219 Mistakes Triathletes Make When Training And Racing Triathlons

  1. Getting Started
  2. Not getting started. There are countless wanna-be triathletes (I use that term kindly) sitting on their couch right now watching House of Cards. You can do it. Any reasonably healthy person can successfully train for and complete a triathlon. The reality is, few do.
  3. Not hiring a coach. The first, and most productive, action that I took when I decided I wanted to complete an Ironman was to Google “triathlon coach Athens Georgia”. This led to me signing up with one of the most bad-ass group of athletes I’ve ever met. My coach pushed me further than I could’ve pushed myself, and the experience of an experienced triathlete was invaluable in my training progress and mentality.
  4. Not having a training plan. Haphazard training is not training. If you’re the type to throw on sweatpants and walk outside and think, “Hmm, I think I’ll run about 3 miles today,” you’re in for a rude awakening. That may work for a few short runs a week, but it will never get you through a 20-mile run the day after a tough two-hour bike workout. Trust me. “I’m going to swim today” is not a plan. “I’m going to swim 10 sets of 200 yard repeats at a 1:50 pace, with 30 seconds rest between each one” is a plan. Remember, your strategy isn’t set in stone. Don’t get too caught up in paralysis by analysis at first. You are committing to a few workouts, not a life partner. As General Patton said, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”
  5. Not following your training plan. My triathlon group has a motto: Do Your Job. Are you supposed to run 12 miles after work? Run 12 miles after work. Are you supposed to get up at 5:00 a.m. and swim 4,500 yards? Get up at 5:00 a.m. and swim 4,500 yards. Once you get into that mentality, it actually becomes pretty easy. Check what’s on your calendar for today. And…you guessed it…Do Your Job.
  6. Not finding a local triathlon group.If you live in or near a city of reasonable size, there is most likely a triathlon group nearby composed of local triathletes who are experienced and knowledgeable. I’ve found that these athletes are virtually always happy to lend a hand or an ear to those who need help or just have a few questions. Don’t neglect this valuable resource. You can find a local group through the USAT’s Find A Club page, TriFind.com’s Find A Club page, MeetUp.com, or through a simple Google search.
  7. Not being excited. This is a big deal! Tell your friends and family. Tweet it. Post on Facebook. When I was training for my Ironman I created a small Facebook group and invited close friends and family to join to follow my training. I think they were happy to be kept in the loop of the daily grind of training for such a significant race, and it kept me motivated to Do My Job every day because I knew they would be looking for my nightly recap. It turned out to be immensely helpful in getting through the grind of a tough training plan.
  8. Picking A Race
  9. Never picking a race. I get it. It’s scary to point to a date on the calendar and think, “Yes, I’ll definitely be ready to complete this expensive race with incredibly intimidating distances by then.” But, personally, I know that I find it tough to work out day after day without some intimidating impetus hanging over my head. It really kicks you in the butt to know that in X weeks you’ll be performing an athletic endeavor in front of hundreds or thousands of people, whether you’re ready for it or not. It feels “safer” to wait until you’re in race condition to sign up for a race, but it’s not necessary, and sometimes not possible. Trust in yourself. Click the Register button.
  10. Picking the wrong race distance. This one is tough. The first race I ever signed up for was a full Ironman, 9 months away. At the time of registration I could run maybe three miles, and hadn’t swum or biked in 20+ years. I wouldn’t recommend anyone follow my footsteps in this regard, as my performance in the race was, understandably, among the bottom decile of athletes. But my goal wasn’t to podium, it was just to finish. Clearly assess your goals. Do you want to just say that you finished it? Or are you a “Compete Not Complete” type-A individual? I’ve written a page on choosing a race distance; go through it and make sure you understand each option. Be aware that picking a full Ironman unquestionably will give you braggin rights at happy hour, but it involves a commitment of at least 12-15 hours per week, and probably more. Any lesser distance is much more flexible for forgiving regarding life’s inevitable interruptions.
  11. Not picking the correct race category. I admit it. I’m a Clydesdale. I could tell you that I’m big-boned or muscular, but in reality I’m just a bit chubby. Luckily, many races offer “heavyweight” categories called Clydesdale (for men) and Athena (for women). Each race differs, but the cutoffs for these categories are generally over 200 or 220 lbs for Clydesdales and over 145 or 160 lbs for Athenas. Every triathlete knows that weight is almost directly correlated with race times, especially over long distances, and these categories give the lumpier of us the chance to stand on a podium. (As my training partner used to say: “I’m in shape…round is a shape.”) If you meet the cutoff for one of these categories and self-select that option on the registration page, you will get a “C” or “A” written on your calf during body marking instead of your age. While Ironman-branded races did away with these categories in 2008, it is common for smaller, local races to include them. While it’s technically possible for these races to require an actual weigh-in at check-in to make sure you meet the criteria, I have never been asked to do so and don’t know anyone who ever has.
  12. Not registering for USAT. If you’ve never done a triathlon before, you may be surprised to find that it’s not like running a local 5K where you can simply register with the race website. Triathlons (in the United States, at least) will require you to be a member of USA Triathlon, the national governing body for triathlons in the US. You can either pay $15 for a one-day pass which will be used on your race day, or you can pay an annual fee of $50 which can be used for unlimited races all year. If you initially purchase the one-day license and later want to upgrade to the full annual membership, your $15 will be credited towards the annual membership purchase. A USAT annual membership card will also get you discounts from certain USAT sponsors as well as a subscription to their quarterly publication. You can do the math yourself, but if you’re going to participate in more than a couple of races per year, it’s fiscally worth it to choose the annual membership option.
  13. Not checking historical race conditions and finishing times. It’s an undeniable fact that some races are tougher than others. If you want to PR, you can’t choose a race with a hilly bike course, or one that takes place in Tennessee in September’s heat. Most races have historical results posted online for all the years that the race has occurred. It may be worth your while to see how each matches up. Check the course maps. If you’re a poor swimmer, for example, you may not want to choose an ocean swim as your first triathlon, as these tend to be slower and tougher than indoor swims or lake swims.
  14. Not racing B & C races before an A race. The main race of a racing season is called your “A” race and is the number one priority on your training schedule. After that race is booked, you can then work backwards and book several “B” or “C” races, generally of shorter distances, to coincide with your training progression. These lower-priority races are highly recommended to simulate race day scenarios and gain experience with your race weekend sleep schedule, nutrition, fueling, transitions, clothing, and all the innumerable variables which you don’t want to leave to chance for your “A” race. You will still race hard and try to achieve your best times in these “B” and “C” races; the main logistical difference is that you will not taper as strongly for these lower-priority races because it would disrupt the training program for your main race. This means that your legs will probably not be as fresh for these races, and subsequently you will not perform at your peak capability. This is ok.
  15. Ignoring “race day magic”. Even weekend warriors are familiar with this phenomenon. The adrenaline of the race and the thrill of competition will drive you to go farther and faster than you did during training. Some estimates have placed this benefit at the ability to go 10% faster over a similar training workout, or up to 100% further when holding the same speed as a training workout.
  16. Not thinking about bike shipping. Woo boy. This didn’t even flit across my mind when I registered for an Ironman taking place across the country. Be aware that travelling for a triathlon is a much more laborious process than packing a pair of tennis shoes. I would highly recommend choosing a race within driving distance for your first “A” race. You will have much more gear to pack than you ever thought possible; my own triathlon packing checklist pushes 50 items (see Appendix A). Additionally, flying with a bike is, to put it simply, an enormous headache. I paid Delta $300 each way for the privilege of bringing my bicycle on the plane with me. In addition to that cost – which for the round trip totaled the price I paid for my bike – I had to dissemble the bike and pack it into a borrowed hard bike case, then reassemble it the day before the race without my trusty neighborhood bike shop to fall back on in the event that I screwed something up.
  17. Not giving correct estimated swimming pace. When registering for a triathlon, many races will ask you to provide an estimated swimming pace for a swim of that distance, usually in minutes per hundred yards. This can be tough to guess for a race many months away, but try to be as accurate as possible.
    This allows the race directors to properly seed the ordering of the athlete waves, so that the pros aren’t stuck behind a novice doing the backstroke.
  18. General Training
  19. Forgetting the 80/20 rule. This training rule (not to be mistaken with the Pareto principle) is a well-known guideline which states approximately 80% of your training should be done at low intensities, and the other 20% at moderate to high intensities. Athletes who ignore this often find their workout weeks shifting to more of a 50/50 ratio, leading to fatigue and lack of proper recovery. For more information check out 80/20 Running: Run Stronger and Race Faster By Training Slower by Matt Fitzgerald.
  20. Not having a training log / tracking progress. Logging your workouts is required. Full stop. I use software called Training Peaks which serves double duty as my training log and also to automatically share with my coach so he is notified when I’ve completed a workout. After a bad day when you struggled through a tough workout on tired legs, you can look back through your log at what you were doing six months ago and marvel at how far you’ve come.
  21. Not having an accountability partner. As a corollary to the above rule, I found it incredible helpful and motivating to know that, at the end of the day, my coach was going to look at my training log and give me a simple “Good job” or “How did you feel today?” Knowing that I was accountable to someone made it impossible to skip a workout. Pick someone who will hold you to your training plan and yell at you when you skip a day. While my wife is a great source of support during my training, she is too kind-hearted to serve this role. I know if I lay in bed and moan that I’m too sore to do my long run today, she will give in and make me chicken soup. This is not what you need. You need someone who will kick your ass if you don’t do your job. In the absence of a dedicated coach or training partner, longtime friends and older siblings tend to relish this role.
  22. Getting overwhelmed. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Focus on what you have to do today to reach your training goals, not that scary 5-hour bike ride penciled in for next month. If you have a proper training plan and follow it, it will prepare you for these distances, and they won’t look as daunting when the day actually comes.
  23. Ramping up too quickly. A general rule of thumb for running and cycling is that you shouldn’t increase your total weekly mileage by more than 10% per week. This is not a hard-and-fast rule, and there are certainly alternatives, but just remember that you have to give your body time to adapt and recover from the stress of triathlon training. This takes time. Don’t be impatient; take it slow and steady.
