10 Do’s and Don’ts for Racing in Asia

10 Do’s and Don’ts for Racing in Asia

Asia boasts more and more multi-sport events each year, mainly due to its warm tropical climate, perfect for year round racing. Many of the events and venues are considered holiday destinations or ‘race-cations’, perfect for taking the family and a great post-race vacation.

However, with the good, comes some obstacles. Asia contains more than half the world’s population, a wide range in social classes, and very diverse cultures, many of which can be very foreign to Westerner’s. While some do have negative experiences, there are many who love to make the long-haul trip once or twice a year to enjoy unique and festive events!

Below are some of my top 10 do’s and don’ts for racing in Asia.

Top 10 DO tips:

  • Do join events that have been run for a few years and have good reviews.
  • Do make sure the logistics are simple and clear. Navigating and stringing voyages together in Asia can be difficult.
  • Do check the weather for you specific race, and see if you are willing to race in heavy humidity and heat, or risk racing in a tropical storm.
  • Do travel in a group to share the experience, feel safer and have more fun.
  • Do be cautious while riding or running out on the roads and with any object of value.
  • Do expect to see some unusual and interesting things before, during and after event.
  • Do be ready for a non-wetsuit swim and to know the whole course well.
  • Do explore the area after the race.
  • Do bring your own personal nutrition that you would use before and during the race. It may not be available locally.
  • Do have greater hygiene than usual. Wash your hands regularly and only drink bottled water. Avoid ice in your drinks.

Beautiful race starts in Asia

Top 10 DON’T tips:

  • Don’t arrive too early before the event, training can be treacherous and difficult. Particularly with the heat and often roads are too busy to train on.
  • Don’t organise too much in advance, just the basics. Locals have this “go with the flow” attitude and over organising might slow you down or set unrealistic expectations.
  • Don’t join first year events, there is ALWAYS problems.
  • Don’t look at last year’s results and think it was a “weak race” because of slow times, the races and weather are hard. Not many PR’s are set in Asian races.
  • Don’t expect the course to be safe and straight forward. This is part of the fun of racing in Asia!
  • Don’t rely too much on local volunteers and lower your expectations for the aid stations. Ensure you are self-reliant as much as possible during the race.
  • Don’t expect everything to start on time.
  • Don’t expect to find a Western meal easily or for cheap.
  • Don’t eat local food until AFTER the race.
  • Don’t expect the culture to adjust to your every personal needs or beliefs because you have money.

With that said above, typically in Asia you have 3 types of races. Below is some information about them, and their pros and cons:

The Island Race
Usually these are the best race venues, they have the nicest resorts, with the top beaches. The courses are usually loops and maybe hilly, as there are quite a few volcanoes in Asia.
One downside is that the travel can be lengthy and once on the island, prices can be expensive and/or options limited. Trying to rent a vehicle on the island is the surest way to get the most out of your trip, as well to get ready for the race. It will limit walking around, allow you to see more of the course, and also explore the Island post-race. Often these events are primarily attended by those who have travelled from abroad, local expats or wealthier locals. Like most islands, it’s generally more laid-back compared to the mainland.

The Race Near a Big City
These are usually are the most problem prone. Often the bike course can be complicated, narrow and technical due to road restrictions, or have very rough surfaces due to heavy vehicle traffic. The swim can be a bit dirty, or the run goes through some busy areas (Often with people still partying from the Saturday night!). They are typically very convenient to access for those travelling from overseas, are the most well attended and popular events. Usually they have plenty of low priced accommodation, no shortage of entertainment and great local food. This is where you will meet most of the local triathletes in the region and possible enjoy the most colourful after party, ever!

The Race in the Boondocks
These are usually the most memorable experiences, where you will get a true local and authentic atmosphere. Away from the crowds and tacky tourist areas, you will have the chance to see the real side of the particular country. While these might be a bit difficult to access, the prices for accommodation and food are usually low. Be ready to have lots of eyes on you, even be asked for a picture. The infrastructure might be a bit old and undeveloped, but it will have a relaxed vibe, and a possible area for retirement. The courses are often on the main roads, pretty simple and straight forward. Usually the local governments are heavily involved in these events.

