I almost never smile during a race, especially coming out of the swim. But in Puerto Rico I was all smiles.  I even had a Rocky Balboa moment after my swim as I punched the air with one fist.

Yeah, I had a great swim; I was 6th in my age group out of the water!  Fuck, I had a great race PERIOD!  Part of my success in Puerto Rico was choosing THE RIGHT RACE for my goal. 

My main goal was to qualify for Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Nice, France.  So I searched for the most perfect race that would set me up for success in order to achieve my personal goal.


Here are my 10 tips for choosing the right race for you:

  1. SET YOUR PERSONAL GOAL.  Are you racing to raise money for a charity?  Are you racing to crush a new distance?  Are you racing to set a new PR?  Are you racing to qualify for a specific race? Or are you racing just for fun?  Know your goal and why you are doing this.  It will help you answer all the questions below, and also keep you in the fight when the training gets tough.

  2. DISTANCE. Races come in all distances.  For a triathlon you have a Sprint, Olympic, Half IM, and Full IM.  Choosing the distance is based on your big bold goal.  If you are considering a long distance race, you will need to get your feet wet with a few shorter distance races to build and expand into your main personal goal.  For example, my first running race was the Baltimore relay marathon.  The next year I did the half marathon, and eventually I stepped up to do the full marathon.

  3. LOCATION.  This is big for me as I love to race-action in new places that I have never been before, or that I love dearly for sentimental reasons.  But maybe you want to race local so your family can be there to support you.  Or you want to travel back home to race in your own hometown.  So be selective on picking the right location as it can motivate you through tough training days and on race day.  I picked Puerto Rico because I love to race in places where they speak Spanish.  Nothing motivates me more then someone cheering me in Spanish!

  4. WEATHER.  Some people love it hot hot hot while others love it cold.  Know which weather your body performs at its best.  When selecting a race, review last year’s weather pattern to learn more about your race.  If you choose a hot weather destination and your training in the middle of winter, there are tips to help you acclimatize to the heat you will encounter on race day.  You can use heat lamps while training indoors, you can layer up with each workout, and arrive to destination at least 5 days prior to race day to get used to the heat.  I arrived to Puerto Rico 5 days prior to my race, and leading up to race day I was doing hot yoga and doing all my bike training with a heat lamp.

  5. TERRAIN.  Always study racecourse elevation change.  If your goal is to PR, you may want to chose a race that is a fast and flat course.  Race descriptions will let you know what to expect.  If you want fast, avoid any races with “challenging” in the description.  Puerto Rico had a fast and flat bike course, and the run was listed as challenging due to elevation gain in the run.  I thrive in hilly runs, so this was to my advantage.    

  6. RACE SIZE.  Some people like intimate small races while others like the big party atmosphere.  Search for the right race size for you.   I love small and intimate so Puerto Rico was ideal for me.

  7. CROWD SUPPORT.  Some races are known for a big crowd support. Usually the bigger races in bigger cities have large crowd support.  Normally the smaller rural races don’t have much of crowd support.  Either option will affect your mental game. 

  8. ORGANIZATION.  Big popular races are super well organized.  Smaller races tend to be not as well organized especially if you are in a developed country.  Also newer races are less organized as they haven’t had the experience as the most bigger, older and more popular races.

  9. CHALLENGE.  Some races are known as the tough courses either due to the tough open water swim, or challenging grade climb, or a hot scorching run.  If your personality thrives under the challenge, this is for you.

  10. CELEBRATION.  Some races are known for their after party celebration.  Take for example Seawheeze half marathon in Vancouver with their sunset festival.  You will enjoy a world-class yoga taught by a global lululemon ambassador, and then dance away the night while sipping on delicious beverages.

Once you find your race that fits your personal goal, take action and register. It’s the most empowering moment, the moment you are about to shit yourself from fear and excitement. Its a fucking wow moment, so take it all in. Then start creating your training calendar to build milestones in order to accomplish your goal. Write your goal down so you can see it each morning. Share it with a friend.  

Remember - a goal is crushed by actions. Actions equals results. Everyday you chose things that move you closer towards your goal. For me, my training is more important than the actual race, as it’s here where you are building courage, integrity, empowerment, and self love… race day is just the cherry on the cake.

Nothing wrong with eating your cherry on race day, just stay present to enjoy the journey along the way!

Esther Collinetti