Top ten ways to DNF at your next race...or classic mistakes to avoid in 2010 part 2
Posted Jan 11 2010 7:00am
my never-ending quest to help you avoid all of my painful, embarrassing
and hard earned lessons, here are the Top 5 Ways to DNF at your next
race or classic mistakes to avoid in 2010.
Now keep in mind that I have attended the University of Suckology
and that I do have a PHD in the many and various disciplines that it
takes to really blow up during a race.
So please, before you try this at home, I suggest that you consult
your local community college and look into at least the rudimentary
course work needed to start the long road to my level of expertise.
5. Under Training
This is a discipline that I tend to excel at as race day nears. Just
like the Cheetah of the African Serengeti, I like to rely on muscle
memory to get me through a race. Please note that I have a very long
and exceptional muscle memory. This means that sometimes I go days and
even weeks without training the run, bike or swim. So on race day as
I’m waiting for the swim to start I’m left relying on that one long
workout that I did several weeks ago to get me through the race.
Fortunately the results are, of course, predictable and I end up
walking the run. Which to a lot of you may seem like a bad thing but
until you’ve walked a few runs you don’t really know how much fun it
really is at the back of the bus…or in this case the back of the run.
While all of you speedy types are huffing and puffing to shave a second
here, or a tenth of second there, by not having to tie you shoes or
something equally crazy in transition, we back-packers (racers at the
back of the pack) are partying and whooping it up. Every back-packer
knows that during an Ironman the party begins at the start of the run
and ends very late into the night as we cross the line to all of you
speedy types' applause.
4. Over Training
Now while I have not actually majored in this discipline of race day
suckage, I have studied it in depth and I can tell you from firsthand
knowledge that this really is one of the worst ways to suck on race
day. The reason is obvious, not only have you done way way way too much
work before the race, but you get very little of the benefits of under
training. For instance athletes that over train tend to blow up (only
in their minds) during a race and never really enjoy the moving
Why…because they never get to the back of the pack.
They tend to miss their race goal by a minute or two, in which case
they never make it to the back of the pack. Or worse, they think
they’ll miss their goal by a minute of two and drop out of the race.
Believe me when I say that if you intend on using either of these two
methods in your next race it is always much more fun and more enjoyable
to under train than to over train.
3. Race Day Blues
A well known professional, once told a friend of mine, who today told
me this great bit of advice, which I will now pass it along to you.
Funny how the world works? Anyway here’s the advice.
You know that you always have some good and bad training days…so why do you expect your race days to be any different?
Somehow I tend to think that just because I did all this training, and
tapering, and preparing for the race that it will all come together
like magic. But just like any training day, race day may dawn on the
wrong side of the bed. In other words, the race could all be a huge
train wreck and worse yet it may all be out of my control.
Bad weather, flat tires, equipment failure, accidents, the body’s
natural rhythm, lack of sleep and even the common cold have led to
terrific feats of race day suckage...and all of them completely out of
my control. Just like training days, race days come in many flavors and
some are so sour that you are just bound to suck.
There are two types of triathletes in the world; those who have been
injured, and those who will be injured. It is a simple fact of
triathlon life that if you train and race long enough you will get
injured. It could be something as common as a strain, sprain or blister
or something a bit more unusual like pink eye, broken collar bone or
BTW: Two of my friends are currently out with a broken collar bone and
broken shoulder from different bike accidents while training. If your
injury is less severe you’ll tend to want to race anyway (race injured)
and that is the number two way to suck at your next race.
The good news is that unlike overtraining, racing injured is a free pass into the back-packers club where the party never ends.
Yes the number one way to really suck at your next race has nothing to
do with your body, but everything to do with your mind. It can be
summed up in various ways, but I like to call it professionalitis. It
usually occurs the second or third year into a triathlon race career.
It can be triggered by chance meeting with a professional triathlete or
exceptional race results, but the outcome is always the same. Before
you know it, you fancy yourself a professional triathlete.
Here are just a few of the warning signs:
You start to dress like a professional triathlete (logos, Cool-Max everything).
You have a subscription to both Inside Triathlon and Triathlete magazines.
You are a regular and contributing member of slowtwich.com.
You live, eat, and breathe triathlon (Cliff blocks became your favorite treat).
You know all of the Ironman races in North America and are planning on racing each one or have raced each one.
You enter the Kona lottery each year.
You have an Ironman tattoo.
All of your friends are triathletes or endurance athletes.
Your #1 goal in life becomes to qualify for Kona.
But the biggest warning sign is when racing and training triathlon
stops being fun and becomes work. Just like a professional you have now
made your passion your job, and nothing kills passion more than turning
it into work. Your entire life begins to revolve around your race
performance because, after all, this is how professionals measure
More importantly, your entire persona starts to depend on how you do at
your next race. It is no longer good enough to just finish the race.
Instead you need to show, place or better yet win your age-group
because that’s how you qualify for Kona.
But unfortunately the vast majority of us are not talented enough to be
professional triathletes and heaven knows that certainly includes me.
We can aspire to compete like professionals on race day but when we
change our expectations to include a personal best at every race, or
top ten finish in our age-group, or a Kona slot, we are almost always
guaranteed to suck at our next race. This is because we’ll never
perform up to our own unattainable professional expectations.
So next time you race don’t forget to savor the race moment…no matter
how fast or slow you go. You worked so very hard indeed (unless of
course you are like me and have incredible muscle memory) to just get
to this point so really enjoy it and HAVE FUN!
Roman Mica is a amateur Clydesdale triathlete who lives and races in
Boulder, Colorado and is the managing editor of everymantri.com and the
National Endurance Sports Examiner.