Taking cues from these Olympic successes and blunders can help you achieve your peak on race day.
When Sarah Groff and the lead pack of nine women crossed the 2-mile mark during the run, Australian Erin Densham went to the front and upped the pace. Groff knew she couldn’t hold it, so she dropped off slightly. Three miles later, the American turned herself inside out to get back into the leading group of four to fight for a medal. She just missed her goal, but Groff beat several athletes more accomplished than her by executing her plan to perfection.
Takeaway: Holding a steady pace early in a race is easy; accelerating over the final miles is the hard part. Follow your plan during the first half of a race, and then spike your effort to hold that pace to the finish line.
Fix it first.
Canadian Paula Findlay took the ITU by storm in 2010 and 2011, winning five premier-level WTS races. Then she suffered a hip injury. Findlay was never given time to heal completely—a decision veteran teammate Simon Whitfield blasted her coaches for at the Games. She started the Olympic triathlon but finished tearfully in last place.
Takeaway: Although some injuries can heal while training, many require more drastic measures. If you have a persistent injury—even during the lead-up to a big race—get it diagnosed properly, then take the time to fully heal.
Keep your diet consistent.
American Manny Huerta suffered through a food allergy the day of the Olympic triathlon. The night before the race, he ate at the hotel restaurant he frequented during the week, but something in his salad didn’t sit well, and his race suffered as a result. Great Britain’s Jonathan Brownlee says pizza is often his pre-race meal of choice. The bronze medalist chooses consistency in his pre-race meal over everything else. “Pizza is the same everywhere in the world,” he says.
Takeaway: If you often travel to races, pick a pre-race meal that is easy to find on the road and agrees with your digestive system.
Race with your head.
Jonathan Brownlee picked up a 15-second penalty in T1 that he had to serve during the run. His coaches told him to take it during the first lap, but the 22-year-old Brit was already gapping the field in a three-man breakaway when he approached the box. Brownlee overrode his coaches and decided to serve his penalty later in the race, allowing him to gap the field with the aid of the other two medalists and earn bronze despite the 15-second penalty.
Takeaway: If something goes wrong—flat tire, lost nutrition—during a race, take a minute to make the smartest decision instead of reacting in a knee-jerk fashion.
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