  24. Not working on skills. While triathlons are undoubtedly a test of fitness, they are a test of skills as well. This comes more into play for swimming and cycling, but there are correct and incorrect ways of running as well.
  25. Not scheduling periodization. Periodization sounds scary and complicated as a training scheduling process. But Joe Friel, one of the most-respected triathlon coaches out there, outlines it this way: Prep, Base, Build, Peak, Race, Transition. Its main tenant is that you can’t be in race shape all the time. It’s just not possible, and it will lead to physical and mental burnout. Because of this, your race year (or other period) should be broken up into phases that lead you to peak fitness just as your A race comes around. You will start with preparing your body for the rigors ahead, as well as building your fitness with a plan leaning towards longer, lower-intensity workouts. As your race approaches, your workouts will become more race-like in both duration and intensity (peaking). After the race, a transition period is needed to recover physically and mentally.
  26. Always training alone. I admit it. I’m a loner trainer. I like the solitude of a long run in the early morning, when I can let my mind wonder. However, I’ve never regretted accepting an invite to swim, bike, or run with other athletes from my local group. If you can work in at least one or two group workouts a month, you almost certainly will have fun, and may even learn a thing or two.
  27. Training too hard. I’ve heard the rule-of-thumb that when you’re finished with a workout, you should feel as if you could, if completely necessary,
    do it all again. I feel like that may be a bit too limiting (I’m sure I couldn’t do another 100 mile bike ride after just completing one), but it’s a good idea to get into that mindset. For instance, if you’re doing an interval workout, you should feel as if you have at least a few more intervals in you when you’re done. You shouldn’t feel completely exhausted and beat when you finish each workout.
  28. Trying to beat your last time. Oh man, athletes everywhere know this one. Our training usually falls into a pattern of familiar workouts – a 4-mile loop around your neighborhood park or a handful of 800 meter intervals at the local track. This familiarity leads to an obsession with the times you post week-in and week-out on these well-known routes. It’s exciting to see your times drop, but it should never be the main goal of your workout. Pushing yourself too hard to take 10 seconds off every week is counterproductive and will lead to burnout. Don’t race yourself in training. This isn’t the time to PR.
  29. Obsessing over times. In addition to the above mistake, we can add over-thinking times in general to this list. Trust the process. If you’re doing what you should be doing, you will get faster, but it’s rarely a straight line.
  30. Not wearing sunscreen. Listen to your mom. As triathletes we spend lots of time outdoors, and sun is the primary cause of skin cancer. Don’t be a statistic. Use waterproof sunscreen and reapply on long outdoor workouts as needed.
  31. Not having a GPS watch. It’s possible to train for a triathlon without using a GPS watch, but why would you? The right watch will let you track your laps and pace in an indoor pool, and distance and pace on outdoor swims, bikes, and runs. I use the Garmin Forerunner 920, which can be had for about $300. The killer app on this model is bluetooth connectivity to my phone which uploads my workouts automatically once I’m finished, and my phone sends them alone to my TrainingPeaks website so my coach can see my performance. Easy peasy.
  32. Believing Garmin’s estimated calories. If I had a dime for every 10,000 calorie workout my watch said I’ve done, I could’ve paid for it several times. There are several online resources which estimate caloric expenditure, and my Garmin’s caloric burn estimations are typically 50% to 100% over their calculations. While it’s great to look down at the end of a 100 mile bike ride and see a notification that I just burned a crapton of calories, I know the actual number is perhaps half of that.
  33. Making up missed workouts. We get it. Life happens. The general rule of thumb is that if you have to miss one or two workouts in a row, just chalk those up at a loss and resume your normally scheduled training when you can. If it’s more than that you may have to back down a bit when you return, but don’t do two-a-days in order to “make up” a lost workout. The only possible exception I can see for this is a swim workout, which can generally be added to another run or bike day without negatively stressing your body too much.
  34. Not moving after a workout. I know, you’re tired after your workout and just want to sit down and watch The Real Housewives of Boone County Trailer Park. Try to walk a bit, stretch a bit, or do some air squats or other body-weight exercises to cool down. If you go right from a high-intensity VO2 bike workout onto the couch, you’ll stiffen up.
  35. Pacing. You will get better at pacing as you gain more training experience, but you have to pay attention to it. Without looking at your watch, you should be able to guess within 10 seconds or so of your swim pace (as measured in minutes per 100-yards), within 15 seconds or so of your run pace (minutes per mile), and ideally within about 1-2 miles per hour of your biking pace. Knowing how each pace feels will be invaluable on race day to keep you at the speed you want to be.
  36. Not doing HIIT. HIIT (high-intensity interval training) is a training technique of a series of all-out, 100% efforts for very short intervals of 10 to 30 seconds. Some research places their race-day benefits at a 3-6% speed-up, an enormous amount in most triathlete’s eyes. They’re also a great option on a day when you are crunched for time The downside? They will hurt. Read HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training Explained or Google “hiit triathlon workout” for more information.
  37. Ignoring heart rate or perceived exertion. Training times and paces are great, but don’t forget that some days you will be…slow. Whether it’s from a lack of sleep, dehydration, work stress, or something else going on in your life, don’t try to always hit a set pace in your training. Some days a 9 minute-mile will feel like an 8-minute mile, and you should acknowledge that and rely on your perceived exertion rather than being a slave to your watch.
  38. Pushing through an injury. You’re probably going to get hurt at some point. Maybe bad, maybe not. But many overuse injuries can propagate for weeks and months if you don’t back off and give them time to heal. While it’s great to Do Your Job, generally if the injury is bad enough to alter your motion (for instance favoring one knee over another when running, don’t feel like you have to finish your 10-mile run just because it’s written on your calendar.
    Be smart.
  39. Not listening to your body. This goes hand-in-hand with the rule above. While tracking paces and heart-rate can be great pieces of information,
  40. Not getting enough sleep. I’ve written a full article about the need for proper sleep, and you’ve heard it all before. Just know that the stresses of triathlon training will necessarily mean that you need more sleep than you did in your pre-training days, and you must account for this.
  41. Disorganization. As you will be working out four or more days a week, it’s important to have a designated space where you keep all of your training gear so you don’t have to hunt it down every day. Keep all your gear together. If you drive your car to any of your outdoor runs or rides, you don’t want to pull up and realize you forgot your sunglasses or bike gloves. If you have a swim bag, bike bag, and run bag, you can quickly grab the one that you need for the day’s workout and be assured that you have everything you need.
  42. Smells. One thing I discovered very quickly is that my running shoes, biking helmet, and bike shoes smell. Bad. I initially stored my running shoes in the closet in my bedroom, but quickly got tired of being hit with a boy’s locker room smell every time I walked into my room. I subsequently decided to keep most of my gear in the separate small shed which doubled as my indoor bike riding cave. If your biking or running shoes smell really bad, a tablespoon of baking soda poured into them after a workout will absorb much of the smell. There are also deodorizer balls you can buy to place in them after use which purport to absorb the smell.
  43. Swim Training
  44. Not knowing how to swim. You wouldn’t think this would need to be addressed. You would be wrong. The first triathlon I ever did was a sprint tri with a 400-meter swim in an Olympic pool – 8 lengths. One poor girl apparently attempted to tough her way through the swim without training. I’m sure she thought to herself “Oh, it’s only 400 meters, I can swim,” while not honestly assessing the fact that “knowing how to avoid drowning” is not the same as “knowing how to swim.” Everyone watched this girl hold onto the floating pool lanes while slowly sidestroking each length. In the end it took her over 23 minutes to complete what should’ve been an 8 minute swim, and by the end she appeared totally exhausted. I’ve been around lakes and pools my whole life, but when I first started swim training I could barely make it 25 yards before stopping to gasp for air. It was a humbling experience. Progression will come quickly, but you must do some sort of swim training, even if you think you know how to swim.
  45. Swimming with your head up. This is the number one mistake I see novice swimmers make. Some even eschew goggles and attempt to keep their eyes forward and above water! This activity forces your legs and hips down, acting as an immense dragging force. Your head must be down – keep your eyes pointed at the bottom of the pool.
  46. Keeping the torso pointed straight down. You should rotate so that your belly button points towards the side wall of the pool at the end of each stroke.
  47. Kicking from the knee. Kick from the hip. Your legs should stay relatively straight, with flexible ankles.
  48. Keeping your feet in dorsiflexsion while swimming. Know that flexible ankle thing that I just mentioned? It’s important. Keeping your feet in dorsiflextion (with toes pulled towards the knees as in a standing position), causes a huge amount of drag. Point those toes away from your body.
  49. Ignoring stroke efficiency and form. Watch videos on YouTube, or even get your coach to jump in the pool with you and watch as you swim. The proper freestyle swimming motion is not completely intuitive, and takes more work to get correct and efficient than cycling or running.
  50. Too much focus on form. Now that I just told you to focus on your form, keep in mind that many swimming books and videos are hyper-focused on pool swimming and wringing every bit of efficiency out of a lap. Triathlons are generally more hectic and less pristine, especially those that have open water swims in a lake or ocean. The Your position of being in the middle of hundreds of splashing, grabbing athletes will necessarily require that you take shorter, choppier strokes than the “ideal” pool stroke would be. This is ok.
  51. Not using a swim/lap watch. Swimming in a pool can be monotonous, and it’s very easy to lose track of what you’ve done so far. Was that lap 34 or 35?
    Use a training watch with am automatic swimming lap counter and never worry about this issue again. Be ware that these counters can be finicky. Mine requires me to touch the wall with the hand of the arm I’m wearing it on in order to properly count. Good thing I don’t do flip turns.
  52. Not using goggle anti-fog. Goggles will fog – it’s what they do. The old swimmer’s trick of spitting in them and rubbing it in before usage is crude but effective. There are also several antifog products available online. I use “Jaws Quick Spit Antifog Spray” personally, but there are other, similar options. Just spray them inside, rub it in, and rinse off before each use.
  53. Not washing swimsuit after a pool use. The chlorine in a pool can damage your suit and cause the fabric to wear out eventually. Be sure to rinse off your suit with fresh water
    after doing a pool workout.
