Sam Appleton is not alone; he is just one of many professional triathletes trying to make plans for the 2021 season in the midst of a global pandemic.
The ongoing uncertainty means the possibility of events being cancelled and territories ushering in new travel restrictions, all potentially at short notice.
Sam, now aged 30 and #15 in the latest PTO World Rankings, spoke at length to the Zwift Power Up Tri Podcast on a wide range of subjects, including the many challenges facing elite triathletes right now.
Keeping it simple
Not surprisingly the Australian believes flexibility is a mindset and attribute which he and his fellow stars will need in abundance during the coming months.
“It’s almost like take it as it comes for 2021 to me, you know, with the uncertainty of things.
“I think I did pretty well last year, just kind of taking things as it comes, like almost putting the racing on the back burner and just going back to why I love triathlon.
“That was to just train for the enjoyment of training and I’m still keeping fit, but I’m losing that kind of, you know, all that structure in my workouts, which can be mentally taxing.
“I’m almost just going back to the roots of, you know, I’m riding for the love of riding. I’m running for the love of running and swimming. Yeah. No-one really loves swimming, so we’ll just leave that one.
“I mean, I think I did a good job of that last year and I think 2021 might be similar. So yeah. I’ll just have to kind of take it as it comes. I think that’s, that’s going to be my mentality.”
Chasing full-distance success
One of the dilemmas facing Appleton in 2021 is where is his competitive focus lies, either middle or long-distance. The multiple 70.3 race winner is wary of making a choice he might come to regret.
“I’ve seen that before with other athletes and friends who switch their focus to IRONMAN.
“At the end of the day, I do this sport because I love it. But I also need to make a living. And when I can race every month and race well in 70.3, you know, that’s bringing in a constant stream of money. I could race eight 70.3 events a year at a pretty high level.
“The problem with IRONMAN distance, if you don’t nail it, you can you just get kind of lost in chasing that success. I think you can kind of lose a season or two chasing that IRONMAN result. That scares me a little bit, to be honest.
“IRONMAN is a long way, and it requires a lot of a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of mental input.
“When you do one or two or even three of them a year it can just become a vicious cycle of chasing that result and then losing out on other opportunities.”
Now for the World
Despite his trepidation about taking on the longer distance full-time, Sam is though keen to qualify and compete at the IRONMAN World Championship in Hawaii later this year.
“Kona just holds so much sway and so much history and hype surrounding the event. That’s something that appeals to me when planning my year out for 2021.
“In the back of my mind I had that little tickle of like, do I want to try and qualify for Kona this year provided you know, everything goes ahead.”
Despite the allure of Kona, Sam’s ambitions for 2021 also include success at the 70.3 World Championship in St George, Utah in September.
With the races so close together, the Australian knows it will be a challenge to perform at the top of his game in both events:
“You can’t be peaking at the beginning of the year, the middle of the year and the end of the year, especially with 70.3 Championship and Kona being quite close.
“I think St George is a course that can suit me. That’s definitely going to be a main target as well.”