Most people will say that racing a triathlon is tough enough to do and never consider getting up the next morning and doing another race, albeit a shorter one. They wonder why anyone would even consider it? The simple answer, because they can, and because the Race Director (RD) offered it.
As races and race weekends have evolved over the years, savvy RD’s, who were already spending a lot of time and money setting up their one day events, even if they held two races that day, realized that keeping it all set up one more day wasn’t that much more expensive and they could reap big rewards by running another race. And so the chance to race two triathlons in one weekend was born, or as we call it here in Santa Barbara, doing the double.
My first experience with anyone doing a double was up in Lake San Antonio for the Wildflower festival, back I think in ’96. I had raced the long course the year before as a relay and was returning to do the Olympic distance tri, staying at a friend’s house in nearby Lake Nacimiento, the better known of the two lakes. Mike Swan and Peter Park, two future Santa Barbara triathlon and endurance sport legends, had raced the long course on Saturday (I think Mike was the 1st amateur that day) and were going to race the Olympic distance race on Sunday. Without looking back at the WF race result newspaper they used to send out (pre-Internet in those days!), I’m sure they both beat my race time.
At the time I was in awe of anyone that would do a half Ironman (or equivalent, as the WF course is just a tad short) distance race, thinking them amazing and wondering if they weren’t just a little crazy? Having completed 15 half IM distance races since then, I still think it amazing that we all do it, and I no longer wonder if they were crazy, I know it!
Back here in Santa Barbara local Mom’s In Motion founders Jamie Allison and Dawn Schroeder reached out to the Santa Barbara Triathlon RD Joe Coito and asked if he wouldn’t host a women’s only triathlon. The thinking was that many of the women had not previously competed in any kind of endurance sport and that having to race with the men was intimidating. There was (is?) a popular women’s only Danskin racing series, so the idea wasn’t a new one, just something that Joe would have to fit into his schedule, which already contained a long course and sprint triathlon on Saturday.
He realized that adding another day of racing and hosting the women’s race on Sunday could bring in a whole different audience (and maybe make him some extra money), as well as providing a service to all the local women that wanted to race. I don’t know if any of the women that raced the long course that Saturday came back and raced the women’s only sprint tri on Sunday, but I do know that the following year the opportunity for men to do the double first appeared.
Joe saw the chance to expand the long course entry list if he moved the coed sprint tri from Saturday to Sunday too, freeing up all those space in T1/T2 for more long course athletes (who pay a higher race fee, I’m just saying), and then hold both sprint tris on Sunday. Ever since that year it has been a tradition for many local and some out-of-town athletes to compete on both days, or to have their significant others who maybe didn’t want to do the long course on Saturday compete in the sprint on Sunday, a win-win for everyone.
I personally didn’t embrace this idea for years, finally considering it when I turned 50, after seeing a fellow out-of-town age group competitor do it and do well in both races, so how hard could it be? When I finished the second race on Sunday (claiming first place in my AG both days, a weekend to remember!) I ran into the guy that inspired me and told him it was his fault I did the double. He looked at me and just said doing that was one of the hardest things he had ever done, and if I had asked him beforehand he would have warned me off of the idea. Wow, good thing I didn’t see him before I signed up, else I might not have ever raced and won on back-to-back days.
Since then the RD of the Malibu Tri, Michael Epstein, has added an Olympic distance tri on Saturday, before the “classic” tri on Sunday, so now southern Californians have another option to do two races in one weekend. The madness never ends, does it?
You might wonder how hard it actually is to race the second day, and I’ll tell you. It’s not like you hold back anything the first day to try to save it for the second race, that’s just not in most of our makeups as competitors. Instead you have to think about how to rest and recover after the first days race in order to be able to get up and race on day two. I suggest some kind of massage, hydration, and recovery drinks and food to help get right. Then on race day morning you really need to get in a long and easy warm up, and maybe even a short ride the day before to flush out the junk in your legs.
It might sound counter-productive to do a long warm up before doing another tri, but when you wake up stiff and sore from one race, you really need to get all the muscle groups warmed and ready to go. Nobody is expecting you to go out and kill the race the second day, we all only have so much energy to give, so basically you’re racing at a hard but not over-the-top pace in order to finish and have something left for the end of the run.
Would I ever consider doing the long course at Wildflower and doubling up with an Olympic distance race on Sunday? No “add your favorite expletive here” way, that’s just too much work and pain for one weekend, for me. But racing a sprint tri the next day, because you can and because it’s fun? Yeah, I think that’s doable and maybe you too will do the double at one of your local races and see how you fare the next day. Check your calendar, it may not be too late to sign up for that second race!
You know what they say, not guts no glory.