Top 15 Ways to Successfully Screw Up a Race

Recently, someone on twitter mentioned they frakked up a race. Reading their entry, it reminded me of all the things I’ve managed to screw up in my own racing career, and it occurred to me that there might be a whole lot of runners or triathletes who just don’t know how to screw up a race. There might even be those that are running a race but don’t really want to be there, and they need ways to prove to their buddies just why they shouldn’t be allowed to run with them. So, being an expert, I figure it’s my duty to help all those people screw themselves.

Let’s be clear. I’m not a front-of-the-pack racer. I’m barely a back-of-the-pack racer. I’m the guy the reminds the volunteers not to forget to pick up the cones as they clean up behind me. I’m the guy that doesn’t have to worry about crowds, because the crowds are always long gone before I get to the finish line.

But I’ve done a lot of races, and having done a lot, I’ve learned a few ways to completely screw up a race. So if you’re looking how to shoot yourself in the proverbial foot, I’m here to help. I’ve screwed up races, triathlons, swimming, and more than one or two other events. Hell, if it can be done wrong, I probably have.

Somewhere in my life somebody decided to call me a “runner”. I never thought of myself as one and I thought I didn’t like it… But then again, if you finish an ultramarathon, well I guess you have no choice but use that label.

In my first marathon, I was excited like everyone else. I’d run a half marathon before, so I felt confident. I was excited and ready to roll.

I let that excitement mess up my entire race, because I went out too fast, too soon. At mile 15, I imploded. I managed to finish but it was a horrible experience and involved a lot of pain in the foot, back, and ego.

And that, I think, is the number one winning strategy everyone makes from the 5k to the 50k. We get caught up with our buddies, the excitement, our heart rate spikes, and we hit the anaerobic point long, long before we should.

We start too fast. We feel good being pumped up with all the adrenaline for the start.

Big I digress. Here are my top  ways you can successfully screw up in an athletic events such as triathlons to 5k Sprints to 50k ultramarathons.

  • Always, always start a race FASTER than your training. Waste energy weaving in and out of people trying to get around them. Don’t let the field spread out… stay meshed in with a group going just a bit slower than you want to go weave all around them, particularly at AID stations.
  • Waste as much energy as possible at the start of the race. Why are you saving it?
  • Always skip the pre-race warmup. A stiffer tendon means a faster race!
  • In a race, a reverse split is always an indicator of improper “racing”. Go out fast and hit “THE WALL” as hard as you can!
  • Don’t plan the night before or visualize your race the night before. Have another beer instead!
  • Don’t wear a HR monitor! You’ll spend too much time distracted and not run faster. It’s a race… Your heart should feel like it’s about to explode!
  • Never go aerobic.
  • Never go anaerobic.
  • Always know when to do the above two items.
  • Do not remain calm before the race. Jump up and down, scream, and waste all the energy you possibly can to get rid of all that useable nervous energy. Who needs that to run?
  • Don’t ever think about your breathing. We do it naturally, so why should we brother thinking about it not only during the race, but before? What’s wrong with hyperventilating anyway? Doesn’t that get more oxygen into your brain?
  • Never bring a spare of anything. The item you’ve been training with has worked perfectly fine all through training, so why would it break or the battery die or get lost on the day of the race?
  • Eat a huge pasta dinner the night before the race. Pizza, lasagna, spaghetti… Eat it all with dessert! Yes! Fill that belly, so when your body isn’t ready to use the porta-potty before the race, it can be completely ready after you start running, and you’ll have to stop for 5-10 minutes while you deal with “the trots”. Ya, that pasta dinner is a brilliant idea.
  • Eat a lot of food right before you start running. That way,  your body will burn the calories sloshing around in your stomach rather than the energy in your fat cells. You’ll need those later.
  • Stop at every aid station and casually talk with the volunteers. Don’t keep moving forward. Stop completely and let your legs get a bit cold before going forward.
  • Never bring sunscreen. AID stations never run out of sunscreen, and it will only slow you down
  • Never check the weather because it is always perfect for a race, and it will never determine anything you wear
  • Try something different! Do something you’ve never, ever done before in training. Like, new shoes. Or a new pair of running shorts, which will never, ever chaff in new and unexpected areas.
  • Stop and take lots, and lots of pictures. Make sure to stop right in the middle of the course, in the most annoying spot, because runners will love that.
  • Wear a GOPRO. That will make you faster. Really.
  • Make sure when you remove your swim cap after the swim in a triathlon  to come to a  complete stop first, then remove the cap, then keep going. That’s really efficient and fast.

Okay, for those that have noticed that I have more than 15 examples of how to screw up for a race… Well, this is about screwups, right?