11 Epic Race-Day Fails…and How to Avoid Them

We’ve all experienced it—the sinking feeling that something is amiss. It’s the morning of the race, the first wave of athletes is already on the course and you’re warming up. All of a sudden you realize you forgot to pack your goggles or worse, you left your nutrition bag in the fridge. We asked runners, cyclists, swimmers and triathletes for their biggest race-day blunders. Here’s what they said.


Fail: “I worked on my bike gears the night before a criterium. My front derailleur didn’t align right and I ended up not being able to shift to my big chainring during the race. I couldn’t stay with the pack and ended up getting pulled.”

Avoid it: If you have to adjust your bike, do it a week before the race, not the night before.


Fail: “I accidentally packed un-tinted goggles for an open water swim on a bright, sunny morning. It was awful. I couldn’t sight for about a third of it and couldn’t breathe to the right for a third of it unless my eyes were closed. It felt like I did most of the swim blind. To make matters worse, my armpits got chaffed.” 

Avoid it: Always pack an extra pair of goggles, and always apply a good dose of Body Glide.


Fail: “I didn’t read the weather report before the San Diego Gran Fondo and it was cold and rainy. I had to wear my arm warmers as leg warmers so they only came up to just above my knee and I had this gap of skin exposed on my thighs that was so so cold. And I looked pretty darn silly….embarrassing.” 

Avoid it: ALWAYS check the weather report?even in sunny San Diego.


Fail: “I had a pedal lose a bolt during a tri and I couldn’t unclip as I came into T2, which led to a sideways, on the ground Janean. There was some bruising, but honestly, it was my pride that hurt the most!”

Avoid it: Look for loose bolts during your pre-race bike check.


Fail: “I was escorting a friend on the bike leg at the 2011 Challenged Athletes Foundation Triathlon and I left my water bottles in the fridge at home. I had to beg and borrow water bottles from exhibitors! I got one from the Tri Club, and another from a friend who was there to do the Spin bike event. I kept the Tri Club bottle but returned my friend’s to her full of Hershey’s Kisses as a thank you.

Avoid it: Put a sticky note on your race pack to remind yourself about food in the fridge. And if you do have to borrow a bottle, fill it with chocolate before you return it.


Fail: “I didn’t prepare a proper nutrition plan for my first 70.3. It was 100 degrees that day and I was forced to walk a lot. I made the same mistake again training for my second 70.3 a year later. This one was at altitude and again the temperature reached close to 100. After all that training, I only beat my first time by 3 seconds! It turns out a good nutrition plan is so hard that even the Active editors don’t always get it right.”

Avoid it: Put your nutrition strategy to the test in training, and start early.


Fail: “I stopped to pee during a 5K once. A 5K! My wife still makes fun of me for that one.”

Avoid it: When you gotta go, you gotta go, but if you’re running a 5K you should probably try to hold it.


Fail: “Traveling for a road race, I botched the setup of my trunk-mounted bike rack. When I got there, my front tire was melted. I’d unwittingly placed it too close to the exhaust pipe of the car. Did I have a spare wheel and tire? I was never a Boy Scout, but yes, one. Did I get a flat in the race? Of course.”

Avoid it: Pack spare tires in addition to spare tubes.




One response to “11 Epic Race-Day Fails…and How to Avoid Them

  1. I had to adjust my front derailleur a couple of weeks ago before my first duathlon of the year. I did it three days before the race and failed. I am thankful for the local bike shop as I had time to get it in.

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