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By: Ed Kornoelje DO

Sports Medicine-University of Michigan Health-West

**This article is from a couple of years ago, but the lessons hold true.  Read (or re-read) as you prepare for this weekend’s event!


I’m sure by now you have heard and/or seen the snafu at the men’s triathlon at the 2022 (OK 2021) Olympics—a boat videoing the start was still in front of some of the athletes when the race started.  They were able to head off those who started and restart the race, but it was crazy!  It also made me wonder what we can learn from the boat that got in the way.

As triathletes (or triathlete supporters) you are used to things that may not go as planned.  No matter what the distance, an event that requires some level of mastery of three distinct disciplines is going to be a little tricky.  Throw in gear, transitions, nutrition… and twists and turns during training and racing are bound to occur.  But put a literal boat in the way of a start and you get a little bit of chaos.  When I looked at the video again three things stuck out to me—three lessons for training (and life):

  1. Expect the unexpected. If you look closely Alex Yee of Great Britain (gold medal in mixed relay and silver in the race we are talking about) was casually waiting for the boat to get out of the way, when it looks like they were suddenly called to set and go.  Since the boat was still in the way, he was not expecting the race to start.  However, it did, so he gathered himself quickly and jumped in.  Lesson here—in a race and in life expect the unexpected (and know what to do).
  2. Think, then act decisively. Once it became apparent there was an issue, boats from all directions set off to stop those in the water.  Had they waited a bit it is likely those in the water may have continued on.  Even if they had been stopped later, those in the water would have been spent a good amount of energy on the start—energy they would not have had on the restart and subsequent race.  When training and racing I would advise a similar strategy—take stock of how you feel, then act with purpose.
  3. Don’t be the boat! In this race the boat was not purposefully trying to impede progress, yet there it was—blocking the way.  Life is hard enough without big things slowing us down, either on purpose or by accident.  Be mindful of things you say or do (particularly on social media) and stay positive.  Be a supporter and builder—don’t get in the way and tear people down.

I am quite sure there will be no boats in the way at the Michigan Titanium Triathlon!  And if you are experiencing an impediment to your training in the way of injury or illness the sports medicine team at the University of Michigan Health-West is here to help.  I don’t usually hang out the laundry list of all the teams and groups we work with, but recently someone said we should, so here are a few—MiTi, Grand Rapids Tri, Reed’s Lake Tri, UMHWest Grand Rapids Marathon, Reed’s Lake Run, Bridge Run, GVSU, Aquinas College, Cornerstone U, GRCC, and the Griffins to name a few.  We also support multiple running and tri groups of all levels—If you need us you can find us at 616-252-7778 or www.umhwest.org .  We are here to help!