  54. Wearing wrong type of swim suit. Speaking of swim suits: men, please don’t wear the baggy trunks that you use to lay on the beach in Hilton Head. There’s a reason that the governing body of swimming has banned certain suits developed by NASA. They worked too well. Men should wear jammers to best combat water resistance.
  55. Not using swim accessories. There are a plethora of swim training products out there such as paddles, pull buoys, and kickboards. Each of these will allow you to work on a specific aspect of your form. If you are just starting out, you may want to train with a snorkel so that you can focus on form without worrying about turning your head to breathe at the same time. All these products can be useful but they are by no means a substitute for doing lap after lap of basic, unassisted, freestyle swimming.
  56. Not drinking enough in the pool. Drink! Sometimes athletes forget to drink during long swim workouts, perhaps because they are surrounded by water and unaware of how dehydrated they’re getting. Set a water bottle on the edge of the pool and take a few sips every time you stop for a breather. And…I don’t have to say this, do I?…don’t pee in the pool.
  57. Only breathing on one side. This may be fine in a pool setting, but when doing many open-water swims it’s beneficial to be able to breathe in on either side. If you’re swimming along a shoreline, you will normally want to breathe in on the side closest to land for easier sighting.
  58. Not swimming OWS. If you are going to compete in a triathlon with an open-water swim, it’s imperative that you do at least a half-dozen open water swims beforehand to prepare yourself for the challenges that they entail.
  59. Not practicing in a wetsuit. If you’re doing a triathlon that will be wetsuit legal, open water training swums are a great opportunity to break in and test out your wetsuit. It is definitely a unique feeling, and you don’t want race day morning to be the first time you pull it on.
  60. Struggling to get your wetsuit on. Wetsuits are tight! If you’re struffling to get it over your feet and ankles, put two plastic grocery bags over your feet to allow it to slide on more easily.
  61. Letting your wetsuit tear up your neck. Another issue with wetsuits is that they can chafe the side of your neck from when you turn to breathe. When wearing a wetsuit for a long period of time, you may want to use an anti-chafing substance like Bodyglide around the neck collar, under your arms, or anywhere else where the suit rubs your body. During my first half-Ironman I did not take this advice and rubbed the right side of my neck extremely raw against the collar from where I turned my neck to breathe while swimming. If Bodyglide isn’t enough, you can try a short length of kinesio tape, or, in a pinch, duct tape. If you do apply an anti-chafing substance, be sure to use one specifically made for triathletes. Vaseline (petroleum jelly) can degrade the wetsuit material.
  62. Not rinsing suit off after salt-water swim. If you wear the suit in salt water, be sure to rinse it with fresh water after your swim; the salt will destroy your suit over time.
  63. Not spotting often enough in OWS and swimming too far. One of the largest challenges when moving from a pool to an open water environment is swimming in a straight line. It’s common for new triathletes to check their GPS watches after a swim and find that they swam 10% or more longer than the official race distance, simply because they swam in S-curves the entire way or went too far off course. No longer will you have the big black line at the bottom of the pool to look at; you must rely on above-water clues. This entails sighting, a skill which you must develop before race day to have a productive open water swim. Sighting involves slightly raising your head out of the water and quickly looking forward every 6 to 10 strokes, then smoothly turning your head back to the side to breathe out. The race will generally put up large orange or red buoys to mark turns and the course lines, and these make excellent landmarks to focus on when sighting. Do not fall into the trap of assuming you are on a straight line and swimming with your head down for an extended period of time; odds are, you will look up and find yourself way off course. If you are very near land, you can peek at the shoreline when you turn your head to breathe, but you should still be sure to look forward every now and then to confirm you’re on the correct course.
  64. Swimming an OWS alone. Swimming in a lake, river, or ocean can be dangerous. There can be currents, cramps, submerged obstacles, and powerboats to deal with. Never swim in an open water environment alone; always swim with a buddy.
  65. Not practicing OWS with contact. One tactic which my coach implemented during our open water training swims together was to periodically swim up beside or behind me and intentionally bump into my arms or legs. This was helpful in preparing me for the chaos of the opening minutes of a triathlon swim.
  66. Not asking permission before joining a lane. If all of the lanes at your pool are full, you’re going to have to get someone to share with you. It is pool etiquette to get someone’s permission before joining their lane and beginning to swim. I once nearly swam headlong into a man breaststroking towards me because he just dove in and started to swim instead of notifying me that he had joined my lane. Of course, most swimmers know that this notification etiquette exists and sometimes will avoid making eye contact or responding to your voice as they lap up and down the lane. In this event, you may have to sit on the edge of the pool and dangle your feet in the water to let them know you’re serious about joining them. When they stop and make eye contact with you, politely ask, “Would you mind if I joined you?” I’ve never had a request like this turned down.
  67. Not knowing how to share a lane. There are two ways to swim with multiple swimmers in a lane. The first is circle swim, in which each swimmer stays on the right side of the lane and the swimmers go about in a counter-clockwise rotation. This approach works best if all of the swimmers are swimming at approximately the same speed. If some swimmers are much faster than others and are stuck trying to pass, it is common courtesy for the slower swimmers to pause at the wall to let the speedier ones by. The other method of sharing a lane is more common, but only works with two swimmers. In this method, each swimmer just stays on their given side of the lane, so that the lane line is close to their left side going one way and close to their right side going the other way. This works well with swimmers going different speeds, but each must take care to stay on their side and not drift to the middle, as this may cause a head-on collision. While some pools may have posters up instructing that multiple swimmers should perform a circle swim, every time I’ve shared a lane with one other swimmer we have agreed to just pick a side. It is generally accepted that if someone is already in the pool and you are asking to join their lane, you should allow them to choose the side they wish to swim on.
  68. Not doing swim sprints. Finally, swim workouts are usually geared more towards shorter, higher-intensity intervals than just jumping in and doing slow laps for an hour. There are plenty of resources online for good swim interval workouts; use them.
  69. Bike Training
  70. Buying too expensive equipment. Look, while it’s possible to spend $20,000 or more on a setup for a carbon fiber bike with carbon fiber wheels, a carbon fiber bike helmet, and carbon fiber socks (ok, I made that one up), it is by no means necessary. Even if you’re starting from scratch, it should be possible to buy all the gear you need for the bike section of your triathlon for well under $1,000. I feel like triathlon equipment, and bikes especially, can turn into an arms race to shave seconds. But to be honest, unless you’re holding 25+ mph for your races, you’d be much better of saving that money for know and working on increasing your fitness.
  71. Buying the wrong type of bike. Unless you’re a relatively accomplished triathlete who routinely finishes near the front of the pack, you don’t necessarily need to buy a time trial bike right away. Buy a cheaper road bike to start out with and use it until you progress to the point where it is a significant bottleneck to your speeds, generally when you can consistently hold 20+ mph.
  72. Not getting bike professionally fitted. You will be spending literally hundreds of hours on this machine. Isn’t it worth the small cost to make sure that that handlebars, seat, and pedals fit you correctly?
  73. Not using the resources of your local bike store. Ladies and gentlemen, walk into your local cyclist shop and ask them an innocent question about tires or bike shoes, and see if the resulting conversation lasts less than 30 minutes. The odds aren’t good. These people absolutely love their sport with a passion, have immense knowledge and experience to draw on, and love to dispense it. Take advantage of this resource. Then, to recompense them for their time, spend a few bucks on a Bento box or CO2 cartridges. They’ve earned it.
  74. Not keeping bike tires pumped. When I first started training, I had a particularly rough 25-mile outdoor ride in which I managed just 13 mph when I knew I should’ve been riding at least 16 mph. It was devastating to my fragile morale at that point, as I was riding slower than I had when I first started training while my quads still burned from the effort. A few days later I brought my bike to my coach’s house for an indoor session and he handed me a bike pump; it was then that I realized I hadn’t pumped up my tires since the day I bought my bike. While my tires should normally be inflated to 90-100 pounds per square inch (PSI), on that day they were filled to just 20 PSI. I was effectively riding on flat tires. During my next outdoor ride I made sure they were fully topped off, and sped along at 16.5 mph.
  75. Not keeping bike gears clean. Later, I noticed my speeds weren’t improving like they should’ve been. Notice a pattern? I removed my chain and cassette and used an old toothbrush and grease remover to clean off the months of grime and dirt that had built up, and instantly added speed to my rides. Your bike operates best as a fine-tuned machine, but that takes work. It isn’t like a car where you can get away with just changing the oil every six months – it requires monthly upkeep. Oil the chain regularly. Wash it off after riding through mud puddles. Treat it well and it will treat you well.
  76. Not checking bike tire indicators for wear. Bike tires will last anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 miles before they need replacing. Most tires will have wear indicators on them, these are little hollows in the tread of the tire which should be visible if the tire is still suitable for use. As soon as these indicators wear down and are not visible, the tire should be replaced. In addition, keep an eye on the sidewall for cracks, which indicate a weakening of the tire. One day last summer I pumped my tires up to 95 PSI and did a spirited two hour ride in the afternoon heat. At the end of the ride I threw my bike in the back seat of my car and began to drive back home. I made it about two miles down the road before there was a deafening explosion and puff of white smoke mere inches behind my ear. I was lucky that nobody was in the oncoming lane because I’m certain I swerved halfway into it before regaining control. My rear bike tube had exploded. Upon examination (after my heartbeat returned to normal), the tire sidewall and tread were riddled with cracks, and the hot, expanded tube had easily blown through it. I had frequently been concerned about a car causing a wreck while I was out doing my cycling training; I never envisioned that it might be my own car.
  77. Not carrying a dollar bill on bike for cracks. If you are ever out cycling and find a noticeable crack in your tire, put a folded-up dollar bill between the tire and tube to get you back home. Dollar bills are not made of paper but instead from a strong combination of cotton and linen, and will hold surprisingly well for short distances.
  78. Not carrying a CO2 cartridge and spare tube. If you ride outdoors for any period of time, you will get a flat. In this event, changing your tire and continuing on is a much more preferable scenario than trying to flag down a passing F-150 with your thumb.
