How many people are participating in the race? If the website doesn't make it clear you can usually get an idea by looking at the results from the previous year. Here are some the advantages I've noticed about the races I've done so far:
Smaller Races (under 100 participants)
- Move faster (e.g. not waiting hours to start due to swim waves)
- Less overcrowding (parking, transition, race course, bathrooms, food)
- More casual and participant friendly
- Less expensive registration fees
Larger Races (over 500 participants)
- Diverse crowd of participants means more people in your league and less time alone on the course
- More pre-race information available (course maps, FAQ's, lodging recommendations, etc.)
- More perks like race specific t-shirts, finisher medals, professional photography, raffles, etc.
- More race support such as aid stations, volunteers directing traffic, etc.
Most races start very early and you will need to be to the site even earlier for parking, setting up your gear and preparing for the race. A good rule of thumb is to plan to be at the race site 1.5 hours be the start time (earlier for larger races). Remember to include all this extra time when estimating what time you will need to leave your home. If the race is 2 hours from your home, and you have to be there by 6:30am, you would need to wake up by 4am. Is that reasonable for you? If not, you might want to think about renting a hotel or staying with a friend or family member that lives closer to the race site.
Saturday or Sunday?
Do you want to do your race on a Saturday or a Sunday? The advantage to racing on a Saturday is that you still have your entire weekend left to have fun and/or stay in bed with ice packs. The advantage to racing on Sunday is that you have Saturday to prepare all your gear and get plenty of rest without the distraction and, if necessary, travel to the race site.
The registration fee for races varies a lot. I've seen races as cheap as $60 and it just goes up from there. How much is the registration fee? Will you also need to rent a hotel?
Finding a Race
My two favorite website for finding races:
- www.TriFind.com: My favorite website for locating races! TriFind claims to be the "The World's Largest Listings of Triathlons and Multi-Sport Events." The website is very user friendly and you can search by location.
- Beginner Triathlete: A great listing of races and I love that you can read race reports from past participants. This is a great way to get more details about the race. What are the road conditions like? How hilly is the run? Did the race start on time? Was there enough water?
If you've already racing, what type of race do you prefer and why? Smaller or larger races? Saturdays or Sundays?