Category Archives: first triathlon

Dealing With F’N DNF


If you race long enough, you will certainly meet up with the dreaded DNF. (Did Not Finish) It’s the 800 pound elephant in the room, that no one wants to talk about. DNFing can cause a range of emotions from embarrassment to being just plain pissed off. I just put in X amount of time training, and $$$ amount of money to race, and this is my result. Argghh.

At the very least you will be frustrated, and rightly so. Reasons for DNF can be anything, an injury, adverse conditions, or just a really crappy day. Whatever the reason may be, as an athlete you need to deal with that race, and move on. For most of us one bad race will not define you, or your athletic career. Learning to deal with the disappointment from a DNF is a skill that requires mental toughness.

Here’s some suggestions for dealing with DNF:

Limit the pity party

Your friends, families, and training partners won’t think less of you for a DNF. Most of us over inflate the importance of our athletic goals in our mind. Take a couple of days to process your thoughts, and then just move on. You only get so many days on this planet, do you want to spend them pouting about some race? Be proud of the work you put in to make to the start line. Plus no one else wants to come to your pity party.

The best way to learn is to fail

When you were a toddler learning to to walk, did you parents let you fall down once, and then decide to not let you keep trying to learn to walk? Of course not, That’s crazy. You learned to walk by continually falling down and getting back up, until you figured it out.

The same is true for racing. You may not have hit your goal, but what did you learn along the way. Did you gain some course knowledge? Did you identify your weaknesses? Did you get a sense of the work you need to put in to reach your goal?

Don’t let the DNF be a total waste of time and energy. Figure out what you can do better, and crush your next race.

Winners don’t make excuses

There will be valid reasons why you had to DNF. Figure out how you can overcome those challenges, and succeed in your next race. Rationalizing your bad race with a bunch of excuses won’t help the situation, and is harmful to your mental toughness. Focus on the parts of the race that went well, and the things you can improve.

“Failure is just a lesson, until you make an excuse” – Jordan

Get back on the horse

If you’re not injured, then find another race to jump in. Don’t waste all of your fitness on that DNF. Find a race that looks like fun, and focus on that. Shift that frustration to motivation for your next race.

I’m sure you won’t have a DNF, but if you do, I hope these tips help out.





My 5 top insights from coaching new Triathletes

Purpose Road Sign


For the past year or so, I’ve had the honor to coach new and beginner triathletes. Some of my athletes made great progress and accomplished fantastic goals. Many of those goals, at the beginning, they thought were not possible. Along the process they have thought me many lessons as well.

Here’s the five most important insights I gleaned from coaching new triathletes. Hopefully, they will speed your progress as a new triathlete.


You are more capable than you think you are. 

When I first consult with a new athletes many times they are not confident they can achieve their goal. Putting yourself out there, and trying something new is daunting. Instead of telling yourself, you can’t do something, say “I can’t do it right now”. Many athletes before you have finished the race, PR’d or whatever the goal may be. Why can’t you? Decide you will meet your goal at the beginning of the process, then get to work on achieving it.

Don’t view themselves as athletes.

If you are training and participating in races, guess what? You are an athlete. For you to increase your fitness and reach your potential, you need to view yourself as an athlete. You might say, “great I called myself an athlete, now what?” Viewing yourself as an athlete is a shift in mindset. You will view your overall lifestyle differently, and make better decisions. For example, a normal person just eats, and athletes fuels their body. A normal person goes to the gym to workout, an athlete goes to the gym to train. When you view yourself as an athlete your decisions are made with a purpose. That purpose is to achieve your athletic goals.

Need more focused training.

If you want to try a new restaurant across town and you are unsure how to get there, you open up your map app. The map is going to give the quickest route from A to B. A well planned training plan is a road map to your athletic goal. It needs to start with a clear destination, and give direction along the way. You can start your journey with no map, but it will most likely be a longer and more time consuming route. (metaphor off)

This is the most important point for new athletes. Having a training plan can save you tons of time, energy and injury. The plan can come from a coach, or you can find one on the web. Find a plan that leads you to your goal, and fits your schedule. When each workout has a purpose, you will greatly accelerate your athletic progress.