  79. Not practicing changing a tire. You should absolutely, positively practice changing a flat tire prior to doing a triathlon. You do not want your first time changing a tire to be halfway through your “A” race with your heart pumping, gasping for breath on the side of a hot road with other riders whizzing by. Even getting the tire on and off the rim can be surprisingly difficult if you’ve never done it, and when using a CO2 cartridge to fill a tire, it can be difficult to fill to the right pressure. The first time I did it, practicing in my driveway, I twisted the cartridge fully to let all the gas into the tube at once, which promptly overfilled and exploded in my face. There are a plethora of YouTube videos on how to quickly and easily do this; pull one up on your phone and slowly work through the steps. Note that CO2 cartridges are only intended to get you through a race and not as a permanent fill; the gas will leak through the tube much more quickly than regular air. After you are done practicing and satisfied with the result, make sure to bleed the CO2 out of the tire and pump it back up with a regular air pump before going on your next ride.
  80. Not practicing changing a tire in race conditions. In keeping with the above point, it is helpful to practice this task after a short bike ride, so your blood is flowing and hands are a sweaty – these are race conditions.
  81. Not training outdoors. While high-tech bike caves are cool and time-saving, keep in mind that your triathlon race will, after all, be performed on the road, and you need to have the skills necessary to handle that. This requires doing at least a portion of your rides outdoors. Outdoor riding will give you a chance to practice pacing, as well as dealing with eventualities that you may encounter during a race such as intersections, hills, and wind.
  82. No backup plan. If you’re going to ride outdoors by yourself, make sure someone knows where you are going and when you are likely to finish. Some phone apps even make it possible for them to track your progress while you’re on your ride.
  83. Not knowing how to handle dogs. Man’s best friend can be cyclist’s worst. Some riders carry rocks or mace, but the sad fact is that there is no magic remedy to avoiding colliding with a dog, and the best strategy is to learn trouble areas and avoid them entirely. While some dogs simply want to run along down the shoulder of the road beside you, be assured that if they cross into the road itself, they are attempting to run you down. At this point, if you believe you can outrun them, you can start sprinting and hope you can drop them. In the worst case scenario you may have to dismount your bike and hold your bike in between you and the dog until they calm down or lose interest.
  84. Riding in dense traffic. I live in a relatively populated area, so I like to throw my bike into the back of my car and drive several miles out into the country to ride on rural roads with less traffic. If you don’t have a truck and your bike will not fit inside your car, there are several different types of bike racks which you can affix to your car; these generally cost $50-$100. If you live in a crowded area and want to drive out to a less-populated area to ride during the week, churches make a great place to park. I almost always park at local churches because they have spacious, well-lit parking lots which are deserted during the week. If you’re riding on the weekend, summers, or evenings, a local high school is a good option as well. Riding groups will often meet at a school because they are familiar landmarks to most local riders.
  85. Not checking bike brake rub after travel. If you do put your bike into your car, please learn from one of my more aggravating experiences. Every summer the Charlotte Motorspeedway hosts a series of bike races held on the 1.5 mile NASCAR racetrack, and one day I decided to drive the three hours each way to Charlotte to take place in their 10-mile time trial. My goal speed was 24 mph or so, and I was frustrated and perplexed when I only managed a relatively meager 21 mph. During my dejected drive home, I had a light bulb moment and pulled my car over on the side of the I-85 to yank my bike out of the trunk. When lifted my bike off the ground and spun the rear wheel, it made a half revolution before grinding to a halt against the brake pad, which had been pushed to the side while laying in my car on the way up. I tried the front wheel, with the same result. I had essentially driven six hours and paid the race registration fee in order to ride a 10-mile time trial with my brakes on. A costly lesson was learned. Since that day, whenever I retrieve my bike from my car I always check my brakes to make sure they are properly aligned and not rubbing against the wheel rim.
  86. Not practicing pacing. Pacing can be tricky while cycling because you may have to vary your effort at times, as opposed to a run where you will generally strive to maintain a constant effort. Any bicycle race is a continuous conflict between speed and conservation of energy. As with swimming in the water, the wind resistance you face on the bike is a function of your speed squared, so energy conservation is much more important at high speeds than at low ones. This effect peaks when coasting down a steep hill; once you reach a certain speed, no amount of pedaling will make you go any faster, and your main goal should be to streamline your body and take advantage of every bit of aerodynamic positioning you can get. At low speeds, such as starting out after a complete stop or going up a slow hill, you should focus more on getting up to cruising speed.
  87. Not practicing eating and drinking on the bike. Outdoor riding is also a chance to practice eating and drinking while on the bike, motions that can be surprisingly difficult at first. If you have two water bottles on the tubes between your legs, practice until you can grab either water bottle with either hand without looking down, take a sip, and put it back into the cage without looking. The best time to grab your water bottle is on a slight downslope where you can coast without pedaling. Extend the leg on the side of the hand you are going to use to clear space around the bottle. Eating can be tricky as well, especially if you are trying to unwrap a plastic wrapper on a busy highway with sweaty hands. You will get better with practice, but if you get into a really sticky situation, pull over. There’s no shame in taking a two minute break to eat, and it’s far better than wrecking your bike because you are distracted.
  88. Riding on the sidewalk. In my home state (Georgia), as in most states, a bicycle is legally a vehicle. This means that you have to obey many traffic laws such as stopping at stop signs and…oh yeah…not riding on the sidewalk. The law is pretty clear here: “Except as provided by resolution or ordinance of a local government…no person shall drive any vehicle upon a sidewalk“. Regardless, I still see people do it all the time. Notwithstanding the fact that it’s illegal, it’s also dangerous. Speeding up behind pedestrians walking two-abreast on the sidewalk is a recipe for disaster, and cars pulling out may not see you. Study after study has found that it’s more dangerous for a cyclist to ride on a sidewalk than on the road.
  89. Not training on hills. Virtually every trithlon bike ride has some sort of hills, and hill training is the best way to prepare for those. If you’re in flat country, this will be tougher to get in. Many stationary bike training programs have simulated hill workouts to prepare you for the real race.
  90. Going up steep hills in a low gear, spinning. One of the mistakes I made when I first started riding was to go up steep hills in my lowest gear, spinning my wheels away at a high RPM but only creeping up the hill at 6 or 8 miles per hour. If you find yourself in this scenario, it’s better to go ahead and upshift to a higher gear and get some momentum going. It will be tougher pedaling to get your speed up at first but will end up not being substantially harder than spinning away in a lower gear, and you will reach the top of the hill much faster. It’s better to spend 20 seconds at 95% effort getting up a hill than to spend a 60 seconds on it at 80% effort.
  91. Not using a bike mirror. Bike mirrors attach to either your helmet or your handlebars and allow you to see traffic coming up behind you so that you don’t have that “oh s—!” moment when a souped-up Mustang surprises you. I prefer a helment-mounted mirror because it allows me to turn my head to see different angles behind me, such as when I’m going around a steep curve. Be aware that some triathlons do not allow you to race with any type of mirror, so make sure it’s easily removeable, wherever it is. Confirm this at the pre-race meeting or by reading the race’s list of rules.
  92. Not using bike lights or reflective gear on the road. You want cars to see you. These items help cars to see you. What more is there really to say?
  93. Wearing improper bike clothes. Running shorts are not biking shorts. They are way to baggy and will hang and chafe. Nobody wants that. You may have heard the pejorative acronym MAMIL (“middle-aged man in lycra”), but there’s a reason this exists. Get a few good pairs of lycra biking shorts. I will say that you don’t necessarily need to shell out for a biking jersey – a tight-fitting dri-fit running or workout shirt has always worked for me.
  94. Not doing VO2 workouts. An athlete’s VO2 max measures how much oxygen your body can process during intense exercise, and is a bragging point among competitive cyclists. Doing VO2-specific workouts is one way to raise this number, which will increase cycling performance on race day.
  95. Not wearing Gooch Guard. Oh boy. Let’s just say I only made this mistake once. That shower was painful.
  96. Not keeping bike effort constant (as opposed to speed). If you wear a GPS watch on your rides, don’t fall into the trap of fixating too much on your current speed. Cycling speed, much more than running speed, is heavily-dependant on external conditions such as wind, hills, and traffic. Try to keep a constant effort level, as opposed to a constant speed. This will necessarily mean that you’ll be going slowing up hills and faster down them.
  97. Not being aerodynamic. While you don’t need an expensive time-trial (“aero”) bike to start out with, be aware that at any speed of note, wind resistance plays a huge factor. Practice keeping your head and torso low and slipstreamed, even on a road bike.
  98. Not using proper hand position (road bike). In following with the aboe tip, learn to use proper hand position on your road bike. There are three main hand positions: tops, hoods, and drops. Try to avoid riding with your hands on the “tops” of your handlebars, and practice riding with them on the lower portions for better aerodynamics. Also, do not ride with your hands on the tops when riding in a tight group, as your hands are too far from the brake levers.
  99. Not wearing bike gloves. When you go down – and, if you ride long enough, you will go down – you’re gonna want something between your tender palms and that unforgiving asphalt.
  100. Not taking enough food on bike. You should purchase a Bento box for your bike and carry granola bars, PB&J sandwiches, or other solid food on long rides. Nothing’s worse than bonking 20 miles from home.
  101. Not taking a cell phone and $10. Look, bad things happen. Your bike could hit a pothole and bend a rim, or you could get a flat and realize that your spare tube is no good. Having a cell phone is paramount in this situation, and some cash wouldn’t be a bad idea either. If you’re also using your cell phone as a GPS on your ride, try to carry one of those small external batteries as well. I once got lost on a dirt road in rural north Georgia on a 60 mile bike ride, and my cell phone was dead because I’d been using it for navigation. Oops. Some kind strangers in a passing car pointed me towards my destination, a cell phone sure would’ve been nice to call my worried wife (sorry honey).
  102. Not working on bike handling skills. Listen, this race isn’t done in a vacuum. The reality of a triathlon is that you will be operating this vehicle in a fatigued condition in close proximity to other athletes, and you want to be comfortable and confident in your handling skills. If you haven’t ridden a bike since your Huffy in the sixth grade, you may be surprised at the handling improvement you can get by regularly taking 5 or 10 minutes in a parking lot and doing figure eights and other low-speed maneuvers. This goes triple if you have a triathlon or time trial bike instead of a road bike.
