Triathletes often live in a very safe zone. You know what it feels like to run steady off of the bike. You can pace a sprint swim appropriately and you can dial in a bike effort that is manageable so that you can run well after it. What happens if you take away the safely net? What if you jump in an OPEN 10k?? Could you run faster? Will you blow up trying? Can you even do that? You can, and you should. Assuming your big races of the season are months away, now is a great time to get out of your comfort zone.
If you do a little prep and jump in a 10k, you can see a huge boost in your run fitness and speed as you go into the year. This can be a good test of fitness, giving you a good baseline for workouts. Could you blow up if you go for it? Maybe, but that is the idea here. Find that line, and get out of your comfort zone. If you blow up in a local 10k, you will likely learn a lot! The lessons learned especially if you pay attention to what it feels like can far out weigh benefits from a conservatively paced race where you could have given more.
Have you even done a tapered off the blocks 100 yard freestyle? What about a 500 or mile all out for time? Even maybe a super sprinty 50 yard race?!? Masters meets are not that hard to find. A weekend of swim races can be very intimidating. If you practice a few starts with your local coach (pro tip, just keep your head down, and you’ll be fine!) This can again be a great experience to help take your swim up a notch. You can learn a lot about your swim speed, and stroke. Hopefully you can watch some of the other events and see some of the really fast swimmers. Watching swimmers swim can be a learning experience on its own!
Last up, what about a road or MTB race? Triathletes are in general good at riding steady. Learning how to ride like a roadie can really help smooth out your power curve. You can fill in all of those gaps under 60 minutes. This is a fun way to gain bike fitness and can really help come race day. You know all of those times you started a bit too hard? or exploded out of a few too many corners? Increasing your top end, or at least getting your body more used to it can make you a more durable rider. You will be able to make the same mistakes and recover from them. Even better, it can also make you more in tune with your power output so that you can ride without making those mistakes! Finally, I guarantee this will improve your handling skills. EVERY triathlete can benefit from this!!
Spend some time this spring making the uncomfortable comfortable. You can learn a ton, have fun and gain some new skills. Getting more comfortable on the swim, bike or run will pay dividends come race season!