Chris Carmichael Blog: Don’t shy away from hard events, especially hard qualifiers for bigger competitions

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There’s something odd about athletes who commit to one of the hardest endurance events in the world (Ironman), but then shy away from particular events (Ironman St. George) because they view them as being “too hard”. There’s no doubt that the St. George course in Utah is demanding, but there are some very compelling reasons why it’s a great choice for Ironman triathletes. And if you’re not a triathlete, keep reading anyway; conceptually this applies to you as well.

St. George Perk #1: It scares people.
If you’re trying to qualify for Kona, it may be to your benefit to go to a race that scares away some of your competition. You may not set a personal best at St. George, but in the process of qualifying for Kona, time is less important than position. Trying to qualify for World Championships at one of the most popular and fastest courses on the schedule can actually reduce your chances of qualifying, despite the fact that your finishing time there could be significantly faster than at St. George.

St. George Perk #2: There’s time to prepare for Kona.
For athletes who qualify for Kona late in the season, there’s not much time to recover from that qualification event and get optimally prepared for Hawaii. But if you set your sights on qualifying at St. George, you have 5 full months from May to October to recover and then ramp up to top condition. Take a cue from the lessons we’ve learned from Olympic qualification procedures across several sports: placing Olympic Trials too close to the Games hinders the athletes’ chances of winning medals. They peak for trials and don’t have time to recover and peak again for the Olympics.

St. George Perk #3: You still have options if you fail.
Despite all your efforts to optimize your training, nutrition, and equipment, competitions are unpredictable. There’s a chance you won’t earn a ticket to Kona at St. George, but since it’s early in the year, you’ll still have options for entering other qualifying races. And if none of those fit into your schedule, you’ll have tremendous fitness in May that you can use to have a great summer triathlon season.

I’ve long been a fan of hard early-season races for athletes in all endurance sports. They provide the motivation for athletes to remain committed to focused training through the cold days of the winter. They also reveal strengths and weaknesses early on in the year so there’s time to work on the weaknesses and exploit the strengths before the season’s ultimate goal. I also look at a high level of early-season fitness as a sort of insurance policy. There’s no telling whether a crash or illness is going to sideline an athlete for a few weeks – or even longer – during the season. Great early-season fitness means you’re ahead of the game, and although you’d rather not experience any setbacks, you have the fitness necessary to absorb a significant setback and still achieve your goal.

So, I know St. George is hard. I know the course is tough and there’s no shade and it can be really hot and dry. But if you step up to a challenge like St. George, the training for and conditions in Kona will not seem as arduous. If you’re tough enough to be an Ironman, you should be tough enough to succeed at St. George.

And since the Holiday season is in full swing, I’m including the list of gift ideas I put in last week’s email, just in case you’re interested in:

  • Gift Certificates: Gift certificates are available by calling 866-355-0645 and they can be used for coaching, camps, testing services, apparel, media products and more.
  • CTS Camps: If you’re looking for a great gift for the endurance athlete in your life (or a great gift for someone to give you…), check out the CTS Camp Calendar for a range of cycling, triathlon performance, and Ironman camps.
  • Training Books: The Time-Crunched Cyclist and Time-Crunched Triathlete books are in stock and available, and I autograph all copies purchased from
  • Training DVDs: With 23 titles to choose from, we have indoor training covered. And starting now every DVD order will include a copy of The Trainright Guide to Indoor Training, which features a 6-week training program and recommendations for incorporating training DVDs into your workout schedule.

For details on any of these items, you can also call 866-355-0645 or email

Chris Carmichael
Carmichael Training Systems

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