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 back-packer party.
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 broken shoulder.
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 themselves.
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!