you’ve been preparing for and sacrificing for all year? How will you know what shoes feel the best when you’re running in the rain, full-throttle, for example? You have to test them out on the course and in the race-day mindset. A small event is a great canvas on which to test out your paints.

If you’re planning on using a disc wheel at the next tri, but you’ve only ridden it on your own, you should probably try it out in race-mode. When the winds are kicking on the same course you’ll be racing would be ideal. If the local TT is on the same stretch of road that is used for the race—do it! The way your toys work on your slow long run or ride will surely not be the same when you’re pushing it hard on race-day. Test them out! This includes those aerodynamic fueling systems, sunglasses, long socks versus tall socks, and I’ll just stop there because the product-list is endless.

A tangential bonus of local, small races is the testing out of the gear for the local race-organizers and other players that make a race what it is. Local photographers get to test their equipment and angles. You get the added perk of maybe getting some free pics showing your true game-face.

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4. The Community

You love how local races can be a coming-together of great minds. Newbies, veterans, old-timers, young-guns, and everyone in between are welcome to small, local events. They are inclusive and diverse (kind of like what makes our country great, right?). Local races often are supported by local shops, local sponsors, and local city-services like the police and state-agencies. Your registration will likely be going to some community organization that you already support. Small events can also connect you to new friends, new swim squads, tri clubs, and running groups for example. They are where mere-acquaintances can become great friends. Maybe you’re looking for a coach or a group of like-minded individuals who love to do what you do. All those players come out of the woodworks for local races. Be like them!

My favorite aspect of these events is that no matter where you may stand on politics, religion, or other controversial topics, a simple game of endurance sports unites us all. They show us that we have a lot more in common than we may think.

5. The Money

Most little races in Kona are under $30. Many of them are free! These events won’t break the bank. You don’t have to worry about traveling to some far-off destination. You don’t have to worry about getting accommodations. Whatever money you do end up spending on local races is likely going to a good cause. Usually there is some charity going on. Perhaps even more simply, a local run shop is getting a little more publicity from the event. In most cases, your registration fee will go towards an organization or business you’d already want to support anyway.

Remember all the testing I told you about earlier? You’re saving money now by figuring out what you don’t need. So when the big race comes, you’re not going to rush to the expo and buy up every flavor of energy gel, hydration system, ergonomic water bottle, and compression sleeve. The testing you’ve done gives you the peace of mind of knowing what works. You’ll get to relax while everyone is emptying their wallets at the expo on things they aren’t even sure they even need.


6. The Love of Movement

Lastly, the biggest reason why we do these races, is for the love. Because you love to play! You love to move. You love your sport and you love the way a race can bring out your best physical potential. You love the pre-race jitters. You love the excitement you see in the kids as they hold out their hands for high fives. You love the way your body works as you have trained it to do. You love how it reminds you of the first race you ever did. You love how it connected you to some amazing people and perhaps even friends for life. You love the journey, the process; not just the destination and the finish line. You love the start line and everything thereafter.

We train and train for many reasons. Some of us want to get faster. Some of us want to go pro. Some just want to lose a few holiday-pounds. Some of us just like trying new things! What unites us all is that we love to play. It’s part of being human. When defining if an entity is a living organism or not, one criterion must be met—the entity must be able to move.  We all move differently and to different degrees. Some of us are not able to move like others. Some of us move faster and more gracefully than others. We all want to move. Feed your soul, feed your body, feed your limbs, your joints, your muscles, and your tendons. Feed your mind and your heart by letting yourself move yourself.

The Big Island of Hawai`i has so many fun, little races, you could fill your calendar every week! I’ll bet that wherever you live in the U.S. though, there are races in your community that are just screaming your name! How do you find out about them? A simple online-search can help you out a lot. I like to search for the type of race I’m interested in, followed by the state in which I live. For example, try searching “triathlon California races” and you’ll come across some useful sites that list all of the tris in the state! Find some triathlon here! Even more effectively, you can talk to the staff at any running store, bike shop, triathlon shop, or swim store to hear about the upcoming 5k runs, criterion rides, sprint tris, or open water swims.  Go ahead and give them an ask next time you’re in! If you sign up, you may even end up getting caught on camera looking like this at the end of the next holiday 5k pushing harder than you have at any race all year:

IMG_6487Since IM 70.3 World Championships in September, I have raced six local races in Kona. Instead of my usual race-report style, I’ll give you a quick synopsis. I did some open water swims, foot-races, and sprint triathlon. I tried really hard at all of them. There was a bigger race in between all of these, but you’ll have to wait for a later blog post to hear more about that.

The Kukio Blue Water Swim was a choppy, high-school-student dominated, open-water, 1.2 mile swim from Kua Bay in mid-September. It was gorgeous, but brutal! It was great practice for me in swimming through rough conditions with lots of body-contact with serious athletes. Sighting is crucial in high-swells and high-wind conditions. The next day I did the Team Mango event, the annual Pre-Ironman Triathlon Challenge. A 1.2mi swim, followed by a hilly 16mi bike, with a hilly 10k run to end it. My three-year title came to a halt when a pro from Oz put on a clinic and took my crown. A few athletes racing the Ironman World Championship attended as it’s a great little primer before the big dance two weeks after.

The next week was the Ironman-branded open water swim that takes  around 800 swimmers around the official 2.4mi, IM swim course. What a rush! There was a pack of pro-triathletes leading the charge and some insane swimmers as well. Many IMWC athletes come out for this event as it’s a great way to check out the real deal one week out. For most, you can recover from a hard swim in time even if you push it. I easily broke an hour, which was a fun milestone to hit! The next day was the PATH 5k/10k. Some killer runners always show up. I pushed it to the max, but like last year, wasn’t able to take the W. I gave it my all, though and loved the rush of endorphins that followed after 17.5 minutes of pure pain.

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IMG_1175 2The next month, I jumped in the monthly, free Peaman event of November, the Split Pea: 400yd swim and a 1mi run—times two! A swim/run/swim/run is no joke! That second swim is a struggle. Do you know how much you actually use your arms on a 1mi-sprint? A lot! My swim time was a good 30 seconds slower the second time around. I’m proud to say I took the W on this one, with a faster run-split on the second mile. More importantly it was a big win for the community that day as it was the first Peaman event that was fully, legally sanctioned after all the DLNR debacle in the recent months. Three weeks later, I charged through the Jingle Bell Beach Run 5k for the first time. That’s a super jolly race with most participants in some sort of holiday costume. One dude even carried a real Christmas tree for the entire run! I took fourth, but wow did I grit my teeth through the last mile of that one. I paced it pretty well, but did not have the extra juice that the 3rd place runner had who inched me out by one second. It was my first race I got to witness first-hand, just how fast, new Kona-resident, Matt Daniels is. He broke 15 minutes! Did you do the math? 3.1 miles in under 15 minutes. Yeah.

IMG_6714As you plan out your 2018 season, consider the importance of registering for a few local races! Your coach should be supportive of at least doing a couple. Your soul will definitely be supportive. Don’t overdo it of course. Keep it manageable and remember they’re meant to be fun! Stay tuned for my next posts on my take on coaching and a 2017 recap by the numbers. Aloha!

(Photos with courtesy of West Hawaii Today)

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