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How To Absolutely Suck In Your Next Triathlon

Mar 20, 2007 |

I like the funny title of Ben Greenfield’s article, How To Absolutely Suck In Your Next Triathlon. Read the article below:

For some of you, this article comes a bit too late. You’ve had a great season and it’s too late to mess up in any more races. For others, you’ve still got time to bite the bullet and suck it up in your next event.

Ready for me to spill the beans on how to have a horrible race, and maybe even a PR (Personal Ruin)? Read on, O Ye of Low Self-Expectation.

1. Don’t warm up for your three sports. That’s right. Forget to print the Mapquest directions, arrive at the race late, and have barely enough time to dip your toes in the water before the starting pistol fires (who am I kidding…does *anybody* use a firearm anymore to start a race?). Since a warm-up in each skill – running, bicycling, and swimming – will distribute blood flow for specific individual muscle requirements, allow for enhanced lactate buffering, and improve heart stroke volume and respiratory muscle elasticity, you want to completely avoid this step. Especially avoid any race pace accelerations, which remove any overnight staleness and heat the body’s core temperature to necessary pre-race requirements. I suggest tucking a small pillow or hammock into your race bag. That way you can take a pre-race map, and awake to the sound of the other athletes churning into the water.

2. Hold back on the swim start. Don’t charge out into the water, fight for your space, and psyche-up mentally and physically for a fantastic, fast race. Instead, wade timidly into the water, ease yourself into race pace, then get kicked in the nose by multiple other slow starters as you try to weave your way through the crowd. A good method to achieve this objective is to tie two bricks to your feet with a small piece of twine, then remove the bricks at about the halfway point, when you finally feel like trying to swim fast.

3. Never practice or attempt the “shoes-on-pedals” start. You’ll never be able to do it anyway, right? Just fumble with your cleats for awhile, hope that you won’t have to run any more than 2 feet before clipping in, and add 30-40 seconds to your transition time. As a matter of fact, don’t practice swim-to-bike transitions at all in your training. There’s so much more to worry about, and who cares about free time? You can just run 10 seconds faster for every mile to make up that lost time.

4. Avoid the aero position at all costs. Stand on every hill and every pass, come out of aero for all your hydration and nutrition, and sit up for all the corners. No matter that the momentum transfer is an enormous waste of energy, and that wind tunnel tests have verified that the aero position is (shock!) the fastest. Besides, it’s uncomfortable, your back hurts, and even though you plan on racing in triathlons for the next decade or so, that $100 biomechanical fitting fee just can’t be worth it.

5. See number 3. Also don’t try “shoeless dismounts” coming off the bike. Even though this shaves precious seconds off your transition time, and makes you look like a rock-star, practicing this in a non-race situation might result in an inconvenient foot rash or maybe even crashing your bicycle in a grassy park while traveling at a neck-breaking 8 miles per hour. The same rule still applies – don’t practice transitions, bricks, or any of the “logistical nightmarish activities” in your training. What a headache, anyways.

6. Walk the first mile of the run. It feels comfy and nice. Nobody wants to endure that death march through the first 5000 feet or so, when those precious quads are still bombed from the bike. What is this, a race or something?

7. Do not estimate your fuel and hydration needs, or take into consideration the fact that your body can assimilate 4.1-4.6 calories of carbohydrate per minute, and needs the equivalent of approximately 1 water bottle per hour, not to mention regular electrolyte dosing, and small amounts of protein and fats, as well as a pre-race meal with low-glycemic index carbohydrates and minimal fat and fiber. It is a pain to do, often requires a calculator, and may even necessitate a bit of pre-race planning and packing. Instead, see what yummy suprises are in your race swag bag, and eat these colorful morsels when you start to feel hungry on the bike. If you’re not full, continue to eat, perhaps accepting the peanut butter and jelly sandwich another racer offers you as you stand by the side of the road, attempting to change a flat tire, which you’ve never attempted to do, but it can’t be that difficult…

Ben Greenfield runs Pacific Elite Fitness at, an online portal for personal training, triathlete coaching, and free fitness and multi-sport advice. He resides in Liberty Lake, WA, where he works as director of sports performance for Champion Sports Medicine, a training and testing lab for athletes. Ben graduated from University of Idaho with bachelorís and masterís degrees in sports science and exercise physiology, and is certified as a personal trainer and coach by the National Strength & Conditioning Association. Ben also offers individualized personal training, multi-sport coaching, training program design for athletes, lifestyle wellness and diet advising, and corporate consulting for workplace fitness programs. To learn more, visit or e-mail Ben at

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