Lessons From Bob Babbitt: What NOT To Do At Your First Race

Learn from the mistakes Bob has seen to avoid humbling moments at your next race.

Photo: Denver Sports Photographer - Kevin Thompson

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Considering Bob Babbitt has been participating in and reporting on triathlon since its inception, he’s seen plenty of embarrassing mistakes made by athletes—not to mention his own self-proclaimed “knucklehead moments.” Learn from the mistakes Bob has seen to avoid humbling moments at your next race.

– “A top pro was wearing No. 1 at a race and could tell that everyone was staring at him. He was thinking to himself, ‘Of course they’re staring at me, I’m the pre-race favorite and I’m wearing No. 1.’ A fellow athlete cleared things up pretty quickly. ‘Dude,’ he said. ‘You’ve got toilet paper stuck to the bottom of your shoe.’”

– “A buddy was racing a half Ironman and he felt like his head was exploding during the bike ride. He actually yelled to a marshal on a motorcycle to have medical waiting for him at the finish of the bike ride because he might be having a stroke. He got off his bike, took off his helmet and realized the problem: His swim cap was still on underneath his helmet—hence the additional heat and pressure on his noggin.”

– “I won’t say which pro this was in order to protect the guilty. He led this particular race coming into T2 and the camera folks were right with him as he racked his bike and tried to put on his bright yellow Nike racing flats. One problem: They weren’t his size 11 yellow Nike racing flats, they were a fellow pro’s size 9 yellow Nike racing flats. He struggled for about 20 seconds before realizing his mistake, flung the other guy’s shoes into the air, ran to put on his own shoes and headed off to win the race.”

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– “A friend had one of those front-mounted drink reservoirs that people use for longer races. Halfway through the bike ride, he lost the straw and, for the life of him, he couldn’t figure out how he lost it. When he finished the bike ride, he quickly solved the mystery: He must have dipped his head too low during the bike ride and the straw was lodged in an air vent of his helmet.”

– “This might not be a total mistake, but it’s still pretty damn funny. I’m racing the old Chicago United States Triathlon Series event back in the 1980s. This was around the time the swimming wetsuit was just getting popular. As I rode along Lake Shore Drive I passed a guy with the arms from his wetsuit tied around his neck and the suit was flapping behind him like Superman’s cape. (Definitely not the most aerodynamic guy on the planet.) I yell, ‘What are you doing? Why didn’t you leave your wetsuit in transition?’ His response was classic: ‘I just spent $300 on this thing. You think I’m just gonna leave it in some parking lot?’”

– “It was pretty cool hanging out in the transition area talking to my buddies before the race waiting for the sun to come up. As it was getting light, everyone realizing at the same time that my tri shorts were on inside out…”

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Bob Babbitt is the co-founder of Competitor magazine, the co-founder of the Challenged Athletes Foundation, the host of Competitor Radio and an inductee into the Ironman Triathlon Hall of Fame and USA Triathlon Hall of Fame and Brand Chief for the TriRock Triathlon Series. To hear his interviews with more than 500 endurance legends, visit Competitorradio.com. Look for his “Never A Bad Day” columns every month in Triathlete magazine.

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