As a veteran Ironman® athlete and traveler, I have been to more than 100 Ironman® events in the last decade. While I have seen my share of crazy stuff, it’s the almost regular occurrence of really dumb moves that astound me. After years of waiting for folks to figure it out, I am posting this list in the hope we can all move into the 21st century of triathlon. If you have any tips or thoughts, please be sure to post them in the comments below. And, of course, I fully expect that you’ll all be on the lookout to make sure I am not violating any of these guidelines….bring it on!!
Riding Your Bike With No Helmet
This has to be one of my biggest pet peeves. Not only is it patently dangerous — after all you are riding in a new place with lots of other folks as local drivers are overwhelmed — but it’s ignorant. You are racing, you most definitely didn’t forget your helmet, you just don’t want to wear it. Remember that most accidents happen within a few minutes of leaving / returning “home,” in the case of your quick 20 minute spin almost 50% of your time is in that dangerous window. Don’t risk it!
Bonus Factor: You won’t smash your head into a pulp if you crash.
Wearing Your Race Kit to a Restaurant
While the first one is dangerous, this one is pretty disrespectful. We all know you are a triathlete — your legs are shaved, you have a special bracelet on and you are wearing some kind of funky footwear and a visor. If you sitting down in a place with waitstaff and you are wearing lycra tops, bottoms or both…you are in the wrong. And if you forgot clothes but remembered compression socks then you clearly have no desire to wear regular clothes! After all, Ironman® gives you a bag as part of your check in. Even if you forgot one at home you have zero excuses for not packing a quick change of clothes before dining.
Bonus Factor: You are more likely to eat something yummy if you are in regular clothes than if you are subconsciously focused on living up to your outfit.
Running 10x Faster Than Goal Race Pace
My favorite pre-race ritual to watch is the pre-race run to get loose. Running is the easiest and safest thing to do pre-race, especially if your racing in an urban setting (Ironman® New York anyone?). Yet even though your race pace is 8:45 minute miles, you, like everyone else, seem to insist on running at or faster than 7:00 / mile pace when surrounded by others. We know this isn’t your pace. We are going to see you on race day, where a full 2/3 of participants will average slower than 10:00 miles. So chill out, slow down, and maybe even use some of that extra energy to crack a smile.
Bonus Factor: You might actually meet a cool person who is doing the race and could chat with them. Imagine that.
Staying Up Late Watching Bad Hotel TV
This is my personal weakness: I have zero desire to watch television at home, not even ESPN. But when I am on the road my television is almost always on. What starts off innocently enough devolves into channel surfing well into the wee hours as I swap between MMA bouts and infomercials on amazing kitchen cutlery. Before you know it I am destined to only get five hours of sleep peppered with disturbing dreams made up of all the junk I just watched. The ONLY time this mindlessness is encouraged is the evening before your race should you not be able to sleep. In all other instances shut down at your regular time and stick to your everyday schedule!
Bonus Factor: You won’t lose 20 IQ points before race day.
Relying Only On the Expo for Support / Resources
The expo is there to make money and it’s the one place where everyone who is from out of town absolutely knows they can get a bike fixed, buy equipment, etc. Yet every Ironman® host city has multiple bike shops and running stores, many less than a mile from the actual event itself. Instead of standing in line for hours, break out your smartphone and start doing some research on who else can help you sooner.
Bonus Factor: You’ll get what you need and you’ll be helping the local economy, a win-win!
Forgetting Your Favorite Friction-Free Additive
The only thing worse than the pain of finishing is the pain of extreme chafing. Sunscreen has a UV rating; triathletes each have a personal UF factor: Unwanted Friction. Too much UF can lead to a lot of WTFs on race day (and beyond), so take care to make sure that before you hit the water on race morning you have taken care of all your sensitive parts so that you can focus 100% on the pain and suffering that you’ll be subjecting yourself to.
Bonus Factor: No sudden searing pain when you take your post race shower, or embarrassing finishing shots with dried blood on your race kit.
Not Giving You Bike A Once Over Two Weeks Before You Leave
Perhaps the only thing worse than Unwanted Friction is showing up on race weekend after months of awesome training only to find your bike has some kind of crazy issue. Worse yet, your amateur attempts to fix it not only don’t fix the issue but cause other things to start getting funky. Save yourself a lot of financial pain and anxiety and do a full walkthrough of your bike long before you leave for the race. This means changing the tires, getting new bar tape having the cables/brakes tightened and a full mechanical review.
Bonus Factor: Your bike will look and feel like a new ride, which is important before you embark on your longest ride of the season!
Trying New Gear on Race Day
Everyone knows that you are messing with Race Karma if you wear that year’s shirt during that same event. Yet every year someone races with a new pair of shorts or socks that they just picked up. You could do even worse by changing your bike seat, bike position or running shoes within the last two weeks. Understand that a large part of your training was for fitness, but also for getting used to your equipment. Last minute changes only undermine all the hard work you have done and raise the chance of something going wrong.
Bonus Factor: Represent with pride on race day, and, after you pee all over your kit and shoes, you can toss them for new stuff that will re-motivate you to start training again after it’s all said and done!
Faking It Till You Make It
One of the main reasons I get so fired up about all this tri-dumbery is that Ironman® triathlon, and race weekend itself, are distinct, repeatable events. You train, pack, travel, unpack, prepare to race, race, pack, return home, repeat. Each phase of this process has individual steps and requirements that can be boiled down to a set of simple checklists. There is no need to make things up on the fly if you’ve actually given them some thought. This goes for race week as well as what you’ll be doing on race day. Ask around to find out what your friends and training partners do and make a plan to get everything done.
Bonus Factor: Letting checklists do the worrying means you actually get to enjoy the event itself!
Too Much Standing Around Pre-Race
We are all guilty of this. From carrying luggage (instead of wheeling it) to waiting in line for dinner (instead of making a reservation) to browsing the expo. For the record, yes, there is a legal limit to the number of free energy bar pieces you can consume in fifteen minutes and I will be enforcing it! Seriously, you get to cover 140.6 miles on race day. There is just no need to be dashing about town instead of resting (see checklists above). In addition to getting tired, you’ll probably find more things to do, think or worry about–few of which will help you come race day. Get back to your room, put your feet up, sip your sports drink and…just…plain…chill.
Bonus Factor: You can catch up on hours of really bad television if you can’t fall asleep.