Silent Sports Column

Typically, the last thing someone wants to do after a race is think about how it went. After months of training and a hard effort, it’s easy to kick back with a beer and revel in the event being over. But if you plan on racing again in the future, the short time after a race is important in improving for the future.

I’ve been doing plenty of this in the shadow of the Door County Triathlon last weekend, which amounted to equal parts disappointment and success.

When looking back on a race, it is important to only focus on things you can control. A one-hour delay and rough water or someone knocking your bike over in transition can’t be solved with any amount of training or preparation.

I took second place in the sprint race on Saturday, but only after grinding through debilitating stomach cramps in the last mile of the run. On top of that, upon coming into transition after the bike leg, I ran into the wrong aisle of bike racks and spent precious seconds searching for my running shoes that were not there.

Walking through a race-simulating transition before the event started could have solved the latter issue. Simply visualizing where my spot on the bike rack was relative to the rest of the course could have saved me the few seconds that I lost to the first-place finisher. You can be sure I’ll walk through my transitions in future races.

The stomach cramps are harder to pin down as they can be caused by a myriad of things. But generally, cramps are due to nutrition and hydration. The lack of water and electrolytes can cause muscles to cramp, or involuntarily contract. Since I rarely get stomach cramps during races, I had to think about what was different about this race than in others I’ve done in the past.

My first thought goes to the hour delay due to severe weather. While I can’t control lightning, I could have continued drinking some sort of water and electrolyte drink during the delay.

I also considered the fact that my morning beverage was yerba mate, something I’ve never trained or raced with. I drink mate regularly as it is a more natural alternative to coffee, but never having used it before high intensity training or racing, perhaps my body did not know how to react.

Although these are well educated guesses, they are still just guesses. Endurance sports are a game of trial and error. In the future, I won’t drink mate before a high intensity event and see what happens. Or I’ll try it in training and find out if I can attribute it to my cramping.

By focusing on things you can control, over years of racing you will hone in on the things that work for you and the things that don’t.