Lessons Learned From Completing 14 Iron-Distance Races

With every race you train for and compete in, you will learn and understand new things about yourself, the environment, your equipment and those who surround you. After 24 years of competing in triathlons and 18 years of coaching endurance athletes, I have learned and continue to learn about issues within the sport.

The quotes and the corresponding points below are just a select few that you should consider, whether you are training for your first long-distance event or your 20th.

"Any fool can know. The point is to understand." Albert Einstein

Hire a Coach

Even though I was both competing in triathlons and just beginning my multi-sport coaching career, I hired a coach for my first iron-distance race in 1999. I wanted the expertise of a coach who had guided others successfully to the finish line. When I arrived at the start line, I was confident in my preparation and ready to take on and enjoy the day.

"A man's pride can be his downfall, and he needs to learn when to turn to others for support and guidance." Bear Grylls


Depending on the individual, it will take significant time to properly prepare for a long distance endurance event. There is much more to consider than just swimming, cycling and running. What are your strengths and weaknesses? Are you best suited for a flat or hilly course? How do you handle the heat? Are you comfortable in open water? Can you change a flat tire? The list goes on and on. Know the answers to these questions before you arrive on race day.

"Success is where preparation and opportunity meet." Bobby Unser


Being consistent with your training will build your fitness more efficiently, and more importantly, it will help you to avoid injury.

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." Aristotle

Be Positive

Your mind can talk your body in and out of a lot of things. Long distance training and racing are very mental, and at some point your mind will wander, and you will question your capabilities. Negative thoughts such as "I'm tired," "My blister is killing me," and "Why did I sign up for this race?" will only drain your energy. Take the time to look around and you will always see someone who feels worse or is dealing with bigger issues.

"The mind is everything. What you think, you become." Buddha


Never stress about the things that are out of your control. You can't change the elements, the course or how other racers behave. Everyone on race-day is dealing with challenging issues and you need to focus on what you can control--your effort, proper fueling, pacing, behavior and attitude. If it is a windy day, embrace it and think about what it will feel like when it is at your back!

"Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out." John Wooden


If you are getting ready for your first iron-distance race, your main goal should be to finish feeling good about your preparation and race-day effort. You have trained for your race; don't let racers around you dictate a different plan.

"A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others." Ayn Rand

Write It Down

There are several variables to account for during long distance training and racing, and writing things down can help alleviate some of the stress. Write down your goals, map out your race-day plan (including pacing and nutrition) and create packing, transition bag and special-needs bag lists.

"It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen." John Wooden

Have a Plan, but ...

Iron-distance races are all about managing the day--and sometimes they can be a really long day. Be sure to have a Plan A, but remain flexible and able to deal with the issues that are sure to pop up. Adjust your goals and keep moving forward.

"Everyone has a plan till they get punched in the face." Mike Tyson


If you have kept the eight previous points in mind, training and racing should be fun. You have invested a lot of time, effort and money toward this experience, and you deserve to enjoy the journey.

"When you have confidence, you can have a lot of fun. And when you have fun, you can do amazing things." Joe Namath

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