When Do You Go Long?

by Chris McCormack

A question I get asked a lot is when and how do you make the transition from sprint and Olympic distance racing up to long-distance racing.

It's a common thought among age-group athletes. We've done a few Olympic distance races and we think, “When is it time to go up in distance?”

To me, it's a very easy question to answer: you can always get yourself ready to do a long-distance event. It just comes down to how much time and commitment you have to do the training you need to get to that finish line.

(To be competitive in a long-distance event is a whole different conversation!)

The biggest changes you're going to have when you compare an Olympic distance race to that of a half distance or a full distance is the time on the bike and the time spent running. Especially for the amateur athlete, getting in that volume of work over a long period of time to prepare for an event is key. You need to be able to at least ride and run the distance once in training just to have that confidence.

Time spent swimming becomes less of an important issue, although if you’re an adult-onset swimmer it can take a bit of time to get your head wrapped around swimming nearly 4 kilometers in one go. If you learned swimming as a kid and were on a school squad, that swim anxiety is less of an issue because you know you can survive a long-distance swim with no problems at all.

Now, it's important to involve those important in your life in the decision to go long, because you will need to make some sacrifices and compromises. We all only have 24 hours in a day, and if you're devoting a big chunk of those hours to your training, something else will have to give.

At the end of the day, being able to get fit enough to finish a long-distance event comes down to volume and consistency of work. Believe me, you can do it. The best way to believe is to enter. Get yourself a training program, and give yourself some time -- 12 to 16 weeks prior to the event -- to complete that program. You will get there.

Thousands of people around the world complete one of these every year, so the question is: why shouldn't you?

So when do you step up? I say, whenever you're ready to.

Chris "Macca" McCormack is a four-time triathlon world champion with the biggest winning percentage in the history of the sport. He is a co-founder and partner in Super League Triathlon, CEO of the Bahrain Endurance 13 team, and founder and executive director of MX Endurance.

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