  103. Not unclipping before a stop. Everyone does this at some point or another. It’s a low-speed fall (zero-speed, really), and usually only painful to your ego.
  104. Not using hand signals. Cyclists obviously don’t have turn signals or brake lights, so it’s important to let cars behind you know before making any sudden turns. Extend your left (right) hand pointed straight out before any left (right) turn. This is especially important before left turns, as cars zooming by on your left don’t always yield to your right-of-way. Double-check your mirrors before every left turn to make sure nothing is bearing down upon you. Here’s a list of a few other common hand signals.
  105. Always riding solo. Riding in a group can be loads of fun, but it also requires more skill and awareness than riding alone. To take full advantage of the drafting effect, riders commonly ride in a tight peloton – a pack of cyclists riding in a line in each other’s slipstream. This can reduce drag by as much as 40% in trained cyclists. The rider in front, of course, does not participate in these savings, and therefore he or she will lead the pack for a bit and then move to the left and let everyone else pass by, rejoining the group at the end of the line. In this way, everyone rotates and shares the load. The downside to riding in such a fashion is that each rider must be comfortable handling their bike at high speeds just inches from other riders.
  106. Zoning out on a group ride. Cyclists in a peloton usually pedal in short bursts interspersed with periods of coasting to stay as close as possible to the rear wheel of the rider in front of them. For this reason, it is advised to avoid using your brakes while riding in a group like this, as the rider behind you may not have to time react to a sudden deceleration. Your motions should be smooth and you should not weave from side to side. Keep your eyes on the road ahead and not fixated on the rider directly in front of you; watch out for potholes, corners, or anything which will require a change in speed or direction.
  107. Overlapping wheels. Riding slightly off-center a few inches to the side of the wheel in front of you will give you a little more margin of error if the rider brakes suddenly, but be sure to behind the plane of their rear wheel, as overlapping wheels can cause disaster. A good friend of mine – then a professional cyclist – was drafting close behind and to the right side of his teammate around a sharp left corner when the teammate suddenly sat up and shifted back out to the right, locking his rear wheel up with my friend’s front. They both crashed; my friend broke his pelvis and was put out of commission for six long weeks.
  108. Not knowing group signals. Before riding with a group, ask the others if there are any practices that they follow. Some groups like for the riders at the front to signal obstructions or obstacles up ahead. One technique that I’ve seen is a one-finger point down to the left or right for road problems such as potholes or debris, and a waggling hand down to the left or right for lesser issues such as sand or gravel. In addition, it’s common to hold your hand out with palm flat or pointed back if you are slowing. Some groups also like the riders in the back to signal cars approaching behind them with a “car back!” or “car!” shout. Regardless of the signals, it is important for everyone in the ride to be on the same page.
  109. Not getting a professional pre-race bike check-up. In addition to your own regular maintenance, most bike shops will perform a pre-race inspection for a small fee, where they check the brake cable tensions, brake pad alignment, tire tread wear, shifter smoothness, and generally make sure the bike is in race shape. This can be done the week before your race and is worth the cost for the peace of mind of knowing that your equipment has been gone over by a professional.
  110. Run Training
  111. Wearing the wrong kind of running shoes. It should come as no surprise that the most important component of your running gear is a well-fitting pair of running shoes. Not tennis shoes, and not the old Converses that you wear to mow the yard.
  112. Buying everything online.While it may be cheaper to purchase online through Amazon or Zappos, I would highly encourage you to seek out a local running store the same as you should do for a local bike store. The people who work there are universally passionate and knowledgeable about running, and can suggest the best pair of running shoes for your particular build and stride. Most of the time, they will let you return shoes that don’t fit well, even after running in them several times. Local shops are also a great place to meet other runners and find group runs that match your time and speed constraints. These stores are a great resource – use them. I’ve even walked in and asked for local doctor recommendations when I had foot or knee issues; they will always know the best runner-related medical care around.
  113. Not finding a local running group. Local running shops can also hook you up with runner’s group, which should exist in any city of size. Throw in a few group runs every now and then for conversation and companionship. Don’t worry about being left out, there will always be someone going your speed.
  114. No long runs. You must do a long run each week, which is the second most important workout of the week behind your brick workout. During these long runs you should increase your distance each week until you are running at least the distance you will run during the race. If you find yourself struggling to complete this distance, you are allowed to break up the distance into a morning run and an evening run on your long run day, which can combine to total your desired long run distance. These must be done on the same day to prepare your body for the stresses of the race. It’s important not to push the pace on the long run; the entire thing must be done at a comfortable speed.
  115. Not knowing about Galloway method. Note that while this particular workout is called a Long Run, walking is acceptable if needed. The main objective is just to travel the target distance. Many marathoners and long distance athletes have had success with the Galloway method of running, called Run Walk Run. Runners using this approach will run for a predetermined length of time, take a planned short walk break to recover, then begin running again. For non-elite athletes, these walk breaks won’t slow you down as much as you may think, and will allow your muscles to recover a bit while also dropping your core temperature. Depending on your level of running progress, the exact run-walk interval distances will vary, but it’s important that you stick to the plan and make sure to take your planned breaks. There are more details available on JeffGalloway.com, and the site makes the claim that non-stop runners who shift to this method see their times drop by approximately 7 minutes over a 13.1 mile run.
  116. Not wearing sunglasses. It can get bright out there. Look for sunglasses that protect you from 99-100% of both UVA and UVB light.
  117. Running on the right side of the road. Running on the road should be done on the left side, going against traffic. This way you can clearly see cars coming towards you, and move off the road if necessary.
  118. Assuming cars pulling out of side streets have seen you. I’ve found the most precarious situation in road and sidewalk running to be when there is a car up ahead of you turning right from the side street onto the main road you’re running on. They often have their heads turned looking left to check for traffic, and rarely look right to check for pedestrians or runners. I’ve almost been hit several times like this when the car attempted to pull out onto the main road just as I was running by. Do not run past the car without making eye contact first. Even though you may have the legal right of way, remember that the laws of physics trump the laws of the road every time.
  119. Not carrying money. After many years of long runs, I’ve found it very helpful to always carry a $5 bill with me in case I get dehydrated or hungry and have to stop at a gas station. This has saved my bacon many times. In addition, if you will be around civilization, this saves you from having to carry fueling and hydration with you. Just pop in somewhere and buy a bottle of water.
  120. Carrying money in your pocket without ziplock. BUT, if you do carry bills with you on the run, for the love of everything holy, don’t just stick it in your pocket (or down your bra) and hand the cashier a sopping mess. That. Is. Gross. Put your money in a Ziplock bag to keep it dry.
  121. Not using compression socks. Compression socks can help with recovery after a long run. Research has shown them to stimulate blood flow, which helps your legs recover faster.
  122. Not using Bodyglide. Everyone is different, but on a long run people generally tend to chafe on their nipples, armpits, thighs, and between their two favorite cheeks.
  123. Poor technique.Your hands should be relaxed and not balled up into fists; one technique to correct this is to run with your thumb lightly pressed against your ring finger. Hands should stay on their side of the body and not cross over the belly button. Keep your arm swing small. Think, “nips to hips.” Keep a strong core and stay upright, even when you get tired.
  124. Overstriding. On your runs, you should strive to maintain short strides to avoid overstriding and heel striking.
  125. Not taking heat/humidity into account in running pace. Regarding heat and humidity, be aware that the run is the discipline most affected by these external factors. A good rule of thumb, popularized by Dr. Jack Daniels (awesome name), is that every 10 degrees Fahrenheit over 55 degrees will slow you down by about 15 seconds per mile. Using this guideline, an outdoor run at 85 degrees should be done about 45 seconds slower per mile than a run at 55 degrees in order to hold the same level of exertion. If you couple this with a high level of humidity (greater than 60%), you should run even slower. For us larger athletes, a higher body mass increases heat generated but also acts as insulation against that heat dissipating effectively. While thin runners can run at higher temperatures without slowing too much, I generally try not to run if it’s hotter than 80 degrees outside. I just overheat far too quickly and can’t get cooled down. While I consider myself an experienced runner, I never fail to be amazed each year at the increase in my running speed and morale as the heat of summer gives way to fall and temperatures drop.
  126. Not accounting for pace/distance conversion calculator personal differences. One additional thing to keep in mind if you are an overweight or novice athlete is that the pacing calculators available online may incorrectly translate times from one distance into estimated times for another distance. My body is built for short distances and does not like to be in motion for more than an hour. When I first started training, my coach had me do a 5k run and then we used an online calculator to translate that into my desired training speeds for longer training runs of 10k and further. It wasn’t long before I noticed that I had trouble maintaining these speeds for longer distances, and we both had to adjust our expectations. While every runner notices a drop-off in speed over longer distances, it tends to be more drastic in me than in others, and I have to keep in mind that I may not necessarily be able to maintain the recommended speeds from one of these conversion charts.
  127. Not doing intervals / speed work. Even though a triathlon consists of a solid-state run of anywhere from 3 to 26 miles, regularly doing track work, interval workouts, or other speed work will improve your times and help you gain that final sprint-to-the-finish-line fitness. Yasso 800s are painful but fun.
  128. Going too fast on intervals / speed work. The caveat to the above tip is that they are NOT a race, and you should’ve finish feeling completely wiped out. If, at the end of your workout, you feel like you couldn’t do one or two more intervals at the same speed, you’ve pushed it too hard.
  129. Running “vertical miles”. Don’t bounce your head up and down with each step – pretend there is a glass of water sitting on top of it.
  130. Running too long on sneakers. Replace your shoes about every 300 miles or 50 hours. I’ve gotten tendenitis before from running in worn-out shoes which allowed my ankle to over-supinate. Not fun.
  131. Not stretching before running. This is a controversial issue and there are several studies which indicate that static stretching on cold muscles is harmful, or at best neutral. I like to do a few jumping jacks and air squats to get limbered up. I will say that I always do a few one-legged calf raises at standing at a 45 degree angle with both palms against a wall, otherwise I tend to get shinsplints. Find what works for you. Movement is better than holding a position.
