World Champs Wisdom: Triathlon Lessons From The Pros

These top athletes didn’t have the world championships they wanted; learn from their missteps to avoid a disappointing result.

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These top athletes didn’t have the world championships they wanted; learn from their missteps to avoid a disappointing result. 

Lesson: Practice nutrition at smaller races.
Mirinda Carfrae, 70.3 World Championship

Carfrae had rehearsed a new nutrition strategy with success in training, but her first race using the plan didn’t come until Vegas. She started throwing up about 20K into the bike and was forced to DNF. She decided to go back to her old plan for Kona, but unfortunately dropped a bottle on the bike and miscalculated the calories and sodium in the course nutrition, leading her to bonk during the run and finish a (still respectable yet disappointing) third.

Lesson: Space out your race schedule.
Jesse Thomas, 70.3 World Championship

Thomas had a solid year: He took third at Ironman 70.3 California, defended his title at Wildflower and won his first Rev3 race in Maine two weeks before Vegas. He thinks that final race did him in. “I’m not strong or experienced enough yet to bounce back just two weeks after an effort like that,” Thomas says. He struggled through the swim, got a drafting penalty on the bike and cramped on the run. He finished 20th. After a bit of rest, he came back to win September’s Ironman 70.3 Pocono Mountains.

Lesson: Shift your goals when things go awry.
Angela Naeth, 70.3 World Championship

Although her original goal was to make the 70.3 podium, Naeth’s objectives changed when she tried to make a pass at mile 19 of the bike, hit a rumble strip and crashed. She was covered in road rash and needed seven stitches on her ankle, but she pressed on to the finish line. “I decided in T2 that I was going to grin and bear it,” Naeth says. “It was actually very inspiring for me to see the race in a different perspective—where finishing is what mattered rather than trying to win!”

Lesson: Come prepared.
Linsey Corbin, 70.3 worlds and Sebastian Kienle, Ironman World Championship

Corbin suffered a flat early into the 70.3 course but since she wasn’t carrying a kit— and didn’t encounter a support vehicle—she was forced to drop out. (She says it was her first flat in a race since 2007.) In Kona, Kienle was temporarily sidelined by a flat and struggled to get his tubular tire undone. Luckily neutral support came by and swapped out his wheel, but amateur athletes don’t have that luxury. Lesson learned: Always have a contingency plan.

Lesson: Finish—even when it’s tough.
Craig Alexander, Ironman World Championship

Reigning world champion Craig Alexander may not have had the Kona race he expected (he finished 12th), but instead of throwing in the towel when things didn’t go his way, he finished the race and commended his competition. “It would’ve been easy to step off; I was having one of those days … but I got there,” Alexander says. “I’m proud of that. For me, it’s not just about race day, it’s about the preparation and the journey. I prepared to try and win, and you’re not always going to win.”

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