In my last article, I wrote about my first triathlon of the year and how I won the event. The next race I did had a very different outcome. No, I didn’t DNF, or Did Not Finish, but instead of being first, I missed placing by seconds due to silly mistakes.

First off, this race was double the distance of my last triathlon. This was an Olympic distance which, for most races that offer Sprint and Olympic, athletes are doing two loops of either the swim, bike or run course. This makes it so organizers don’t have to close more roads. The race just uses the same roads for longer.

Here is where my problems began. The race was in Indianapolis and the swim took place in the canal. OK. No problems there, straight line swim down the canal. As long as I got in the water at the right place, which I did, there was only one direction I could swim. Perfect.

The bike course was two loops and most of it was great, nice and flat. One section though was a bit of a nightmare, the road was full of potholes and I felt like my whole body had been shaken violently once I got through it. Doing the second loop and going back on that road was tough, I really didn’t want to go but it wasn’t something I had a choice about unless I wanted to be disqualified. So I finished the bike course, feeling beat up but all in all a good ride.

Last was the run. It was hot, very little shade and again, two loops. We had looked at where the turn for the second loop was the night before because you had to run down some steps and across the end of the transition area. We did not look at it from the direction we would be running so when race day came, and I was running that section, I breezed by the sign and volunteer thinking that was a warning sign saying the actual turn was up ahead. I was mistaken and figured it out about a tenth of a mile up. I turned around and went back and said some unfortunate words as I went by and continued back onto the course for the second loop. There were a lot of spectators around and I felt bad that I was so rude to a volunteer so when I came by the second time, I took a moment to apologize to the volunteer and finished the race rather grumpy.

When the final results came out, I was stunned. I came in fifth place in my age group and the times were as follows: third place was 2:57:17.8, fourth place was 2:57:49.8 and fifth place, me, 2:57:50.6.

 So I lost fourth place by less than a second and third place, by less than a minute. If I hadn’t gone off course, hadn’t stopped to apologize to the volunteer (it was pointed out to me that I could have done that after the race), I probably would have come in 3rd. So disappointing but a lesson learned. Pay attention, be careful what you say in the heat of the moment and in the long run, what does a finish time mean? I’m not out there as a sponsored athlete, feeding my family from winning races. I am out there to stay healthy and to challenge myself. A first place or a last place finish really doesn’t matter to anyone but me. Keep it all in perspective at the end of the day.

Linda Word is an RRCA running coach, ACE Personal Trainer, ACE Nutrition Specialist, owner of ForWord Running Pacers and co-coach for 3 Sport Endurance. Contact her at forwordrunning @gmail.com to get started on your own fitness journey.

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