Consider the long term view.

Aside for a very genetically gifted few, most endurance athletes will need years to reach their potential. It takes years of training and patience to build endurance in the body. Take Mark Allen, 6X Ironman World Champ for example. It took him 6 tries to win his first Kona, and the first attempt he didn’t even finish. Over those first six years he kept working, and the speed and endurance came.

It’s easy to only look week to week during training to measure progress. When a workout or a week of training doesn’t go well, we get discouraged. Sometimes, it’s best to pull back and look at your progress from a longer time line. You may have been progressing for the past six weeks, and you on just on a plateau before your next breakthrough.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Don’t be shy. As a new triathlete there is a ton on information to learn. There are three sports, training, recovery, equipment, etc. Heck, this is the reason I started this blog. Find an athlete who has been racing for a while, and pick their brain. Most people are excited to help out. You can learn from their mistakes and experience, and speed up your progress.


Fantastic Finish Foto Friday – First Time Triathlete Sam

Welcome to Fantastic Finish Photo Friday. We want to bask in the awesomeness of your finish photos. A finish photo captures a moment in time, where you overcame the challenges of the race and training, and reached your goal. The feeling of elation as you cross the line is what keeps us pushing our own limits. Please consider sharing your own photo to inspire others who are working toward their own finish.

This week’s Foto is from Samatha Goga:


Sam is one of my coaching athletes working toward a marathon PR in the fall. She also tackled her first triathlon last week. Here’s the story of her day:

I did it… I completed my first Sprint Distance at the Chicago Triathlon, despite everything that went wrong!

I racked my bike the night before and when I showed up to transition in the morning, I was missing my handlebar plugs. They told me I couldn’t ride without them and I began to panic a bit. All that for nothing over some plugs!? I refused to believe that was it. So I triple checked with bike solutions & one of the guys working there ended up taking them out of his own bike for me. All was right with the world again.

A few hours later I was entering the water and the horn was sounding just seconds later. I allowed most of the other first timers to go before making my way through the water. I didn’t want to start any breathing issues (I’ve been having a few lately), so I went with a backstroke. I felt really good that way and just decided to keep it that way the whole time. I had about 15 yards left and I flipped over to finish strong. However, I got thee worst charley horse ever in my calf. I couldn’t move my leg at all and it hurt so bad. I had to make my way over to the wall as I cried. My tears were filling my goggles and I just wanted to be pulled up. Because I was so close, my family and one of the lifegaurds encouraged me to make my way to the finish line so my timing chip wouldn’t get taken, so I did that. I stopped there to talk to a medic and stretch. It was still really tight but I pushed on.

I eventually made it safely back to transition, changed and hustled out… And as I mounted my bike, I realized the chain was off my bike. The nice guy at bike solutions saved the day again! After taking my bike apart to fix it, (it felt like forever) I was on my way. I’m pretty certain there was only 1 other person that started the bike behind me because I was out there all by myself basically the entire time. When I would come across a person, I made it my mission to pass them. I guess it helped me move faster to race them. I think I passed about 5 people the entire bike ride… Other than that, I was alone.

By the time I started to run, I thought that would also be a solo journey, but I was able to catch up to a few folks, and again race them. I quickly realized that nobody had respect for the course anymore because there were so many people just walking on it and through it. However, I felt really good on the run, if I ignored my calf. I was cheering on those going past me in the other direction and encouraging those that I passed. Finally, I see the finish line… Move it!! Once I passed it, I could not breath at all and my chest was really tight. I was escorted to the medical tent, taken care of and given a nebulizer treatment because of everything that was happening.

