Most athletes are very competitive people.

Whether competing against actual competitors, or just one’s self, athletes like to keep track of the score… or the time… or whatever the measuring stick happens to be.

Measuring performance and monitoring self-improvement is what keeps endurance athletes coming back for more. Athletes know their PRs (personal records) and naturally, they are looking to improve them.

This is our inherent nature.  It’s a good thing, BUT it should NOT be the ONLY thing.

It is impossible to PR every time one races.  However, there are always lessons to learn and internal battles to be conquered along the way. This is important to recognize because the final time on the clock may not always be indicative of what the athlete had to overcome to get to the finish line.

From all of the preparation leading up to the event to execution and overcoming race day mishaps, there are a lot of lessons that can and should be learned along the way.

Each time we endure and overcome an obstacle, it is important to learn and treat them as an accomplishment. Sometimes overcoming adversity is more admirable then a new PR.

Below are just a few obstacles athletes face.  It is important to recognize and learn from these experiences when you’re faced with them.


Overcoming Injury/Sickness


We have all been there. Being injured is the worst. It can drive type-A triathletes CRAZY.

As uncool as it may be, it is extremely important to establish a plan and stick to it. Go see a doctor and figure out what’s wrong. Then, do what you have to do to get back on your feet.

If your doctor tells you ‘no running for 4 weeks,’ LISTEN! AND (just as important) when you finally can run again LISTEN to your coach. If your coach tells you to go easy, DO IT! If your coach prescribes a rest day, TAKE IT! The consequences are likely far worse and could be season ending.

Working with an experienced coach, strength conditioning, ensuring proper (run) form, having a proper bike fit and regular massage therapy are all ways to help prevent and/or help heal from injury.



The Mental Battle


Pushing yourself HARD on the track.

Finishing a race strong when all you want to do is walk.

Powering through your final bike interval when your legs are ON FIRE.

Essentially, allowing yourself to go “there.” Becoming comfortable, being uncomfortable. Conquering the little voice inside your head that tells you “it’s ok to [fill in the blank]” … “your not good enough to do this/that.”

We all know the mind is a powerful thing. When used to your advantage, it will help bring you to the next level.

Positive self-talk and reinforcement is a great place to start. INSTEAD of saying “don’t stop,” say “KEEP GOING.” Your brain doesn’t hear “don’t.” Think about it… and don’t think about PINK ELEPHANTS. Wait, what just popped into your head?  ;)

Pink Elephant


Race Day Mishaps


No one wants to get a flat on race day or experience mechanical issues. However, these things happen occasionally. It’s important to be prepared if they do.

Do you know how to change your tire? Are you carrying the proper tools to make a quick adjustment on the fly? It’s your responsibility and I promise you’ll feel much better knowing you can take care of yourself if when this happens.

Regardless of what goes wrong on race day, it’s important to PROMISE yourself in ADVANCE you’re going to do your best to stay calm and be cool. It’s ok to take 5 SECONDS to scream and stomp your feet, then take a deep breath and move on. It’s not the end of the world. Take care of what’s necessary and adjust your expectations if you have to.



Bad Weather


Inclement weather is never fun on race day. It is THE WORST. However, everyone else racing has to deal with it too. A lot of time, having the right attitude can go a long way. And if you’re trying to place high in your age group, the bad weather may be a blessing in disguise as other athletes may lose focus and tank.

Regardless, just remember, be safe and keep going. You’ll likely have an epic story at the end of the day.



Weight Loss


For most athletes, the journey to the finish line in itself is an incredible task. All of the training, commitment and sacrifice in preparation for their goal event is impressive.

However, there are other athletes who do all of the above AND lose a significant amount of weight in the process. For these determined individuals the actual event is like a vehicle to better health and newfound fitness… among many other things. In many cases, merely finishing the race is a massive accomplishment.


In the end, everyone has a different journey to the finish line.  We all have to conquer our own set of obstacles and its important to learn from these experiences.

It’s not always about your time. It’s the guts, determination and perseverance it took to get there.  That’s the real measuring stick. Never forget that.

Finish Line - Dennis


  • Phil Mania says:

    Nice article Chris and very relatable on all counts.

  • Chris Kaplanis says:

    Thanks, Phil – Obviously I care about my time (and how our athletes do), BUT I’ve come to realize overcoming obstacles can be even more rewarding sometimes then just a finish time.

  • Peter Wilson says:

    This triathlon thing is so mental and if I can continue to improve over 5 years, 2 surgeries, and countless mishaps (double flat, electrical storms…), anyone can with the right attitude and coaching!

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