There aren’t too many sports where amateurs of all ages can regularly represent Great Britain in international competition. Triathlon is the exception. In the April 2011 issue of Triathlon Plus magazine, out today, we’ll show you how.

Qualifying as a triathlon age-group athlete for the GE Great Britain Age-Group Team is easier than you might think. Well, not easy in termstriathlon age-group world champs training of what you have to achieve – but easy in terms of the process involved, which has been streamlined by the British Triathlon Federation (BTF), the sport’s governing body here in the UK.

There are triathlon age-group bands from 20 to 80+ as well as junior categories of 18-19 for standard distance and 16-19 for sprint distances. The choice on offer is a wide one, with places available for ETU European and ITU World Championship events at triathlon, duathlon, aquathlon (swim and run), cross-triathlon (off road) and winter triathlon (skiing, cycling and running). Distances vary from sprints up to long-distance events, which are usually two or three times longer than the standard distance of 1500m swim, 40km bike and 10km run. Here we’ll focus on sprint and standard (also called Olympic) distance tri.

First steps

The BTF have created a straightforward six-step process to becoming a GE Great Britain age-group athlete, which is detailed in their handbook and on the British Triathlon website (www.britishtriathlon.org). The first step is to join your home association – either Triathlon England, triathlonscotland or Welsh Triathlon – saving you money on a day licence whenever you race, too. Then decide which ETU or ITU Championships you would like to qualify for.

There are lists on the BTF website detailing each championship event and which races act as qualifiers – you’ll find a guide to sprint and standard tri  and duathlon qualifiers for 2011 over the next few pages. You’ll need to register your intent by 5pm on the Friday before the qualifying race that you are going to use. And of course, you need to enter your chosen qualifying event through the individual race organiser – in reality this is often your first step, as the races are popular and sell out fast. Be wise with your choice. Competition for places can be tough, so choose a course that plays to your strengths to give you the best possible chance of making the grade.

The next step is actually qualifying, and this is the tricky part. For ETU European Championship races, the new guidelines set out by the BTF dictate that you must finish within 120% of the winner of your triathlon age-group in the qualifying race, and within a qualifying position based on the number of slots available per qualifying race. For the ITU World Championships, athletes must finish with 115% of the winning age-group time – we’ve given the 2010 winning times (overall) for the qualifiers in our guide in the full version of this feature, so convert that to seconds and multiply by 1.15 for an idea of how fast you’d need to go.

How To Train For The Triathlon Age-Group World Champs

Fiona Hoare, a BTF coach who has guided age-group athletes up to the worlds, tells you how to alter your mindset and training approach to earn that special race kit.

Getting set…

It’s March already and most of the world championship qualifiers are in May or June, so you need to get cracking. Before your hard training starts, make sure you’ve planned properly and are fit enough for the high level of training you’ll need to do. Fiona Hoare explains:

If people are going to qualify for Team GB they don’t necessarily need to be experienced triathletes but they do need to be fit. Sometimes people have a bit of luck too, as it does depend who else turns up on the day of your qualifier. You should aim for an ‘A’ qualifier (your main focus) and have a ‘B’ race as a back up.

With my group of athletes we do an analysis at the end of the previous year to pick up some points to move forward with.

To qualify for the world championships this year, you’ll need to periodise your year for a ‘double peak’; the first peak for your qualifier and the second for the world championships race itself.

So if you came to me in early spring and said you want to qualify for Beijing I’d take a calendar and plot back from September: so one Triathlon age groups trainingweek before the race would be recovery; three to four weeks before that would be your last peak of training; four to six weeks before that would be your specific conditioning – lots of race pace work, using race clothes and equipment, using nutrition under stress and working at race intensity. Before that you’re working on general conditioning so some base but some intensity work too.

Then I’d repeat that process for your first ‘A’ race. If there’s time, you can add a ‘C’ race, or training race. You need not even finish that race. So you go to practise one thing: you might want to have a good start out on the swim, or a good swim-to-bike transition. You can stop before the run, which is the most damaging part of any race. That’s the hardest to recover from.

Once the season gets going it can be tempting to join your friends at races they’re going to that aren’t part of your plan, but if you’re serious about qualifying you need to think about the purpose of every race you do. You need to be able to trust yourself to treat extra races as training. When you go with friends to a race you tend to forget your own goals. I know that I find it very hard to go to a race and not give it everything. With my athletes, if this happens, we have a b*llocking session then a laugh and carry on. I say to my athletes not to take their running shoes if they don’t trust themselves, so they have to stop at T2!

At this level of competition you need to be very particular. If people are quite serious about qualifying, I ask them to look back at the previous one or two years’ results and see what times have got through to the worlds. So if they’re going to the Dambuster, to look at the top six times from 2010. Then you look at each part of your race and work out how you can get down to that time. You’ve got to be quite canny and cunning: tightening up transition times, so you might use more lube under your wetsuit, or cut a bit off the legs to get it off quicker, or it could be what you wear to get you through the race quicker. You need to practise everything like mad, even in the winter, for example by doing bricks – it doesn’t have to be too hard, just going from the bike to the run.

Your checklist
Are you being realistic? If you’re a long way off last year’s winning times, just focus on where you can make the biggest gains in races this year. Save your world championships campaign for 2012.

  • Can you fit it in? Check which qualifying races, ‘B’ and ‘C’ races you’d want to do. Make sure you can fit them all in and have time to periodise your training effectively.
  • Are you ready? Even if you raced fast last summer, you need to have had a consistent winter of training to train to world championship level this year.

Maybe next year…
If you know that Team GB is out of your reach in 2011, or you’re new to triathlon, you can still use periodisation to make the most of your season. Pick one race to focus on, but don’t worry about being dead serious about all your other races. You can afford to have fun with your friends at different events this year, and in the process you’ll find out about your strengths, weaknesses and the type of racing you enjoy most.

This article originally appeared in Issue 26 of Triathlon Plus magazine – click here to subscribe today for just £1!