Sooo… It was a lot more than I ever expected, but that’s how it went. If it wasn’t for this extremely tight calf, I’d feel great! Oh, and if all that other mumbo jumbo didn’t happen, I’m confident that I would’ve finished with my goal of 2.5 hours… I’ll take the 2:45 though considering the circumstances…

Would I do it again? I’ll be in the Athena wave next year for sure!

Fantastic job Sam! That was no an easy day! You took each obstacle in stride, and found a way to keep moving forward. You definitely earned that finish.

Please consider sharing your own photo to inspire others who are working toward their own finish. It doesn’t have to be from a triathlon, just any race that has special meaning to you. If you are interested in sharing, please send a message to

Foto Finish Friday – Dr.Dan from First time Triahtlete to Ironman in a month

Welcome to (a special follow up)  Fantastic Finish Photo Friday. We want to bask in the awesomeness of your finish photos. A finish photo captures a moment in time, where you overcame the challenges of the race and training, and reached your goal. The feeling of elation as you cross the line is what keeps us pushing our own limits. Please consider sharing your own photo to inspire others who are working toward their own finish.

This week’s Foto is from Dan Engström:

Dr Dan IM Finish

 Photo by Andy Kenyon


IronMan UK
Here are a few collected thoughts from a Hero Hour finisher in my first Ironman triathlon: IronMan UK 2015 in Bolton, England. Hero Hour? The hour for the sixteen hours plus finishers. The slower ones. Me. First of all, let’s get one thing straight. It was brutal. You prepare as well as you can, even to the point of being more than decently fit before I even entered, in August. In preparation, I ran a marathon, biked a 300 km race, swam a 3 km open water race and did  an Olympic triathlon. I had also prepared well mentally. The fact is, I needed every last bit of mental strength to bring out the power needed to keep moving. The swim was easy for me, which was a bit of a surprise. The rolling swim start was a great thing that probably helped. But the bike leg sapped energy by the minute from the legs, because of the hills (expected), a very mean wind (not expected to be THAT bad) and the appaling condition of the tarmac (certainly not expected). It felt as though I was biking uphill on a cattle grill for 112 miles. But somehow you had find the energy to keep moving.
Keep moving. That was the mantra of the amazing volunteers and people of Bolton. Keep moving Dan! Well done, Dan, you’re doing great! If IMUK was brutal it was equally spectacular. The commitment from everyone around the race was truly amazing and a memory for life. I found a familiarity about doing the IronMan in Bolton that I certainly did not expect. The IronMan community and the people of Bolton come together and really made the effort to get there worthwhile. A steady slow trot, uncomfortable but not painful, and some walking, up and down between historic Bolton and a crescent about 4.5 km away and suddenly, there was the finish line. I arrived with almost an hour to spare to the deadline and the energy to savour the moment.
If you decide to do the IronMan UK in Bolton, make sure you know how to fix a puncture. Expect a hilly bike leg that is challenging but with easier winds not too bad. You’ll climb Sheephouse Lane easily if you’ve trained. Prepare for plenty of logistics time with the two transition zones being 10 miles apart and bring a car. Embrace the hurt – it will get very uncomfortable but you WILL be able to make it to the finish line. Everybody else is just as tired as you are, and even at eleven at night, there will be people cheering for you at the finish. Find strength in all people shouting your name and just keep moving. Then enjoy those magic words at the red carpet declaring that you are an IronMan!
Lap2 small
Photo by Jim Pike
Dan you are a beast! Hold on to that feeling of accomplishment from an Ironman finish, its like nothing else. You progress is fantastic, and shows the rest of us that anything is possible with the right mindset.
Cheers to you, Dan!!!
Please consider sharing your own photo to inspire others who are working toward their own finish. It doesn’t have to be from a triathlon, just any race that has special meaning to you. If you are interested in sharing, please send a message to

Help me to help you become a better Triathlete (for free)

Are you a new or beginner triathlete looking to improve? Have you decided to use triathlon to improve your lifestyle and overall happiness? I want to be your coach. Even better than that, I want to be your coach for free.

