How to fail
When things go wrong
After an exceptionally good season in terms of productive training, staying healthy and avoiding injuries, my first triathlon A-race was approaching – Long Distance Triathlon Open Swedish Championship and Pre-Worlds. I was in the shaped of my life, confident (almost too much) and ready to kick some ass.
Long Distance Triathlon Open Swedish Championship and Pre-Worlds
Swim 3000 meters (4000 meters) | Bike 120 kilometers | Run 30 kilometers
But just as successful my training and preparations had been, just as unsuccessful the race would be. Most of the circumstances I couldn’t have predicted or prepared for, but I still blame myself (who else can I point finger at?). So I learn from my mistakes and look forward with a this-will-never-happen-again mind-set.
The best way to learn from your mistakes is to clearly point them out, so that’s what I’m doing.
Here’s my list of HOW TO FAIL
1. Pick the right race
Pick a race in the northern hemisphere, preferably Sweden where the Summers can get really cold, even in the middle of the Summer peak season when the sun barely sets before it rises. If you are lucky, you might get a 10 C-degree day with harsh, windy conditions and torrential, non-stop rain. Also, water temperatures usually don’t exceed 15-16 C degrees.
If you can catch a fever, even better.
2. Terrible race preparations
About 5-6 days before the race, get sick. If you can catch a fever, even better. But don’t get too sick. There should be big doubts wether you can race or not, but always the sligthest possibility to race (at least you should think so even though everybody else tells you the opposite).
To get sick, there are a number of things you can do. Make sure you have plenty to do at work so you are forced to skip in-between meals and have 10-minute lunch breaks. With a full schedule already, start a new business. It will keep your mind busy. Then buy a new house and plan the move in detail – buying new furniture, resigning contracts, etc. Of course, maintain your training schedule of at least 10 hours per week and throw in a few really tough session to further weakened your immune system. If you have a family and kids, even better, you’re all set.
When you are sick leading up to the race you can’t train and this will also add to the stress you are already suffering from. This is a two-in-one deal so make sure to get this one right.
3. Race day disaster
With a solid base of training you can’t screw up everything, but there are still a few things you can do without too much effort.
Number one, underdress. Put on just enough clothes to survive, but not to be comfortable at all. If you picked the right race in Sweden, it can get as cold as 10 C degrees so if you just wear a tri top (t-shirt) you should be cold enough to shake uncontrollably for the entire race. The shivering should be to the point where on the bike leg, the bike starts to shake and you actually suspect it to be broken. If you step off the bike several times during the race to confirm this by trying to tighten bolts, you have underdressed probably and to the point of stupidity. Super.
4. Swim zigzag
Speaking of the cold, you should be cooled down from the beginning, already before the race starts. To confirm this, jumping into the 15 C-degree water should feel “warm” after you have been waiting for the race start on land.
Once the horn blows and you start swinging your arms you tend to forget about the cold, so now you must find something else to obstruct your performance. In the swim, simply swim zigzag. This way you swim further than necessary. Good job.
The wind will make 10 C degrees feel more like freezing temperatures…
5. Bike screw up
The cold will do most of the job here. 3-4 hours on the bike, underdressed, in that kind of weather condition mentioned above you are going to fail! The wind will make 10 C degrees feel more like freezing temperatures, especially when you are soaked to the skin from pouring rain.
But if you are a stubborn bastard and refuse to give up or slow down, you need to mess up your bike! One way of doing this is to have your rear brake collapse so it pushes against your rear wheel. It will make a constant humming sound, hard to identity but it will still make pedaling much harder than it normally would be. This type of bike failure is especially effective on tempo bikes since the rear brake is nicely hidden behind the chain ring. Furthermore, the sound will make you stop several times without being able to fix the problem. Again a two-in-one deal – the collapsed rear brake will slow you down, and it will make you stop unnecessarly to inspect the bike.
6. Run into the wall
The cold will again do its job, at least in the first hour of the race. Once you warm up and can actually start running properly you need to find another ways of obstructing your performance. Learning from the swim, you just need to run longer than necessary. So take a wrong turn and add about 1 kilometer to your run. It should be enough. Once you have recovered from your mistake the natural fatigue from about 6 hours of racing in freezing conditions should have worn you down completely. And the number of mistakes you have already made can set you in an exceptionally poor mental state of mind, so any kind of fighting spirit is evaporated. If all goes as planned, the last kilometers you will probably need to walk. You will be very weak. You will have no will power. You will accept failure.
This is how you fail. And this story is how I failed at Long Distance Triathlon Open Swedish Championship and Pre-Worlds. I could’ve just had a DNF but at least I finished and that was the only good thing about this race on this particular day
(This report was written with sarcasm. If you didn’t get it, move to Sweden for a while and expose yourself to Swedish sarcastic humor. And bring lots of warm clothes).