Racing in Asia is becoming more and more popular, as new unique and well run races keep popping up. Although locally athlete talent is still developing, there are usually some locals that possess serious natural ability and have a home race advantage. Always remember that racing successfully in Asia requires the ability to adjust to unforeseen circumstances and make the most of the present situation. Asia might be some of the most difficult races in the world, where many amateur athletes have snagged an odd Kona slot or an unusual age-group win. But these races tend to suite the “steady Eddy” athlete, who don’t slow down under pressure and just keeps on trucking.

Mat O’Halloran is a Trisutto.com coach based in Asia.
Join Mat in Iskandar Puteri (Nusajaya), Malaysia in April for his Triathlon Camps

Trisutto.com online triathlon coaches are available to help improve your performance here.


Starting The Year Properly

Starting The Year Properly

How athletes start their year has a significant impact on their overall training consistency, longevity during the season and improvements from race to race. On the other hand, it can be the cause of lack of progress or poor durability.

The process can be very different from athlete to athlete. Based on their past experiences, weaknesses, goals for the season, etc. It’s critical to consider that some athletes train in cold climates at this time of year or are coming back from an off-season break or holidays.

Below are some tips to help those who might have problems putting together a good and complete season due to an improper start.

Making the Most Out of the Least

The popular saying “build your foundation in the off season” comes from the traditional pyramid training, made popular by coaches who trained high level athletes for very short distances. The reality is that triathletes should build the volume throughout the season. All the while focusing on consistently getting in quality workouts, emphasizing the specifics and mastering various skills. Then doing a higher frequency of workouts, but of shorter durations is a great way to stay healthy and improve quicker.

As a side note, quality workouts does not automatically mean “speed workouts”.

Doing too much volume too soon often leaves athletes tired and demotivated. All the while trying to go faster, later on, while the body has been trained to go slow. This is especially counterproductive for athletes who already have a good foundation, or who lack the ability to sustain a higher speed than their comfort zones allows them too.

An excellent objective as athletes go through the season, is to extend the efforts further, and making them more precise in intensity, as the important races get closer.

Mastering the Micro Adjustments

The start of the year is the best time to adjust your bio-mechanics, improve technical aspects and get new equipment. It will allow the athlete more time to get accustom. This only makes sense to avoid doing these things too close to races, unless of an obvious problem.

In the real world, in and out of sport, when trying out new versions, it requires constant practice all the way to the end of that given process. Absorbing and learning from what has been effective, or not effective in the previous cycle, is key to long term improvements. Using each block or season as a stepping stone, before the next micro adjustments.

Too often, athletes get impatient and fail to master what they have recently been working on. Many have a constant mentality to always be improving. While this might sound logical at first, the tried, tested and trued approaches, require athletes to repeat their small adjustments a lot, master them, before trying to build off of them again.

Modulating the Intensity

Being the best that you can be at the given distance you are preparing for, is not as simple as training as much as you can at your desired race intensity or work rate. It’s imperative to also train below and above your desired race pace.

The intensity can be altered with resistance or when done over challenging terrain. For triathletes, running over hills to engage more muscle groups, cycling with bigger gears to develop a better application of effort and swimming with various swim toys to emphasize certain parts of the stroke. These previous points, will give the much needed support, when doing race pace efforts. It also allows athletes to work with a different range of motion, develop better all-around skills and feel much better when they are moving along without this resistance.

Putting emphasis on speed changes and accelerations, early in the year, will help to develop better economy for the controlled and sustained efforts. There is not one mix for all athlete. But it’s critical that coaches read their athletes, prescribe the appropriate training blend and encourage to them to have the right mind-set, when approaching with new challenges.


The soundest objective for each new season should be to improve on the previous, not try to do everything new. Then, a big priority, not just for athletes, but for most humans, is to stay healthy. A major aspect of it, is to limit the accumulation of excessive training fatigue too early, all the while dealing with day to day stress, coming from typical responsibilities such as: family, work or social life.

Many athletes have early season races, so instead of classifying them as “A, B or C” events, best to divide them into “train through events” and “more sharpening up events” with the goal to always do your best with the given circumstances.

In the end, how you set the theme for the year, and how much room for growth there is, will be the difference, between stagnation or breakthroughs.

Have a great 2017 season!

Mat O’Halloran is a Trisutto.com coach available to help improve your performance.