3 Short Embarrassing Racing Stories

Over the last few years, racing has become one of my favorite things to do. It’s competitive, it’s active, it’s fun and every once in a while, you come away from an event with an embarrassing story or two. For some reason, this happens to me more often than not when I race. Here’s a few you may or may not have heard before.

Race: Tri Indy

This was my second triathlon ever. At this point, I didn’t have cycling shoes and was wearing my running shoes on the bike section. This saved me tons of time on the second transition (I was like top 10 T2 times, because I didn’t have to change shoes from biking to running), but it led to situations like this one.

I made it out of the swim fine and was about 4 miles into the bike, gunning it as fast as I could on my bike  (I wasn’t going very fast, but I was trying). A bunch of pros zipped by me and I kept pedaling, determined to try and keep up, but I felt a tug on my foot. I looked down and saw that my shoelaces had wrapped around the pedal and my foot was stuck. I couldn’t pedal anymore because my shoelaces were out of room, so I did my best to coast to the side of the road. I tried to stand up, but ended up falling to the ground in slow-motion as my foot was still stuck to my pedal.

I sat on my butt in the gravel on the side of the road as I tried to untangle my shoe my shoe from the whole mess while everyone zipped by me, looking back with a questioning “what-the-heck-are-you-doing” look. It took a minute or so, but I finally was able to free my foot, fix my laces and tuck them away so it wouldn’t happen again. Then I tried to nonchalantly jump back on my bike in the midst of a bunch of riders and act like nothing ever happened.

Lesson Learned: Tie your shoes. Get the laces out of the way or get cycling cleats!

Race: Indy Monumental Half-Marathon

I made it through the first half of the race pretty well. Feeling good. This was my first race farther than a 10k, so I knew from here on out, it was mostly uncharted territory. My IT band was hurting, but by the time I hit the 10 mile marker, I knew I could finish. Just a 5k left. Totally doable.

I got to mile 12 or so and started striding it out. I felt good and I wasn’t going to look tired as I finished out my first half marathon! I needed to look good for the finish photos!

I hit mile 13 and I was almost there. I could taste it. There was about 100 yards in front of me before we turned the corner for the finish. As I turned the corner, I could hear the crowd start cheering really loud. Definitely more loud than they had been before. Obviously, I assumed they were cheering for me. I was a little confused, finishing a half marathon in  a blistering 2 hour + half marathon pace was not a feat impressive enough for a collective cheer rousing, but I didn’t argue and smiled at all the nice people who were being so much more excited to see me finish my half-marathon than the people ahead of and behind me. Thanks so much for cheering for me!

They weren’t.

As it turns out, I was able to run my first half marathon in the same amount of time that some people can run a full marathon. The winner of the marathon, Leonard Muchero, was rounding the bend with a police escort right after I had. I just about realized that was what was happening when he kicked right on past me across the finish line..


As it stood, I still beat him by a few minutes according to the timing chips (he started about 3 minutes before me), but that doesn’t do much to soothe my ego or keep from me looking like a wide-eyed and thankful idiot smiling at all the people who I thought were rooting for me.

Lesson Learned: Kenyans are much, much faster than me.

Race: Miami Half-Ironman

I jumped out of the Atlantic ocean and was running through Bayfront Park to our transition area. I briefly considered stopping and posing like Michael Westen since I was in the area, but I quickly realized that I’m running a race and there’s no time for that.

I make it to my transition and reach for my new jersey (mistake #1 – don’t try anything new on race day!).

I go to throw my jersey on and start to grab my helmet when I look down.

Uh oh.

I think I put it on inside-out (I didn’t actually, but my heart was racing and my brain wasn’t working).

Not sure, and unconvinced that I wanted to ride 56 miles with an inside-out jersey, I pulled it off, flipped it inside-out again and threw back on.


Now I definitely had it on wrong. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

I pulled it back off, flipped it around to the right side this time.

Do I have it on right now?  Still not entirely sure, but pissed that I spent so much time in T1, and ready to move on with rest of my race, I said screw it, and threw my bike helmet on. I grabbed my bike and jogged to the bike-out exit, pretending like I didn’t just forget how to dress myself.

Lesson learned: Know how to dress yourself – it helps.


I know what it’s like to try new things and look stupid. It happens a lot, but it’s a terrible reason to not try something. I’m trying to do something about that.

Later this month, we’re releasing Impossible Tri over at Impossible HQ. It’s a triathlon guide that’s designed to get you to do your first triathlon in 3-6 months, no matter your background. It’s a combination of my on-the-ground perspective and practical lessons learned from my mistakes (to remove all of your excuses from not doing one – if I can do one, you can do one), and expertise from professional triathletes to plot out the training course (so you’ll know exactly what to do and how to do it). If you’re interested, you can sign up for more information about the impossible triathlon guide here.

And, if you have any questions/concerns about triathlons, leave them in the comments. I’ll be including a comprehensive FAQ in the guide that aims to answer literally every single question you have about triathlon. No question is too dumb (I guaranteed you I’ve asked worse), so ask away – do your worst.

Want to have your own embarrassing triathlon stories? Pick up a copy of Impossible TRI, start training and run your first triathlon in 3 months. 


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  1. Sarah Church says

    Joel- As I’m training for my tri, one big question I’ve had is how to know what nutrients/supplements I need to be taking while I train and during the race. I’m doing fine in the training portions as I’m slowly building my practices (bike/run), (swim/bike), etc. But I’m wondering, on race day, do I need Gu? Or other products? What do you suggest? I know the formula for Gu with running when I’ve done mini marathons in the past. Just not sure how it works, or if it’s the same, for triathlons.

    • says

      You’re doing a sprint tri right?

      Mostly, I tell people to eat what works for them. The Gu, Beans, Chomps, Blocs are all the same basic ingredients, it just depends on what you like and how you stomach handles everything. Usually I’ll take something every 40-60 minutes while racing. That usually comes out to one thing of Gu/Gel/Bloc for a sprint. The actual race should take you less than 2 hours, so it’s not the longest thing in the world and you don’t have to eat tons for it, but you don’t want to burn out either. If you have a Gu during your bike portion, you should be fine (I’m personally a big fan of the Clif Shot Blocks – for something that’s a little more substantial than just Gu). Does that help?

  2. Gail says

    Wow…this just gave me such a horrible flashback!! Late 1970’s, HUGE bell bottom jeans and quad roller skates.
    My pants got twisted up in my wheel and I was so stuck…I was only about 5 or 6 at the time…
    My mom had to cut me out of them! I don’t even remember how I made it home from down the block but i’m sure it wasn’t easy!


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