  132. Overdressing. Unlike cycling, I always try to slightly underdress when running, as I know I will heat up quite a bit as the run progresses. While this makes for a slightly chilly start, I’d much rather endure that than feel overheated in a sweatshirt towards the end of a multi-hour run.
  133. Treadmill miles. Let’s get this out in the open – running on a treadmill is boring, and doing laps around a track isn’t much better. Running outdoors on the road or sidewalk offers more stimulation, but brings with it a new set of challenges. I always choose the sidewalk option if available, although there can be more surface changes such as curbs and sidewalk cracks. This makes it more important to pay attention to your foot placement, especially in low-light conditions.
  134. Miscellaneous Training
  135. Not cross training.
  136. Having a weak core – not doing ab work.
  137. Not stretching/yoga.
  138. Not practicing transitions.
  139. Not practicing transitions while tired.
  140. Not practicing laying out transitions.
  141. Bricks
  142. Not doing bricks. Bricks. Ugh. The most important – and most painful – workout of the week. A brick refers to a workout where you will do a bike ride followed immediately by a run to simulate race conditions. (It is much less common, and usually not necessary, to do swim-to-bike bricks). Even if you are an experienced runner, running off the bike is a skill that needs to be practiced on its own. To honest, if you’ve never done them before, your first few bricks will be disheartening and eye-opening. After a long bike ride, even running just a mile can be challenging. Your legs are not used to doing these activities back-to-back and may complain and cramp up. You will shake your head in wonderment at how you will ever be able to do your full race length, but after several of these sessions your legs will get used to this unfamiliar combination and your distances will increase. If you’ve never done bricks before and get shin splints or calf cramps during the run, try to stretch your calves well both before and after the run.
  143. Racing bricks. This isn’t the time to push your speeds. Do it slow and steady. The main thing is to make sure you complete the workout as scheduled.
  144. Not doing heat acclimatization work. If you are preparing for a summer triathlon, you’ll need to get some heat acclimatization work in. At any triathlon of Olympic distance or longer, you are going to be running in the hottest part of the day, and you should prepare your body to effectively do work in that environment. I bought a small kiddie pool which I kept on my front porch, and after one of these tough hot runs I would dump a bag of ice into it and sink in up to my neck. This was very effective in getting me cooled down.
  145. Not eating solid food. It’s really tough to complete a 4+ hour workout on gels and Gatorade along. Find some solid food that your body can tolerate during exercise, and make a habit of using it. Once you find something that works, stick with it. Don’t change it up every week.
  146. Wussing out. Go ahead and get it in your mind now that bricks will hurt, some of them badly. More than once after a long brick workout I’ve had to drive my car back home in third gear the entire way because depressing the clutch was just too painful. I may have also ran a few four-way stops. Brick workouts suck, but you gotta do them.
  147. Fueling / Hydration
  148. Not practicing your race fueling strategy. Bricks are the best opportunity to practice one of the toughest parts of executing a triathlon: fueling. You should start the night before by eating a meal similar to the one you will eat on the evening before your race. You need to know how different foods affect you, as you definitely don’t want any surprises on race day. I learned that I can get gassy and bloated when I eat broccoli, cauliflower or other vegetables in the cabbage family, so I know not to include those foods before a long workout.
  149. Not eating enough during training. For any workout which totals more than 90 minutes, you will need to fuel. Finding the right combination of food, drink, and timing for maximum performance can be a frustrating trial-and-error process, but you need to get it down before race day. I personally like using Skratch and CarboPro in my bike water bottles; other people like Nuun, UCAN, or Gatorade powder. Regardless of what you choose, you must take in calories. This means something other than just plain water in your bike bottles. Eating on the bike is a skill that requires practice as well. In my Bento box, within easy reach, I will put gels and granola bars, or even Smuckers Uncrustable PB&J sandwiches. These are individually packaged and make a great option during a long brick, as they provide all three sources of calories: fat, protein, and carbohydrates.
  150. Trying to save calories during fueling phase. While it’s very possible, and advisable, to lose weight while training for a triathlon (check out “Racing Weight: How to Get Lean for Peak Performance” by Matt Fitzgerald), be sure to do it during the nutrition phase of your eating and not the fueling phase. This means that you shouldn’t attempt to run caloric deficits around and during long workouts for the sole purpose of weight loss. While it is very tempting to try to apply the calories you burned towards those few extra pounds on your midsection, this is not the time to undereat. A good rule of thumb is to take in calories on any workout 90 minutes or longer, and try to replace at least 50% of the calories you’re burning (this can include your pre- and post-workout snacks).
  151. Eating only carbs instead of fat & proteins.
  152. Underhydrating.
  153. Overhydrating.
  154. Hydrating with water only. I got very sick one day during my marathon training several years ago when I drank 100 ounces of plain tap water on a hot, 16 mile run during which I sweated profusely. Our sweat contains minerals, most importantly sodium and potassium, and I wasn’t replacing them as I drank, which threw my body into imbalance. I spent the day in bed, shivering. If you find yourself in this scenario, Pedialyte is a great solution. It’s intended to replace fluids and minerals lost through vomiting and dehydration and is the perfect remedy. After that painful day, I switched to a half-Gatorade, half-water concoction and never had a problem with it again.
  155. Nutrition
  156. Eating poorly outside training. Mike Tyson made over $300 million during his boxing career, yet declared bankruptcy in 2003. Why? Because, no matter who you are, you cannot out-earn bad spending habits. Similarly, you cannot out-train bad eating habits. When you are spending 10 or more hours per week training for a triathlon it can be tempting to think you can eat all the cheeseburgers and drink all the beer you want. You can’t. The math just doesn’t work. It takes me an hour of running to burn 800 calories but I can eat that much in about 3 minutes at a buffet (ask my wife). You will, of course, have more leeway than if you weren’t working out at all, but that doesn’t give you free rein to stuff your mouth with everything in sight. I usually have one food cheat day per week, commonly the day I do my brick workout, in which I let myself eat whatever I want. I try to eat clean and avoid empty calories during the other six days. If you do have to cheat a bit on these other days and eat a grilled cheese sandwich or bowl of chocolate ice cream, any post-workout meal is by far the best time to do this.
  157. Carrying too much body fat. Guilty.
  158. Not eating enough protein (women/vegetarians).
  159. Race Preparation
  160. Not having a race sherpa. At some point in the weeks leading up to your race, it’s a good idea to try to convince a friend or family member to come with you as your support staff on race day. I call this person a race Sherpa, and they make things much, much easier. Once you are ready for the starting line on race morning, you will have a bag full of discarded clothing and other items like your keys and cell phone, and your Sherpa can take this bag from you to hold onto it until you cross the finish line. In addition, most races are set up to be spectator friendly for sections of the bike and run course, and it’s great to see a familiar face waving and cheering for you as you pass by. If the layout of the run course permits it and I’m not in the middle of a crowd of other runners, I like to have my Sherpa come jog with me for a minute or so during the run to ask me how I’m feeling and give me some encouraging words. And if you pick the right Sherpa, they just might have your favorite post-race snack waiting for you at the finish line. (Mine is an Italian sub from Publix, for those of you taking notes.)
  161. Not telling your race sherpa what your plan is.
  162. Not having a race plan (goal A, goal B).
  163. Not having a packing list. Definitely, definitely make a packing list. There are too many important items to let yourself wing it here.
  164. Not having two pairs of goggles. Have one pair of tinted goggles and one clear pair, for use in different light conditions. In addition, if Murphy’s Law kicks in and one strap breaks, you’ll have a backup pair.
  165. Not tapering properly. A taper is a gradual lessening of exercise volume and/or intensity before a race. The longer the race distance, the longer the taper needs to be. Tapering for a sprint triathlon may be a three- or four-day affair, while tapering for a full Ironman can take up to three weeks. The general rule of thumb is to reduce the time and distance of your workouts but try to keep the intensity level the same. For anything longer than a sprint tri, your last brick before your race will probably be about half to two-thirds the distance of your longest brick. On the few days leading up to the race, you will do just very short, high-intensity workouts so that you don’t feel flat on race day.
  166. Overtraining to get some final fitness in. One mistake that many novice triathletes make, especially if they have skipped workouts or feel undertrained, is to try to make up training fitness during race week. Immediately after a hard workout, your body is weaker than it was before, and then over the next few days your body recovers to overcompensate for that stress and return stronger than it was. I’ve heard it said that your body is most ready for the workout that it did seven days ago. This means that any hard workout less than seven days before a race will likely not substantially benefit you, as your body doesn’t have time to fully recover from it before your race, and it may very well be a detriment. The reason to work out in the week preceding a race is not to continue to build fitness, but to keep your body’s systems moving and avoid the flat and stale feeling you can get after a long layoff. The bottom line is, no matter how scary it may be, it is far better to go into a race feeling slightly undertrained than feeling overtrained and exhausted.
  167. Not knowing the rules. Before you do your first triathlon, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the rules commonly enacted by these races. Unlike running races, triathlons will actively have race officials patrolling the course to make sure that every participant obeys the rules set forth. On the swim section of the race, they will be in boats or kayaks. On the bike and run sections they will frequently ride on bicycles or on the back of motorcycles driven by volunteers. Below are the rules for Ironman-branded races. The majority of triathlons will have identical or very similar rules, but be sure to read the race information document provided by your race to confirm the exact rules – they are usually quite thorough.
  168. Race Weekend
  169. Trying to carry a CO2 cartridge on a plane to a race. Many larger triathlons have “villages” at the check-in point where it’s possible to get a bike tune-up if you need it, and also to purchase spare tubes, CO2 cartridges, gels, etc. Note that while it may be possible to put CO2 cartridges into checked luggage on an airplane, it will depend on the airline and is generally recognized to be a bad idea.
  170. Not getting good sleep on Thursday.Try to get a good night’s sleep two nights before your race, as it may be your last full night of sleep before the race.
  171. Not checking out the course on Friday. During check-in, take the time to study the course and transition area(s). Where will you enter and exit the water? Is the swim course clockwise or counter-clockwise? Where are the swim turns? What path will you take to run from the water to T1? Where are the entry and exit areas for T1? Where are the bike mount and dismount lines? You don’t want to try to figure out all of these variables during the heat of the race.
