The Racing Equation

We cannot always be podium finishers, especially within the readership of this blog or listeners of the podcast. Yes, we do have a few that finish high in the standings at each race, but the majority of us are middle of the pack to the back of the pack people, so measuring our success or failures based solely on where we finish is not reasonable.

So, how DO we gauge or successes?

That’s a big question, isn’t it?

There are some, even among the back of the pack groups, that feel starting a race, or just completing a race, is not enough to label it a success, and there might be a few more reading this that agree on that issue.

I am not one of them.

In the world of endurance sports the method by which you can gauge your successes, at least in the beginning, should be based more on an internal measurement than an external one. What I mean to say is that your success should be based on what YOU are capable of and the manner and effort by which you train or race. Only YOU know the effort you have given correct?

Let’s be honest…

You know when you have not trained enough for a race or event. You also know when you have not given 100% of yourself during the race. You may not admit to it openly, but you know it in your head. Personally, I have no trouble admitting when I have not given my all. I am VERY self-aware in this area. This has normally been met with graciousness from people, but on occasion, it has been met with scorn. I can’t let that deter me. Everyone has detractors; someone that doesn’t see what they’re doing as healthy or useful.

So, the bottom line here is that when you are racing and training, the only person you should be competing against is yourself, your history, your previous best effort or time. That is ALL that matters in our world.

But IS there an equation? A Race Equation?

I think there is, and it was pointed out to me by a long time listener, reader, and friend, and occasional co-host.

DFL > DNF > DNS

There it is, plain and simple, but let’s break it down:

DFL = Dead F***G Last

I have been here many times, and though some think I am OK with it, I am NEVER OK with it. I accept it, especially if I know I have given everything I had at that moment, but no one likes being last. Being last sucks. It’s soul-draining. And it too easily becomes a habit.

DNF = Did Not Finish

Just a step below a DFL is the dreaded DNF. It means you toed the line, started with the pack, and then for whatever reason you were not able to finish the course. Most of the time this is due to a timed cut-off that you could not make, but there are times where you get injured, overheat, sick, etc. that also causes you to call it a day. Pulling yourself out of a race is a hard decision. It’s a fleeting thought on some days, but one you can push aside, except for that one day where the mind and/or the body just isn’t cooperating. When I started this in 2010 I took great pride in the fact that I had never had a DNF. Every race that I started I had finished. Then came Disney in 2014. A race I was not ready to run due to an injury, but one that I was determined to start. The balloon ladies caught me at mile 8.2 and I got on the bus and rode back to the start. I still was handed a medal, which I did not keep, and was deeply disappointed in myself, but I could live with it because I know I was not prepared and it was the result I had expected.

Which leads us to the final, and bottom, rung.

DNS = Did Not Start

Before I start on this one, let me be clear. There are MANY times that pulling out of an event is warranted. Injury, emergencies, etc. come to mind immediately. A DNS is a VERY hard decision. It’s not about the money you have already paid or the hours of training you have put in leading up to the event, but about the admission of defeat, and the knowledge that, for whatever reason, you could not even attempt it for fear of further injury. The decision to take a DNS is not one that is taken lightly. I have had a few, and they were never easy decisions. What amazed me most was in 2017 at Infinitus was my decision to NOT take a DNS and attempt the event knowing that due to injury and under training I had a serious chance of both not finishing AND getting further injured, and how a couple of people looked at that decision as a failure, telling me that I not have tried at all. I don’t get that mentality. I’ll be honest and say that the thought of not traveling and attempting that event was very close to becoming a DNS, but I went and tried, and had the result I thought I would. A DNS is a horrible thing to endure because it will weigh on your mind for a long time. In my case, two years because I am traveling back there in 4 months to try it again. Not the same distance, but I have to complete this race.

So remember, we all have goals and ambitions, but the race equation is different for all of us.

5 Tips to Speed Up Transitions

Everyone knows how to train for a triathlon very early on; get in the water as much as possible to increase comfort, ride as much as you can, run off the bike every training session, and on and on, but one piece that can make or break a race is the shortest of them all; the transition. Some people you can see fly through a transition with minimal time spent, and other (me included) struggle to go from one discipline to another quickly. Two 5:00 transition times adds 10:00 to your race, which is HUGE, so learning to get in and out as fast as possible can make a lot of difference in a race result.

Here are a quick 5 tips to makes this process faster, all coming from my first-hand experience.

Have as Little As Possible in Transition

It is a normal right of passage in triathlon from newbie to a seasoned athlete that your transition area shrinks. When you first start out you’re so worried about forgetting something that you bring everything. I have seen brushes, combs, battery operated hair dryers, etc. Once you start learning the amount you bring in starts to dwindle down. The bottom line is that you should only have what you absolutely need and nothing more. When you leave the area to head to the water the only thing left on your mat should be bike shoes, your helmet, glasses/sunglasses (if needed), running shoes, socks, hat, your bib, and maybe on course nutrition and/or water (depending on the distance racing). Everything else is extra stuff to worry about. Leave it in the car.

NO Clothing Changes

Especially after the swim. Ever try to put a tight bike jersey on, or tri top, when you are wet? Takes forever. Don’t do it. Full gear should be on your body in the swim. If you’re using a wetsuit it should be on you underneath. In a PINCH you can probably get away with changing your top before the run portion, but even that takes time. Seconds build to minutes in the blink of an eye.

Speed Laces and Powder

Sounds like a good buddy cop movie title, but a simple change in set up can go a long way. Tieing your shoes takes time. Get a set of speed laces (there are many brands) and learn to use them on your shoes. Some people don’t like them, but I swear by them. I even use them in normal road running events. Another trick it to douse the inside of shows with baby powder when you’re setting up. Your feet will slide right in even if wet, and the powder also helps with blisters if you have issues there.

Preset Items on Bike and Use the Bib

The transition from swim to bike is often the longer of the two, so anything you can do to get on the bike fast helps. Put your bottles ON the bike and put your bib on now. I put my bib over my saddle, so when I come into T1 I grab my helmet, glasses, then put on the bib and flip number to the back, then my shoes, grab my bike and go. When you come into T2, rack bike, shoes off and on, helmet off, hat on, start moving to the course and flip the race number to the front.

And finally … Practice the Plan

You cannot get good at something without practice. It’s the same with transitions. when doing brick training try to set it up as you would a race. Move as quickly from one thing (the bike) to the next (the run) in the same way you will at the event. Too often when brick training we take our time racking bike, locking it, getting some water, changing shoes, etc. It works for that moment, but as with everything else, you will race as your practice.