The quick and dirty answer for triathletes is – NO.
Racing yourself into shape sounds easy enough, but as triathletes it’s a very hard thing to accomplish. Cyclists can race themselves into shape very effectively, simply by racing multi-day races, racing both days of the weekend – week after week, or by doing weekday evening criteriums and time-trials. Triathletes simply do not have the luxury of tackling that many races back to back, which is essentially what’s required for this strategy to work effectively. For the most part we’re restricted to one-day races, typically only on the weekends. By trying to race too much, say every week or even every couple weeks, you’ll never (rarely) be able to properly commit to a block of consistent training.
The only way triathletes can conceivably race themselves into shape is if they wholeheartedly commit to racing tired: No taper, no extended recovery period. Use a race as training, and nothing but. However, with very few races in a triathlete’s season, this is very hard to do. We all want to perform every time we hit that starting line, and there will always be people with fresh legs to race against. Active cyclists can hit the starting line 60-80 times in a year, allowing for high quality training races which can give a solid boost to fitness. Triathletes simply do not have this luxury.
So, as we hit 2012 this weekend, plan your races well and don’t forget that consistent training blocks are the key to improvement. HAPPY NEW YEAR!