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The Lowdown
THE TAO OF TRIATHLON
By Jeff Matlow


I’ve been participating in triathlons for almost 20 years. Throughout most of that time I’ve learned absolutely nothing about myself. And though my performance and technique has slightly improved over the years, when it comes right down to it, throughout most of these two decades I’ve learned close to nothing about racing either.


I might very well be a genuine dimwit.


My racing style has been idiotic. Here’s what happens every time: I go really hard on the swim, I push out every ounce of remaining energy on the bike and then have absolutely no stamina left for the run. I crash and burn.


For 19 years I’ve been doing this. For 19 years I’ve been thinking that maybe if I just try harder, maybe if I get a different coach, my racing will get better. Maybe I need new shoes, a new gait, new gel, a new watch. Maybe if I wear more colorful clothing I won’t be so darn tired on the run.


I’m a buffoon. But it took me 19 years of racing to figure that out.


And so, nearly two decades later, I’ve started becoming a bit more introspective and slightly less dimwitted. What I’ve done is come up with a few rules that now define my racing. So here it is my friends: the 14 tips for racing triathlon that I’d tell people if anybody ever bothered to ask me. I call it the Tao of Triathlon.


1. Create a racing plan and stick with your plan.


2. Inevitably, things will happen that won’t allow you to stick with your plan.



3. In case of #2, make believe Plan B is your plan. Stick with that one.



4. No matter how bad and irreparable things may seem, stay the course, it will all eventually get good again.


5. Every once in awhile say something encouraging to another racer. It’ll make both of you feel better and the sound of your voice will remind you that you’re still alive.


6. Don’t try anything new on race day. Unless it’s got the words “chicken” and “soup” in it.


7. No matter how hard it seems, you had much harder training days


8. Before you get to the starting line, make sure you know the reason you are racing triathlon. Write it down; remember it. When things don’t go as planned, this will be your source of hope. As Nietzsche’s triathlete second cousin once said, “he who has a why to race a triathlon can bear with almost any how.”


9. Come up with a motivating mantra. The right mantra can be your best friend. “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.” “Train hard; race easy.” “Be here now.” Whatever it is, you’ll be surprised how well a few simple words will keep you focused and on track.


10. Be here now (see, the mantra works already). Don’t worry about what is behind you and stop your mind from thinking about what lies ahead. All you can affect is right here, right now. It is one stroke, one pedal, one step. And you just need to focus on doing that one thing to the absolute best of your ability and keep repeating it until they tell you to stop.


11. Figure out what you need to eat and drink months before you get to the starting line. All the training in the world will add up to a load of bull hockey if you don’t pay attention to your body.


12. Don’t wear yourself out in the swim. For most of us, a triathlon doesn’t really begin until halfway through the run anyway. If you pace yourself well, you’ll be zipping by people during those last miles while all the folks that left it all on the bike course will be gasping for energy. Try not to kick them in the face as you run them over—that’s just plain rude.


13. Don’t worry,be happy. As Yogi Berra’s triathlete neighbor’s uncle once said, racing a triathlon is 90 percent mental —the other half is physical. Maintaining a calm, positive attitude throughout the day is often the difference between a good race and a really crappy one.


14. Remind yourself regularly that you are racing a triathlon and you’re darn lucky to have the ability and means to do this. Relish the experience. Enjoy the day. The miracle isn’t that you will finish—and youwill. The miracle is that you had the courage to start.


Jeff Matlow is finally growing up and taking a seat at the big boys’ table. Feel free to drop a line: jeffruns@imATHLETE.com or www.twitter.com/IAmAthlete


112 USA TRIATHLON SPRING 2011

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