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Part Two: Some More Racing Tactics

1.  Have a plan, and know what will go wrong

Something will go wrong in your race.  Accept it.  Knowing what can and will go wrong while competing is part of my overall race strategy (having a strategy helps, for that matter).  For me, I know that in a triathlon I will not be one of the first guys out of the water – meaning I will be looking to make up time on the bike and run.  I also know that in competitive situations I generally disregard any sort of safety and self-preservation.  Translation – sometimes I crash.

Having a contingency plan if I crash, or if I flat, or roll my ankle running  downhill on an uneven surface, or if any of the other dozens of things that could go wrong, actually do, will be key in those moments of panic (don’t panic).  Sometimes when I’m in a stressful situation, I ask myself, “What would Doc do?”  Don’t be high-strung like old Johnny Ringo (for the record, I’ve watched Tombstone at least a hundred times).  Stay calm, collect yourself, and get on.  And don’t crash.

2.  Use the course, don’t fight it

Unless you’re competing in a completely controlled environment a pool, on the track, etc., making subtle changes to your technique and level of effort based on the course can put you at a big advantage over competitors that just “go hard.”

Having specific knowledge of the course I’ll be competing is a key part of my preparation, and knowing how to use the course to my advantage is a key part of my race strategy.  Where should I push hard?  Where can I use a slight downhill to recover without giving up much, if any, time.  Or maybe there is a slight downhill that everyone will soft-pedal and I can really drop the hammer to gain time.  I think about cornering, and carrying as much speed as I can through turns – every time you accelerate costs energy, so do what you can to preserve as much of that speed as possible.

On a hilly run, a few things I think about…when running uphill I’ll “shift” into a smaller gear and focus on keeping a good cadence.  My stride shortens and I think about keeping the legs turning over.  On downhills, I think about lengthening my stride and gliding, avoiding striking my heel and putting on the brakes, while keeping the legs moving at a high speed.

There a so many things you can do in a race that’ll save you seconds, so long as you’re conscious of them.

3. You’ve got nothing to lose (or everything to lose)

In Robert Greene’s 33 Strategies of War (I think it’s “War” though it could be his 48 Laws of Power), he offers some great advice – one particular gem is to never engage with someone who has nothing to lose.  This person will lay it all on the line, at any cost, and will not think twice about it.  Conversely he suggests to never engage with anyone who has everything to lose (make up your mind for God’s sake).  The person with everything to lose will compete at all costs, too.  So whether you’ve got nothing to lose, or everything to lose, it really doesn’t matter – it’s amateur endurance sports – what do you have to lose?.  The point is to race fearlessly, race smart, and race hard.  After all, it is a race.

4.  Look for motivation where you need to

As personal of an experience as competing is, sometimes you’ve got to look to others for that little extra bit of motivation – and that’s fine.  Having someone around to cheer you on can be incredibly helpful in moments of difficulty.  Maybe you’re out there competing to show strength for a friend suffering from sickness or injury; maybe it’s for your kid or spouse who is unable to be on hand.  But getting that little bit of motivation, whether it be on behalf of someone else, or from a supporter at the race, can really help to motivate when things get tough.

The thing about external motivation that I’ve noticed for me in particular is that it really does matter who it’s coming from.  Having just anyone sitting and waiting to cheer me on as I come out of T2 and onto the run doesn’t cut it.  But having someone around who is particularly inspiring, makes all the difference in the world.  Maybe they are inspiring to as a person, maybe it’s because of what they have achieved in sport, or maybe it’s because they are tough as hell, and I know that no matter how bad I are feeling, they’d be able to handle it…and then some.

Find the inspiration that you need, wherever it may come from, and dig deep.

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