More Lessons Learned…

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More Lessons Learned…

Triathlon is about cumulative knowledge. Each race, each season, we learn. A lesson here…a mistake there. That worked. This didn’t. Won’t ever do that again. I think I nailed this part!

It’s like a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. You hang with it long enough and the picture comes together. Here’s the thing – all that is still true no matter how long you’ve raced. This my 27th tri season and yeah, I’m still learning.

This blog is one of several in a sort-of series. Recap:

  • After a 16 year break from 70.3s or full IM races, and being in my mid- 60s, I thought I’d give the longer stuff another tri. ?
  • So, I planned on doing four 70.3s with three of them in a seven week period. Go big or go home, right?
  • All three brought real or feel-like temps in the 90s. Welcome back!
  • In the previous two blogs I’ve shared what I’m learning and most of it applies to everyone, so read up!

Now, we come to the most recent lessons. Those from 70.3 Des Moines. Many have heard, it was a rough day for about everyone. Big storms delayed the start. The swim was a choppy, crowded, no wetsuit swim-fest. The bike was cut in half and as we rode the sun came out and the humidity exploded. The run was a survival march for many.

I had the slowest swim of the three 70.3s so far. Wasn’t sure how hard to push the 27-mile bike. I’d normally try to smash it because a 10K run would follow. Now, the bike is 13.1 miles. Went hard but certainly not all out on the bike. First loop of run was OK. Second 6.5 miles was really hard. Pace kept slipping and I couldn’t stop that trend.


  1. Stay calm when stuff happens you can’t control. We’ve all heard this 1,000 times but, I went from dreading racing in the rain, to thinking there was no way the race would happen at all when I saw the radar forecast at about 6.00 a.m. By 7:00 a.m. the radar showed rain, thunder and lightning ‘til about noon. It was an emotional roller coaster, but I made myself stay calm no matter what unfolded…mostly.
  2. Stick to your nutritional plan ‘til you absolutely know the decision about the race. When I thought the race wouldn’t happen at all, I went to the hotel lobby and ate a spicy omelet. After all it was free, right? Well, included in the price of the room anyway. I’d already had my normal pre-race mini-meal at 4:15 a.m. in case a miracle happened and we DID race. I should have stuck with that. I’ve got my 70.3 nutritional plan down, but when they announce we’d race, but the bike was 27 miles not 56…well, how does that change my plan? Threw me for a minute but then I just decided to cut the calories in half during the bike but keep the hydration and electrolytes going.
  3. When you hate the swim, just keep swimming. What else are you going to do, right? But it gets in your head. The water was super choppy due to hundreds of swimmers being all around me. No wetsuit, which, for me, adds a few minutes and a lot more energy output. I never really got into any kind of rhythm. The buoys kept coming and coming. “When will this stupid swim end?” Just keep stroking. It’ll end someday.
  4. When you know a hot run awaits you, drink up on the bike!! If you don’t drink a little more than “normal” on the bike, when the heat index will be over 90 on race day, you’ll start the run dehydrated and be in big trouble. I know I’m well hydrated on the bike when I need to go every hour. Might seem like a lot but that works well for me. The key to staying hydrated during the race is to start the race really well hydrated. Remember the two C’s. Clear and copious. Your bladder should be best friends with the two C’s before the race starts.
  5. Pull the reins back the first 3-4 miles of the run. I’m shocked at how incredibly easy the first few miles running are for me. Looking at my pace I say multiple times, “SLOW DOWN!” I’d like to run an evenly paced 13.1 though I’ve not been close to that yet. Triathlon is all about resource management and you want to expend your resources in a nice, steady manner. 
  6. Be ready,  REALLY ready for those last few miles to really suck. It was HOT and getting hotter every minute. I was soaking wet. My legs hurt and I had little cramp pains occasionally shoot up my calf and quad. Evaluate. Take inventory. Stick to the plan but adjust it as your body reacts to the stress. Coke can be a lifesaver. I was hydrated cause I hit the porta-potty twice. I was sipping a multi-hour, small, mixed bottle of Hammer’s HEED and Perpetuem at aid stations washing it down with water. I was staying on top of my electrolyte needs. But I added in that sweet sugar and caffeine from Coke at every aid station. Even so, those last few miles hurt.
  7. Remember that even in a long race, every second counts. I got sixth in my age group and the podium goes five deep in a 70.3. I didn’t know how I’d done until I called home from the finish line and my wife told me I’d missed the podium by 45 seconds. Four hours of racing – 45 seconds. Grrrr… Do you know how many different places during the race I could have cut 10-15 seconds? I can think of about a dozen. 

Primary personal takeaway would be, after three 70.3s since May, I have to improve my run. I can swim and bike with the old guys, but the winners are running 7:45s off the bike. Yeah, in their 60s. The three longest training runs I’ve done have been the three 13.1 mile runs in the 70.3s. Had a little calf issue before Des Moines, so I couldn’t really push the run training at all.

Maybe you need to improve your run? It all seems to come down to the run. 15 seconds faster per mile gives you a 3:15 faster run. 30 seconds faster per mile takes 6:30 off your finish time.  A minute (easy math) gives you a whopping 13 minutes! By the same token, melt down on the run to a death march and you could lose an hour or more.

The journey continues. Let’s keep learning together no matter what distance races we’re doing. Every race we do should teach us something new or at least remind us of something we’ve forgotten. Keep after it!

Lincoln Murdoch
Lincoln Murdoch
As an accomplished endurance athlete, Lincoln has been competing in running events for 40 years and racing in triathlons for 25 years. He is a 3x USAT National Champion, 14x USAT All-American and 3x ITU World Championships Top-Ten finisher. Lincoln is passionate about helping athletes meet their goals through books, online resources, coaching and motivational speaking. You can learn more at
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