No, not IT-Band, or IT Tech Support, ITU :)
With the triathlon racing season kicking into gear and my first race of the year completed, I thought I would take a second to explain exactly what it is I do and why I’m on a team with a bunch of marathon runners!
I compete in draft-legal style racing sanctioned by the International Triathlon Union (ITU). This type of competition is the format featured in the Olympic Games and is entirely different from the very popular Ironman Series! My races are usually either standard distance (1500m swim, 40km bike, 10km run) or sprint distance (750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run) and the biggest difference with this style of racing is the bike—drafting is legal. I won’t go too far into specifics but there is a very different strategy with this style of racing; the swim matters a lot more than it typically would in a non-drafting race because it dictates what bike pack you’re in and the bike skills required for the race are different—tactical and technical skills are very important rather than sheer power and speed.
In addition to having a different style of racing, ITU racing also has a different set of rules. In order to race you must request to be placed on a start list which will not be released until about a month away from the day of competition. Start lists are chosen based on rankings and are capped at a certain number so, depending on your ranking, you’re not always guaranteed a start! So my race schedule is always tentative because your rankings shift with each race that happens (whether you’re racing or not)! This makes things pretty exciting, but sometimes frustrating when it comes to planning travel!
The last thing that is helpful to understand is the different levels of racing. There are essentially three tiers within ITU (from top to bottom): World Triathlon Series (WTS), World Cups, and Continental Cups. Here is a video of the promotion for the upcoming season of WTS racing to give you an idea of what draft-legal triathlon looks like in action!
If I am racing 10k and 5k runs, why run with marathoners? Good question— they are trying to run about the speed at the end of their marathon that I hope to run coming off the bike. While my race is a little shorter overall (time-wise) there is still a lot of overlap in the type of training that needs to be done so it was a perfect fit! I have grown so much as a runner this past year, trying to soak up all the fast running vibes of my teammates, picking up on their little tricks and training quirks. I have no doubt this was a good decision for me; I enjoy having different groups of people to train with for the three different disciplines and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
If the beginning of the season (more on the race in my blog here) was any indication of things to come, I couldn’t be more excited. There were definite flaws in my race, but it was a much stronger showing that I can usually produce this early in the season. I am so fortunate to have an ambitious group of women to push me each day to improve my weaknesses and keep building my strengths. Don’t be afraid to try something new or unconventional because it might just be the perfect fit for you :) Happy training, friends :)