  172. Not warming up in lake before race. If the race allows it, it’s a good idea to jump into the water for a short swim to familiarize yourself with the water temperature, buoy placement, and entry and exit areas.
  173. Trying to prepare meals/bottles/etc. the morning of instead of the night before. I like to mix my drinks for the bike the night before a race so they can sit in the fridge and become chilled overnight. In addition, this is one less thing to do on race day morning.
  174. Skipping the pre-race meeting on Friday night. It is very common for races to have a pre-race meeting the afternoon or evening before the race. I always try to attend these and highly recommend you do so as well. The race directors will usually verbally go over the course, including important information such as swim wave start instructions, turn-around points and confusing sections of the route, and the location of aid stations and bathrooms. Sometimes there will be particularly dangerous or narrow sections of the bike route, and the director will point this out and note if there are any do-not-pass areas on the ride. At the end they will have an athlete Q&A section, and this is your opportunity to being up anything which you are still unclear about. Every race director I’ve ever interacted with has been kind, considerate, patient, and, above all, concerned that each triathlete has the knowledge and resources they need in order to race their best race. They are always more than happy to address any questions or concerns that you might have.
  175. Eating something new on Friday night. Hopefully by this point in your training progression you have tested an evening meal which sits well with you and provides the nutrition that you will need for the long day ahead. It is a truism of racing that you never try anything new in a race – this applies equally to food, equipment, and pacing. The last thing you want to do is go to the popular restaurant in a new town and order the fried calamari because the waiter recommends it. Stay boring. I like spaghetti or a simple chicken-and-pesto pizza. Everyone talks about carbo-loading before a race, but make sure to get some protein in as well.
  176. Not reading the race info. While most check-ins take place the day before the race, be advised that some check-ins, especially for full Ironman races, only take place two days before (Thursday evening for a Saturday race). In this case there may not be an option for a night-before or morning-of check-in, and if you miss it, you can’t race. Most race websites have a document with very detailed and informative descriptions of these details. Read it several times until you are familiar with it.
  177. Not doing a short test bike ride after travel. Upon returning from one race, I went for a short recovery ride in my hometown. At the first intersection, my hands and handlebars turned left while my front bike wheel remained pointed forward, and I ignominiously plowed into a curb. I had forgotten to tighten a hard-to-see bolt; had this happened on race day it could’ve spelled disaster.
  178. Not charging your race watch. If you will wear a Garmin or other type of race watch during the race, plug it in to charge overnight. You don’t want to be on 14% battery when you hit the start button.
  179. Forgetting to put a plastic bag on your bike seat overnight. If it’s convenient, I like to drop my bike off at T1 on the evening before race day, as it makes one less big item to hassle with the next morning. Don’t be afraid of theft; races will hire security to watch the bikes overnight and I’ve never heard of a bike being lost that way. If you do drop your bike off, make sure to take the big bike sticker from the race packet and wrap it around your bike’s crossbar and stick the two ends together. Note that some smaller races may not offer this option and will require you to drop your bike off on the morning of race day. Put a plastic bag over your seat if rain is in the forecast, to prevent soggy buns.
  180. Improper packing of special needs bags. If you are doing a full Ironman, go ahead and prepare your special needs bags the night before the race. As explained earlier, these are two bags which you will give to the race workers before the race which they will take to the halfway points (approximately) of the bike and run so you can pick them up and “reload” if you need to. Common items to place in the bike special needs bag are a small bottle of sunscreen, Band-Aids, eye drops, Body glide, an extra tube and CO2 cartridge in case you’ve already had to use the one on your bike, extra energy gels, a bag of potato chips or cookies, a clean pair of socks, an bottle of Gatorade (put it in the freezer the night before), and Advil. The run special needs bag can be similar but sometimes focuses more on nutrition (sandwiches) and can include a long-sleeve shirt if you will be running after the day cools off. One great idea is to ask family and friends to write notes which you can place in your special needs bags and read them when you stop to pick them up; this can provide a big boost of energy and confidence just when you need it most. Race officials will tell you not to put anything in a special needs bag that you can’t lose. They usually try their best to get them all collected and returned to the finish line by the end of the race but they will not make any guarantees, so do not include anything valuable.
  181. Alcohol on Friday night. Avoid the temptation to have a glass of wine or beer here, as even a small amount of alcohol can interfere with your sleep patterns.
  182. Insufficient sleep on Friday night. I assure you, it will be difficult to get sufficient sleep the night before a race. Taking a melatonin supplement can help your body relax and fall asleep. As always, try this before race day to make sure you don’t have any adverse reactions. I like to set at least two alarms – generally a clock radio along with my phone – for peace of mind.
  183. Race Day Morning
  184. Not allowing time in the morning to clean the pipes. I like to wake up several hours before the race in order to give my body time to wake up. I drink a few cups of coffee and eat my pre-race meal. The coffee also helps the other reason I wake up early. I’m not ashamed to say it – I definitely want to poop before my race. Preferably twice.
  185. Forgetting your timing chip. It is usually a small square device about the size of a poker chip, and has slots in it to thread your ankle strap through. Attach the strap around your left ankle – if it’s on your right ankle it may bang against your bicycle gears. This chip will track your split times for swim, T1, bike, T2, and run. Some races have a live athlete feed on their website which will display your progress as you pass certain checkpoints so your friends and family can see your progression through the race. While this is undeniably cool, they are also notorious for being delayed or broken, so don’t put too much confidence into this functionality being available.
  186. Over-pumping tires in the cool morning before a hot race day.
  187. Forgetting your old pair of sandals for pre-race. If the shore is rocky or muddy, wear an old pair of sandals and kick them off right before you start swimming. One time I looked around and wondered why the rocky shore had wet spots everywhere when the athletes were all still dry. I soon realized that everyone around me was peeing in their wetsuits and letting it drip to the ground. Since then, I’ve always used sandals before a race.
  188. Arriving late. Try to get to the race an hour to an hour and a half before the race starts. Parking can sometimes be an issue at large races, so make sure you have scoped out the area beforehand and know where you are going to park.
  189. Procrastinating on body marking.
  190. Waiting until right before the swim start to turn on your GPS. As you know, GPS watches may take some time to sync up with the satellite before properly tracking you. Try to remember to turn on your watch about the time you get body-marked. You don’t want to hear the starter’s gun so off at the swim start while your Garmin is flashing that dreaded “Connecting…” message.
  191. Putting your bike on the pole incorrectly in T1. The first transition zone is referred to as T1 and consists of a large area roped or cordoned off, with bike racks inside. These racks are generally metal poles about 10 feet long, laying horizontally three feet off the ground with stands at the end. Usually each pole will have a numbered sign at the end marking which athletes should place their bikes there, based on their race number. For example, if your race number is 395, you would look for the pole labeled 390-399. When you find that pole, you may hang your bike anywhere on that pole – the bikes don’t have to be in exact numerical order. To hang your bike, lift it up by the seat and hook the front of the seat up over the pole so that the back wheel is off the ground. It is customary to alternate bike sides to give each person more room and so that the handlebars of all those bikes close together do not collide. If there are already bikes on the pole, turn your bike so that your rear wheel is on the same side as the front wheel of the bike next to yours.
  192. Racking your bike in a high gear at T1. Before racking your bike, make sure it’s in a low gear to make it easy to get started pedaling once you hop on.
  193. Taking up too much space in T1. After hanging your bike on the rack, you can lay out the rest of your gear on a small towel to the right side of your front wheel. The emphasis here is on small – there are lots of athletes in a small amount of space and you need to be considerate and take as little room as possible. I’ve seen a well-meaning but clueless athlete set up a folding lawn chair by his bike so that he would have somewhere to sit while putting on his bike shoes. I don’t need to tell you that he got many dirty looks that day.
  194. Not knowing how to set up T1. Here’s how I lay out my T1 gear: I put the towel down, put my bike shoes on it (with socks tucked inside), and place my helmet on top of the shoes (upside down) with cycling gloves and sunglasses (arms open) tucked inside. Socks can be hard to get on over wet feet, so you can roll your socks down to the toes if you wish, that way you can simply stick your toes in and roll them up to easily get them on. You can also put baby powder in the socks to more easily get them onto wet feet.
    If it is a cold day and I need a jacket, I will place it between my shoes and helmet. I put my water and sports drink bottles into the cages on my bike, caps open, and place any gels or other food in my bike’s Bento box. If I am doing an Ironman or HIM distance, I may have a drinking bottle of water sitting at T1 which I can chug from and leave at the spot, conserving the water bottles on my bike for later. If it is raining or might rain on race morning, I will set up everything as above, but pick up the whole bundle and wrap it in a small trash bag. I’m sure my socks will be wet by the end of the day but there’s no sense in them starting out that way. If you have the propensity to gulp in air on your swim, having a supplement such as Gas-X handy at T1 can reduce discomfort and bloating during the rest of the race.
  195. Not bringing an old water bottle to T1 to wash your feet off. On the edge of the T1 towel I have a small bottle of water for cleaning off my feet. Feet will get muddy and dirty when exiting the swim and running up to T1 barefoot, and I like to rinse them off before I put on my socks and shoes.
  196. Not knowing how to set up T2. Transition two is generally less hectic than transition one. By this point in the race the competitors have begun to distance themselves from each other and are strung out, so it is much less crowded in the transition area. In addition, there are no bulky wetsuits to deal with, and most people are (reasonably) dry and have shoes on. Much like T1, the area of T2 will be roped or cordoned off from the public, with signs hung up designating sections for your race number. Find your segment and set your gear up in line with it. In my T2 area, I place my running shoes on a towel with the race belt stuck into them. If you’re not familiar with a race belt, it is a thin elastic belt which snaps around your waist, and which your race bib (the piece of paper displaying your name and race number) attaches to. You can buy these cheaply and it prevents fiddling with safety pins trying to attach the bib to your tri kit in a transition zone (you will not wear your race bib on the swim).
