My Race Satisfaction Strategy

by Mike Coughlin

Race strategy is a term that usually describes tactics and contingency plans aimed at achieving the fastest and/or most competitive result. However one can also apply a strategy towards making the race experience as enjoyable and satisfying as possible. I was recently reminded of this fact while racing what is perhaps the best triathlon event ever conceived — the American Triple-T Ohio.

The Triple-T to me is everything a triathlon should be. First and foremost, it is a formidable endurance challenge, consisting of four triathlons of varying distances over three days. The scenery and terrain at the Ohio event is incredible, with relentless rollers and climbs and technical descents on the bike and run that snake through the Shawnee State Forest. Every skill in a participant’s multi-sport portfolio is tested, and with creative twists like the two-person team category and the Saturday afternoon bike/swim/run race, there is an element of the unexpected.

More incredible than the event itself are the people it attracts. These are competitive athletes to be sure (it takes a high level of fitness just to get through the weekend), but it is their attitude that is most impressive. An unspoken agreement exists between participants to embrace the challenge, race fairly, bring the best out in each other, and celebrate afterwards. By Sunday afternoon, I found myself cheering on many new friends as we made our way back and forth along the final run course. I’m pictured above with my new friend and fellow Endurance Corner athlete Mike Corona (who had an awesome event by the way).

Looking back on the weekend, I realized that the Triple-T reflects all the values I hold highly in how I experience sport: immense challenge, fair competition, and a great social atmosphere. When considering how to increase the quality and quantity of these types of races, I was reminded that our individual actions can make a real difference. Here is my strategy for having satisfying race experiences:

  • Support challenging races: Nobody sets a personal best at Triple-T, and it is a pain in the butt to travel to. Yet prioritizing races that are challenging will send a message to race directors that we want these events. Better still, we can help with the organizing of such events ourselves.

  • Race with honor: There are no draft marshals at the Triple-T, and there doesn’t need to be. I was thrilled to observe my fellow athletes (those not on draft-legal teams anyway) spread out on the rare flatter sections of road. At an event like this, it would be considered poor etiquette to push the limits of the rules, and that’s exactly how it should be.

  • Treat your competitors as partners: The word competition is derived from the Latin competere, which means, “to seek together.” Viewing our fellow athletes as partners on our journey of self-improvement helps to bring out our best.

  • Make time to socialize: These days, it seems that the first thing on most athletes’ mind at the finish line is how fast they can pack the car, get home, and post their race report on the Internet. While all races can’t last the whole weekend like the Triple-T, making time to meet new friends and share common experiences before the long drive home will make the racing scene more enjoyable for everyone.

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