When Should You DNF a Triathlon?

Society often rewards those who overcome adverse personal circumstances, extreme weather conditions and tough courses. Photos and video of triathletes who continue to race despite being bloodied from a crash are the frequent fodder of social media.

With so much attention and reward for the act of soldiering on, no matter the challenge, why would anyone encourage a DNF in a triathlon?

There are times when continuing to race will do you more harm than good. Fighting through pain and pushing your body to the limit can be unsafe, and it could even lead to long-term injuries. Here's why the DNF isn't the worst thing that can happen.

More: How to Prevent Race-Ending Cramps

Don't Quit

This isn't an article telling you it's okay to quit. There are many reasons you should push yourself during a race. The key is to be smart and listen to your body. Don't give up for a "lame" excuse.

What are the "lame" reasons? Here are a few examples:

* The weather conditions aren't perfect—sunny, calm wind and 75 degrees.

* Sometime during the race it's apparent that a PR or a podium spot are out of reach.

* Single-sport goal paces aren't being met.

* A feared rival shows up unexpectedly to the event.

* It's just too uncomfortable to go that fast.

* The course is more difficult than anticipated.

More: 8 Ways to Stop Negative Thoughts in Your Next Triathlon

There are reasons to press on and rise to the challenge on race day, but making that decision involves careful calculation in order to be safe.

Bad Weather

When weather conditions are dangerous rather than a challenge, consider pulling the plug on the day. What's considered dangerous for one person may not be for the next. The key is to know your own limits.

A cold day where water temperature and air temperature are both below 60 degrees Fahrenheit can make for dicey conditions for a swimmer. Add wind to the mix, and conditions become treacherous. This is when your judgment comes into play, not toughness.

If conditions are extremely cold or hot, pushing ahead on race day can mean a trip to the medical tent. It's important to ask yourself if the possibility of extended recovery time is worth the risk.

More: 4 Ways to Avoid the Bike-Run Bonk

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About the Author

Gale Bernhardt

Gale Bernhardt was the USA Triathlon team coach at the 2003 Pan American Games and 2004 Athens Olympics. She's worked as a World Cup coach and delivered education training for the International Triathlon Union's Sport Development Team. Thousands of athletes have had successful training and racing experiences using Gale's easy-to-follow training plans. You can find some of her training plans on Active Trainer to help you succeed.

Gale Bernhardt was the USA Triathlon team coach at the 2003 Pan American Games and 2004 Athens Olympics. She's worked as a World Cup coach and delivered education training for the International Triathlon Union's Sport Development Team. Thousands of athletes have had successful training and racing experiences using Gale's easy-to-follow training plans. You can find some of her training plans on Active Trainer to help you succeed.

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