The Ten Commandments of Triathlon Racing
by Chris Hague
I stood upon the mountain as the rain beat upon my bearded face and lightning illuminated the stormy night sky. When suddenly the clouds parted, and my coach descended through the storm upon the mountain. “Chris, take these tablets and hold them sacred. Follow them and you shall obtain success, break them and feel the wrath of the triathlon Gods.” She then ascended back into the sky where she rejoined the pantheon of coaches, trainers and, racers. I looked down upon the two great tablets that she had given to me and inscribed upon them were the ten commandments of racing…
Ok so it did not happen exactly like that, but over the years, I have developed a set of my own rules of racing. Although they are mostly self imposed, I still follow them religiously because I know that if I break them then I will be penalized either in time, fitness, or place. Like Moses, I have come down from the mountain, to share them with the chosen people:
1. Thou shall follow the Race director’s rules and regulations- This one is obvious. Make sure you know them by heart before the race and always check with the race director about the specifics. Usually, there are rules about drafting, helmets, passing on the bike, wearing race numbers—all of which are aimed at keeping you and others safe so that you can live to race another day.
2. Honor thy training plan- In the week leading up to the race, follow your training plan. While you may feel that you are not doing enough or should be doing more, remember that there is not much you can do to improve your race performance but there is a lot you can do to hurt it. Sneaking in extra workouts because you do not feel prepared will only hurt you come race day.
3. Thou shall not covet other’s gear: When I arrive at T1, I am amazed and jealous at all the gorgeous bikes, which makes my trusty bike look like an old, rusty beach cruiser. However, I have to remind myself that while gear may help an athlete, it is the engine that makes her. No bike, Zipp wheel, Garmin, aero helmet, or speed suit will compensate for a lack of training or drive to win.
4. Your race plan shall not be the only race plan: No matter how detailed race plans are, they are still just plans and, therefore, rarely conform with reality. Races rarely go as well as you expect, so you need to be open to changing the plan to meet changing conditions. If the weather is hotter than expect, you may need to drink more water. If your heart rate is through the roof but your wattage is low, then you
obviously need to listen to your body and change your plan.
5. Thou shall always have a backup plan- You never know what will happen out on the race course, so have a back up plan in mind on what you should do. In the week leading up to the race, think about what you will do if your goggles get kicked off in the first 150 meters or if you get a flat on the bike or you get a blister at mile 12. Think about what could happen, and know what you will do to either prevent it or overcome it when it happens.
6. Thou shall not go out too fast-If you let your prerace nerves get to you and you blast the first 500 meters of the swim, then you are going to suffer later on. Keep your pace under control at first and remember that you have a long day of racing before you. Anyone can swim a fast .3 miles but it is the other 70 miles that count.
7. Thou shall thank volunteers- These races would not be possible without the generosity and commitment of the volunteers, so take 2 seconds to thank them.
8. Thou shall respect recovery-You may feel awesome the day after a race, but rushing back into training right after a race can lead to burn out and injury later on in the season. Let your body and mind recover, enjoy a day or two off, and then resume training. For elite athletes, post race recovery is particularly important since the next race most likely is only a week or two away, so if they skimp on the recovery then they will weaken their next performance.
9. Thou shall not let results go to ones head: Regardless of how you did in the race, do not let it inflate or deflate your ego. If you had an awesome race, then relish that feeling and celebrate, but remember to remain humble. Conversely, if you had a pathetic race, it may get you down, but learn from it and see it as an opportunity for growth. Either way do not tie your self worth to your results; just doing this
sport and toeing the start line make you a winner.
10.Thou shall have fun- regardless of what your goals are, the main reason we do this crazy sport is to have fun. You have invested too much time, money, and effort, not to have fun.
Good luck in your next race and I hope that these rules help.
Chris Hague is the assistant coach for triswimcoach.com and competitive triathlete in both the half and full Ironman distances. For more, check out http://triswimcoachonline.com/tri/about/