First Time Triahlete Beach 2 Battleship

I started this, a couple of years ago to help new triathletes just getting into the sport. There were tons of sites dedicated to helping intermediate and elite triathletes, but a shortage info for brand new athletes. Even the sites originally designed to help new triathletes had become too advanced. Triathlon is already an intimidating sport with three separate disciplines, and the multitude of the gear required. My goal is to make triathlon simple and approachable, so more athletes will finish their first race, and hopefully continue their triathlon journey.

The elation of crossing the finish of a new challenge, which you were not sure your could complete, is awesome. In that moment all of the hard work, and struggle pay off in a crescendo of joy. The race doesn’t begin at the start line. It begins when you decide you are committed to the race and start training. I want to help coach you through your own journey and finish. Check out the Fantastic Finish Foto Friday Page for stories of others finishing their first race and what it meant to them.

About me:

I’ve been training for and racing triathlons for the past 6 years. Before triathlon, I was a Cat 3 road cyclist, and raced bikes for 10 years. I’ve raced  in 2 Ironmans (training for a third), marathons, and ultra marathons. I’m not the fastest guy out there, but endurance sports are my passion, and I am a student of the sport. Most importantly, I give a shit. The success of the people I coach is my very important to me. It gets me pumped to see people finish something they thought was impossible.

The deal: (Did someone say free?)

This winter I plan to get my USAT coaching license. In order to get in to the program I need more coaching experience on my resume. Crazy right? In order to become a coach you need to be already be a coach. So in the spirit of the win-win, I offer my highly valuable coaching services for the low, low price of free to gain the experience. Also, I really want to new athletes improve and give back to the sport I love.

Here’s what I am looking for in a potential new client. You don’t have to meet all of these requirements, but this is a good guideline.

  1. New to triathlon, or beginner triathlete looking to improve.
  2. Looking to improve overall lifestyle through triathlon.
  3. Not overly competitive. Racing against your own goals.
  4. Have a race coming up in the next 8-15 weeks.

I looking to take on 4-5 new athletes in the next couple of months. Here’s what you will receive from me:

  • Initial assessment of your current triathlon fitness
  • Custom training plan developed for your next race
  • Weekly email/phone progress consults
  • Workout tracking/accountability
  • Encouragement

If you are interested and looking to improve, please email me at Don’t be shy, if you read this far, you’re most likely interested, shoot me an email. If you know someone else, that may be interested, please pass it on.

Be Well,


Meeting the Iron Cowboy

Last night I had the honor of running with the Iron Cowboy, James Lawrence on his #25 IM in as many days in Williamsburg, VA. If you haven’t heard for James’ crazy challenge, he is doing 50 Ironmans, in 50 states, and 50 days. Pull your jaw off the floor, that is some crazy shit. That’s 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run everyday, and then driving to the next state to start again. It’s like a painful version of Groundhog Day played out in a different place every day.

Here’s a quick video explaining James’ mission:

My threshold for crazy endurance feats is pretty high, but this is on the edge of what I think is possible. I first heard about James’ story on the Rich Roll podcast. My brain was swimming thinking about the difficulty of the challenge.  I immediately started following him on social media, and fired off an email. If James makes it to Virginia I’m coming to run with him. This is a once in a life time opportunity to see someone doing something unheard of.

After following James’ journey for the past few weeks, the day had finally come to go and run with the Iron Cowboy. At each of his events, they have a 5k portion of the day where people can meet up with James to run. We met at Jamestowne High School at 7pm to shove off for the 5k. There were about 50 people there to run. I brought my family so they could check it out. I’m not sure if my girls understand the significance of what was going on, but I want them to be around this type of positive and healthy energy.

