I’m in the ‘lucky’ position that I can probably qualify for most of my target ETU/ITU races without having to worry too much. At the same time I tend to train a lot and compete a little; so I fairly carefully plan HOW I am going to qualify, just in case. Similarly a few of the guys I coach are aiming to do similar things and so an occasional bit of encouragement from me to do a bit of research usually works wonders.
So how do you plan to qualify?
First you need to determine the popularity of your Age Group and your event. I’ve chosen to look at the ETU Age Group Sprint Tri for Geneva 2015 (it’s now Jul 2014). Couple of reasons: at the time of writing qualification is NOT quite complete; a sprint event is popular; a tri event is popular; an ETU event has a lower general standard (120%); an ETU often has a lower standard of ‘best qualifier’.
So if you’re not the world’s best (or Europe’s best) triathlete AND you really want a ‘competed-for-your-country’ T-shirt (read: expensive tri-suit and related holiday) then you aim for the European ETU event. Right?
Wrong! Take a look at the image on the left showing the FINAL qualification state for the ITU Worlds Sprint Tri 2014 champs in Edmonton. With 20 spaces in each group ALL YOU HAVE TO DO LADIES IS HIT THE 115% TIME. Simple (!). Well simple enough to make you just worry about your training and finding the money to go. The situation is essentially the same with the gents. By the time people have withdrawn everyone gets a place. So if the ITU/World final is a long way away and expensive to get to then all you have to do is hit the time! Sometimes this can be easier as some good guys whose winners’ times might cause you a problem simply won’t be trying to compete as well. The problem here is that the Worlds qualifier often can be a joint ETU/ITU qualifier (eg Rother 2014 Sprint) or it can be a National Championship (eg Nottingham 2014 Sprint).
Perversely National Championships can often have a higher overall average standard than the British contingent that go to the ETU/ITU events themselves. Which basically boils down to the travelling distance involved for many people!
So next you have to consider the vagaries of your particular age group. for many people, going up an AG makes it much easier to qualify.
Take a look at the image on the (top-) right showing males trying to qualify for the European ETU. In reality if you are aged 35 to 55 then you will probably have to a achieve better time the qualifying time of 120% to get a rolldown place – EVEN TAKING INTO ACCOUNT PEOPLE WHO DROP OUT. Geneva is MUCH easier to get to than Edmonton (Canada) and obviously any other future European event is going to be within ‘extended driving distance’.
For completeness the female ETU chart is shown to the right below the male.
The winning Q1 times in the ETU qualifiers generally tend not to be as good as the ITU qualifiers. But that is not always true.
Lower winning times in your AG naturally mean that there can be (and in the case of Geneva 2015 IS) a bit of a %age bun fight going on. IE the qualifier’s winning time is much closer to yours. But that’s the same situation for LOTS of people; so fractions of a percent make a difference and that sprint finish, whilst it might not gain you a place in the actual race, might just put you ahead of someone from the other 2 qualifying races for a rolldown slot.
Many of the Geneva rolldown places will require 105% or better to get a place on the first tranche of rolldown places in September 2014.
So how do you choose a race where the winner’s time is going to be low. Well that’s the secret for those looking for a rolldown place. You have to try to chose a race that has some degree of obscurity – so maybe NOT a national championship (often national champs are qualifiers), maybe NOT one that is close to London, maybe one that IS in the sea, maybe one that is in Scotland, maybe one that has a hilly bike or run course. Anything that might play to your strengths but more importantly to the weaknesses of others. That really hilly bike course might put 5 people off, 2 of whom would otherwise have beaten you.
You can check start lists of races as race day approaches. Some people plan WELL in advance, nicely telling you of their intent to compete. Check the BTF website and the organisers website and use triathlon.org to look at their past performances. Then again, others like me, leave it until the last minute because we’re a bit disorganised and don’t want to signal our intentions and (crazily) run the risk of the qualifying race being full up and so unable to enter (that nearly happened to me once but the kind event organiser made an exception!). Never do that !
Often it’s best to go for the first qualifier (especially in duathlon) when it could be a bit colder or when people haven’t quite got their lives sorted out yet. Not everyone. Just some people. Play the percentage game. Or think about your levels, maybe go for the last one if you need to boost your fitness to a realistic place beyond where it is now – so an end of season October duathlon qualifier rather than a february start of season qualifier.
Another consideration if you go for the ‘easier’ worlds route; you might wonder where the next year event will be (they’re usually announced WELL in advance). It almost certainly will change from continent to continent from one year to the next. Also there’s a good chance that the year after an Olympics the ITU event will be in the same country as the Olympics the previous year eg Brazil 2017 is likely.
The harder (!) Euros might get EVEN harder if they are very close to the UK like in Northern France or Hyde Park. Although when they were in Limerick (Duathlon) they weren’t so popular.
This can all involve lots of spreadsheets and complicated cross referencing tools. Or you could just train a bit harder.
Anyway there are no hard and fast rules but these are some things you might want to consider (worry about). But, seriously, just train harder.