You can’t pick the weather on race day

We took another trip to Devil’s Lake this morning, looking for a repeat breakthrough swim in this small, calm, clean park. We picked up our friend Heather who decided to join us for her first attempt at 2.4 miles – why not?! And we met up with our friends from Tri-Swim Madison: the group goes to Devil’s Lake monthly for a long swim and picnic.

It was nothing like two weeks ago.


Little strips of white dotted the choppy little lake as the north wind blasted into our faces. We sat in our cars for a few minutes, communicating with motions through the windows, then reluctantly emerged and put on our wetsuits quickly to help stop the shivering. The temperature on this late July day was in the 50′s.

It reminded me of what training is about, after all: training is about becoming adaptable. Because if training is preparation to succeed at a race, you’re going to have to be able to take whatever the race gives you and turn it into your success.

It’s perhaps the most fundamental truth of racing:
You can’t pick the weather on race day.

On a day when a summer-morning’s swim is bombarded by an arctic gale, I’m likely to hear someone say “this weather is bad,” or “it was terrible out there.” But I challenge you with this: you might show up at a swim that’s windy and cold; you might arrive at a run under a rainbow at 100 degrees and just as humid; you might get on your bike with sleet pelting you in the face. These are the conditions of the day.

And you get to pick whether it’s good or bad.

Maybe you can reschedule a workout, but the race for which you are preparing is unlikely to budge. Those who are ready to embrace whatever the day might bring are better ready to find their version of success.

I’ve devoted a year to preparing for Ironman Wisconsin on September 8th, and much as I hope the weather will be my version of “perfect,” I’m planning for the day to be a celebration. What are you getting ready for? And are you planning to enjoy it only if it’s sunny?

DCIM100SPORTWas this weekend’s swim terrible? No way. It was windy. I modified my breathing and changed my pacing: fine practice in recognizing what I can control, and how I can adapt to the conditions. The kayakers probably endured more than us swimmers – the water felt warm. We swam across, and then back, for another long 2.4-mile swim. A few in the group completed the distance for the first time.

Just like a race director will reluctantly cancel a race if things get really dicey, I’m not suggesting you endanger yourself. But you might find that when conditions look tough, but you stop calling them bad, a whole new level of resilience and enjoyment awaits.

[update: strong winds and wavy water met us on Ironman morning. Thank goodness for those training days in similar tough conditions!]

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3 Responses to You can’t pick the weather on race day

  1. Do you know how often I say this when one of my athletes (or friends) begins to complain about the weather? I have a handful of Dano-isms in my pocket, this is among my favorites. We all race in the same conditions for a particular race – it isn’t picking on just me or you. Way to tough it out – you’re only stronger because of it. Good job!

  2. Pingback: How to make goals | Tri Therapy

  3. Pingback: Good advice for Ironman | Tri Therapy

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