The Iron Cowboy showed up about 10 mins before 7pm having already completed the swim, bike, and 4 miles of the run. He gave a quick speech about his challenge, and partnership with a charity fighting childhood obesity. He introduced his family of five kids, for whom this whole journey is dedicated. Not only is he taking on this massive challenge, but this is a huge family vacation. While dad is out pounding the pavement, the kids are hanging out and going to see the local sites. This is the most awesome and difficult family vacation, I have ever heard of.

Everyone gathered for a group photo, and we were off for the 5k run. It was a very leisurely run, so people could chat with James and get some selfies. When we first started, I mentioned to the guy next to me this feels like the scene in Forest Gump. The scene where he just keeps running, and people start following. Thankfully he didn’t just stop like in the movie.

After the 5k, I went and ran some more miles with James and a small group. I got to chat with him for a while, and I kept my questions short. His answers were short, as I am sure he is exhausted from the effort and sleep deprivation. I was taken by his focus. We weren’t moving quickly, but he was steady, and concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other. In all I ran about 10 miles, and my family was ready to go. I wish I could have stayed until the end. I was filled with so much positive energy, I could have run all night.

It was a great experience, and one I will remember for a long time. I met some wonderful people during the run. Everyone was super positive and supportive. The most interesting guy I met was a Russian Physicist from Richmond.  He was a competitive swimmer, and now he is getting into running and triathlons. Many people drove 2-3 hours just to come and run with James. That is the power of a really big goal.

I have to say I am truly inspired by James’ challenge. I hope he stays healthy and finishes. I have some ideas for challenges of my own, and its time to get them rolling. The bar has been set very high now for what is possible. Just like James’, I’m trying to stay active and make my kids proud.

If the Iron Cowboy is coming to your state, go and run with him. He will appreciate the support, and you will have a chance to witness greatness.

Fantastic Finish Foto Friday – Capt Jason – From weight loss surgery to Triathlete

Welcome to Fantastic Finish Photo Friday. We want to bask in the awesomeness of your finish photos. A finish photo captures a moment in time, where you overcame the challenges of the race and training, and reached your goal. The feeling of elation as you cross the line is what keeps us pushing our own limits. Please consider sharing your own photo to inspire others who are working toward their own finish.

This week’s Foto is from Jason Demars:

First Time Triathlete Jason

Continue reading Fantastic Finish Foto Friday – Capt Jason – From weight loss surgery to Triathlete

Workout Wednesday – Hardest Workout Ever – Rest Day

Welcome to Workout Wednesday. Every Wednesday I  post a new Triathlon specific workout. (for free, What a Country!) If you like the workout, fit it into your training plan for the week. If you don’t like the workout you’re crazy, all of my workouts are brilliant pieces programming. (kidding)



Sorry for the misleading title, but when you think about it, rest is the hardest workout. It instills fear in us that  if we take a day off, we will become fat and slow overnight. In reality is takes up to two weeks of inactivity before you start to lose your fitness.

Two years ago I had a heavy training year for me. When I looked back at my training log at the end of the year. I took three full rest days the entire year. What? That’s not right. I also become over trained twice that year, and was sick more than normal.

Rest is an important part of the training program. Rest days should be treated just like workouts, and performed with the same focus. The benefits of rest and recovery are:

  • Avoiding Overuse Injuries
  • Restoring Glycogen to your muscles
  • Avoiding mental burnout
  • Actually spending time with your friends and family

Here’s the nasty things that come with NO rest or recovery:

  • Over training
  • Inadequate Sleep
  • Colds
  • Slow recovery
  • Lack of sex drive
  • Moodiness

(I’ve experienced all of these, but not all at the same time.)

Unless you are a full time athlete with no other obligations or stressors in your life you will need 1-2 rest days a week.  Ideally one of those days should be complete rest, and the other one can be active recovery.

