Last weekend was the first Ironman branded race here in Boulder. It wasn't the first Ironman. That was back in 2001 and won by my good buddy, Denny Meeker. It was sad that I would no longer be able to introduce him as the defending Ironman Boulder Champion. But, it wasn't all sad...as another friend and local Boulder resident, Justin Daerr ended up winning this one.
After the race, as I scrolled through facebook and/or talked to athletes...everyone had different experiences. Some were happy and others were not. For those that weren't happy...one excuse in particular seemed to bother me more than it used to.
me: how'd your race go?
them: not good, passed out on the run.
me: how'd that happen.
them: dropped my bottle that had all of my calories in it.
me: why didn't you go back and get it?
them: I thought I could make it.
It's a similar conversation with the athlete who blames their poor performance on not getting their special needs bag.
There are a number of reasons why your race might not have gone according to PLAN...but most often, it's because you didn't have or follow your PLAN. My "go to" was always the nutrition...and, my friends and peers were ever so kind to give me that out. "Oh man, once you get your nutrition figured out, you're going to crush it."
Surely, it wasn't the fact that I tried to ride 180k like my hair was on fire!
Nutrition seems to be the leading excuses for poor showings on race day. Proper pacing and race execution would cure a lot of these nutrition problems. Long course racing is hard enough as it is, and the ability to process calories is directly related to your intensity level. Sure, some nutritional products or solutions might not agree with you, but swimming and riding too hard stacks the deck against you.
Dropped nutrition (most often bottles) and/or missing your special needs bag is not a good excuse for a bad race (I realize that sometimes and athlete will lose a behind the saddle bottle without knowing). If you drop your calories or miss your special needs bag with no other plan in place...Go back and get it. Even if you have a 2nd best option, Go Back! Those 60-90 seconds will seem like an eternity at the time, but it's worth it compared to the time lost without it.
Going back sounds simple enough, but you'd be surprised at how hard it is to stop if this happens to you. Not stopping is usually a sign that you're overcooking it anyway and in a hurry...and, if the risk doesn't pan out, the dropped bottle or special needs excuse seems like a good story. It's not.
Don't let poor judgement ruin your day. You will NOT be ok riding too hard...and you will not be ok if you don't fuel and hydrate according to plan. So, unless you're looking for an excuse, then Go Back!