  197. Not wrapping your shoes up in a plastic bag in T2. If rain is in the forecast, put your running shoes and an extra pair of socks in gallon Ziplock bags before you drop them off at T2. There are few things worse than putting on a pair of soggy running shoes before a long run.
  198. Not checking water temp to see if it’s wetsuit legal.
  199. Waiting until the last minute to use the Porta Potty. After you have been to the body marking station and set up your T1 area, go stand in line for the bathroom. It will be long. You will have to wait. Every triathlete seems to develop a hyperactive bladder just before a race and they will all seemingly be in your line in front of you. Use this time to do some squats and leg stretches or run in place with high knees. Swing your arms from side to side and in large circles to help warm up your shoulders for the swim ahead. Don’t hit the big guy behind you.
  200. Racing
  201. Trying ANYTHING new during a race. If I made a post that simply said “The Top Mistake Triathletes Make”, this would be the sole entry. Don’t wear new shoes. Don’t wear new socks. Don’t eat a new meal the night before or the morning of. Often you will see marketing teams giving out brand-new gel products or other nutrition before or during the race. Who takes those?! Who thinks to themselves, “Hmm, I’ve trained so hard for this race, let me try out this packet whose contents I’m completely ignorant of, and which I have no idea how it will affect my stomach or performance.”
  202. Not being flexible.
  203. Not wearing a tri kit in races.
  204. Panicking at the chaos of a swim start.
  205. Wearing yourself out on the swim.
  206. Not swimming all the way up to edge of lake.
  207. Skipping the wetsuit strippers.
  208. Wearing a long sleeve shirt over a one-piece race kit. On my first half Ironman in my one-piece Fusion suit, I threw on a jacket after the swim because the morning was still chilly. While on the bike section, I realized that in order to pee, I now had to take off my bike helmet and jacket before I could unzip the front zipper of my suit and pull it down. After that race, if I am worried about being chilly on the bike, I will put on a long-sleeve shirt under my tri kit, so I can operate the zipper and put the suit down without taking my helmet off.
  209. Coming into an aid station too fast.
  210. Unapproved electronics. You usually cannot use headsets, headphone, cameras, or phones while racing. If you are used to training with music, too bad. You’ll have to occupy yourself with the scenery.
  211. Littering. Each race will have aid stations on the bike and run sections of the course. These aid stations will distribute water, sports drinks, and food which may be in wrappers. These aid stations will have trash cans for you to discard any trash you might have, but it’s not strictly required to get the trash into the trash can. If you are in the area around and following aid stations, you may throw trash on the ground. However, there may be a trash line a few dozen yards past the aid station, usually marked with a sign or traffic cone, after which point any trash put on the ground will be determined to be littering and may result in a time penalty. It is not permissible to litter or dispose of any items onto the ground anywhere outside of these aid station “trash drop zones.”
  212. Ignoring fueling because you’re not hungry.
  213. Accepting help from your Sherpa. One triathlon rule which can be confusing to new participants is the one which disallows outside assistance. This means that you cannot accept help from anyone who is not a race official. If you are coming from a running background, where it is common for friends and family to hand you drinks or snacks during a race, this may be an adjustment for you. If you have spectators coming to watch you during the race, make sure they are aware of this rule as well. Otherwise, if they are trying to be helpful and hold out a water bottle to you as you pass by, you may take it without thinking and earn yourself a time penalty or even disqualification.
  214. Drafting. While on the bike, you must maintain a distance of at least six bike lengths from the front of your front wheel to the back of the rear wheel of the rider in front of you. Once you get closer than those six bike lengths, you are in the drafting zone. Importantly, this applies regardless of whether you are directly behind the bike or staggered out to the left or right. Once you enter this drafting zone, you have 25 seconds to pass the rider in front of you. You must pass them at this point – you cannot change your mind and back out of the drafting zone. Passes must take place to the left of the rider in front of you. You cannot pass on the right. While not strictly required, it’s an excellent idea to say “on your left” in a loud voice as you approach for a pass; never assume the rider ahead of you hears you approaching. Your pass is complete once your front wheel passes the front wheel of the bike being passed. At this point, the passed rider must drop back, and it is now their responsibility to give you the required six lengths of space within 25 seconds. After you pass, you must keep moving forward and move to the right of the lane, in front of the other rider, unless you are now within six bike lengths of the next rider ahead of you, in which case the process repeats.
  215. Not paying attention to bike mount/dismount lines. You cannot mount your bike in T1 before the bike mount line, and must dismount before the bike dismount line when coming into T2.
  216. Coming in too fast to T2. Bear in mind that it’s very common to see wrecks near the bike dismount line as athletes come in too quickly and then realize they need to stop and get off before reaching the line. Be extra careful and pay attention to the cyclists around you.
  217. Forgetting your race belt at T2. During my first half-Ironman my race belt was wedged under a bottle of Gatorade which I didn’t drink in T2, and I completely forgot to put it on. I made it several hundred yards down the road before I realized my error, and had to run back to the transition area to retrieve it.
  218. Moving your bike without a helmet on. Any time you are making forward progress with your bike, whether riding it or walking and pushing it, your must have your helmet on and buckled. For safety reasons, races are understandably extremely picky about this. In fact, it’s a good practice not to touch your bike unless your helmet is on.
  219. Not reapplying sunscreen.
  220. Starting your run too fast. One mistake that many people make is to start out too fast on their run. This can be especially challenging because your eyes are used to seeing the scenery whiz by on the bike, and the comparatively meager pace of a run can seem much slower than it really is. Make sure to ease into your run and not push yourself too much, too fast.
  221. Taking in caffeine/sugar then stopping. If you are starting to struggle a bit, the caffeine and sugar in flat Coke will provide an instant jolt of energy. However, if you start drinking this, you must continue to drink it at every aid station until the end of the race. Do not take it in at the beginning and then stop; the resulting crash could be worse than any benefit gained.
  222. Not looking around and enjoying the race. These are supposed to be fun! My 2016 Ironman took place in beautiful Sonoma Valley, California, and I was captivated by the scenery during my bike ride. At one point I was looking to my left at the endless vineyards below and exclaimed loudly to the man riding beside me, “That sure is a nice view!” I then turned my attention back to the road and saw that we had gained very quickly on an extremely fit young lady cycling in white spandex shorts, who shot me a dirty look as we passed by.)
  223. Panicking in transition and going too fast. When the clock is ticking and you’re not moving forward, many people panic and try to move too fast. In T1 at my very first triathlon, I hurriedly put on my bike helmet, not realizing my sunglasses were inside. I pulled it off and the sunglasses fell to the ground, whereupon I promptly stumbled and stepped directly onto them. No more sunglasses for this race. Many books teach you how to shave seconds off of your transition times. Some even recommend to clip your bike shoes onto your pedals, using rubber bands to hold them level so that you can run and jump into them with a flying start, no doubt with Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” playing in your head at the same time. While I am awed by those who can achieve this feat of gymnastics, I am equally as sure that my attempt to do the same would result in a broken collarbone and somewhere between 10 and 50 stitches.
    Here’s my advice: take your time. United States Special Forces have a saying, “slow is smooth, smooth is fast.” This is the best way I can think of to emphasize the importance of staying composed.
  224. Forgetting where you parked your bike in T1. If you are truly racing and concerned about seconds, you can choose a bike spot nearest to the aisle, but I usually choose a spot at the other end of the pole closest to the fence. I know I like to take my time in T1, and this way I will not have people brushing by me as I’m transitioning. Some competitors like to make their transition spot stand out visually with a bright towel or bandana tied to their bike’s handlebars. This makes the bike easy to spot as they run up to the T1 area out of the water – you would be surprised at how thick and slow your brain can feel when you are out of breath during the midst of a race.
  225. Passing the aid stations by.
  226. Being selfish at the finish line. This was it. I was about to become an Ironman. I was in Sonoma Valley, California, and it was nearing midnight. I had been racing since 7:00 a.m. and any feeling in my muscles had crossed over from anguish to numbness long ago. I was hobbling on my left ankle, courtesy of a misplaced step on the unlit running course two hours prior. After I fell, it had taken ten minutes to get myself off the pavement because each attempt to pull up onto my hands and knees would set off an exciting series of convulsions in my thighs and calves. But I had made it. I was going to finish, 140.6 miles and more than 16 hours after I started. The loudspeaker would proclaim the words I’d waited for nine months to hear: “Sam Sanders, You Are An Ironman!”
    I jogged through a series of chutes which opened up abruptly into the finishing arena. After hours in the darkness on a two-lane country road, I was rendered nearly blind and deaf by dozens of floodlights and Jay-Z pulsating through enormous speakers. I looked in vain for my wife. It was impossible to see anything beyond the giant red gate marking the end of my day, but I knew she was back there somewhere, camera in hand. I swerved to my right and high-fived ghostly hands floating out of the darkness. I shuffled towards the finish line, now just five yards in front of me. As I threw my hands together in unashamed applause for myself, I was sharply elbowed on my left side by a figure beside me. A middle-aged man in a white shirt and blue visor trotted past, hands raised, crossing the finish line a few steps ahead of me. The pictures my wife had positioned herself for at the end of my race all later displayed this man dominating the field of view, with a bit of my right side visible behind him. On the plus side, this fellow competitor who had shoved in front of me had the pleasure of finishing in 1,663rd place instead of 1,664th.
  227. Post-Race
  228. Not taking time off after race (mentally). Don’t sign up for another race the day after race day. And don’t throw your Bento Box in the trash and vow to never race again. Take a few weeks to process everything before making any major life decisions.
  229. Not taking time off after race (physically). Racing is extraordinarily hard on the body. Even though you were doing those distances in training each week, the speed and stress of a race really wears your body down. Feel free to go on short jogs, but depending on the race distance, take one to three weeks before returning to high-stress training such as interval workouts, long runs, or bricks. However…
  230. Sitting on a couch/in the car the day after a race. You will almost certainly be sore the day after a race, and many times you must use that day for travel. However, try to get at least a short walk in to work out the stiffness. The worst thing is to not do any sort of activity during that post-race day.
  231. Marathon blues after your A race.
  232. Unhappiness with race time regardless of conditions.
  233. Comparing yourself to other athletes.
  234. Getting a bad tattoo.

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