Active recovery workouts:

  • 30 min jog @ 50% HR
  • Walk with your significant other
  • Bike ride with your kids
  • Light cross training

Inactive workouts:

  • Netflix binge watching marathon
  • Sit on the beach with cool beverage
  • Sleeping in past 5:30am

I can hear the little mental objects swirling in your head. ” But I’m a triathlete and I need to get in all of these workouts.” If you want to improve consistently, and not burnout or have a higher risk of injury, rest has to be a priority as well. Schedule  your training weeks to include the rest days.  If you miss a workout because of a overly busy day, don’t worry about making it up, use it as a rest day. Also, if you are are plateauing in your progress, step back and see if more recovery will help, before piling on more work and intensity.

One last thing. The more outside stress you have in your life the more important the rest and recovery. During times of high stress, listen to your body and try not to just push through. These times are the highest risk for burnout and over training.


Motivation Monday – The key to long term results

Merry Monday! Let’s do this! We all could use a bit of motivation to get rolling on Monday. On Mondays, I like to share a Mantra or short inspirational message. If the message resonates with you, use to motivate yourself in training or life. Do you have your own awesome Mantra? Please share it below in the comments.

“Long term consistency trumps short term intensity” – Bruce Lee

I’ve been dealing with some sub par results lately. I was starting to question why I race and train so hard, and don’t always get the results I want. Paging Shawn, pity party table for one. Then I took a step back and looked over a longer time frame. I have been consistently improving year to year. By training purposefully and consistently, I have continued to improve. There have been peaks and valleys, but over all my times have improved. For me the key to improvement is to train consistently, and eventually I will reach my goal. When I start to have doubts because of recent results, I need to step back and look at the long term trend.

Below is a video from six time IM world champ Mark Allen. Mark dnf’d his first IM Kona, and one second place finish sent him to the hospital. In all, it took time seven attempts to win his first IM world championship. Mark is a true example of consistent training and improvement.

Do you have along term goal right now, that is not going as planned? Do you want to quit? Or do you keep taking step forward with consistency until you get where you want to go?

Fantastic Finish Foto Friday – First time triathlete Dan

Welcome to Fantastic Finish Photo Friday. We want to bask in the awesomeness of your finish photos. A finish photo captures a moment in time, where you overcame the challenges of the race and training, and reached your goal. The feeling of elation as you cross the line is what keeps us pushing our own limits. Please consider sharing your own photo to inspire others who are working toward their own finish.

This week’s Foto is from Dan Engström:

© & Foto- Fredrik Aremyr - finish_-211
Pic by Fredrik Aremyr


My first triathlon finish
Last weekend saw the Gothenburg Triathlon event on the west coast of Sweden. I was five weeks away from the IronMan UK race and I still hadn’t done a triathlon. But I was prepared. I had learnt how to front crawl and revisited the marathon (in Stockholm, the week before than the tri event). I bike commute and am perfeclty ready for the 300 km bike race Vätternrundan next weekend. I’d done my brick training. I was so ready for the Gotheburg Triathlon, Olympic distance. So  away to Rådasjön lake. Fourteen degrees water temperature so they shortened the swim leg. This’ll be great, a shorter swim leg and me being used to the cold after a number of open water swims. Though I usually did the breaststroke earlier, but how difficult can the front crawl be in open water? In open, murky water. In open, murky water with  waves. In open, murky water with waves and a side current. In a tight wetsuit. Together with a couple of hundred other people. Right. Stiff upper lip time. Embrace the difficulties. Overcome. Rain during the whole bike leg. Legs like logs during the run, I was only a week out after the marathon after all. Adopt, adapt. I was hard, harder than I thought it would be. But I enjoyed every minute, every step. Give me a week or two in some murky lake around here on my own with my front crawl. Then bring on the IronMan.
Dan Engström
Gothenburg, Sweden
Congrats on gutting out that  cold, murky swim. You are an ambitious dude attempting to front crawl for the first time five weeks out from an IM. Best of luck to you on your IM, but for now enjoy that first finish.
Please consider sharing your own photo to inspire others who are working toward their own finish. It doesn’t have to be from a triathlon, just any race that has special meaning to you. If you are interested in sharing, please send a message to