MYTH BUSTED: “Never Use Something New on Race Day”

05.1.2013 | 9:07 am

I first heard the Prime Race Axiom of Truth (PRAT) many years ago. Never try something new on race day

Don’t eat anything new. Don’t drink anything new. Don’t use new tires. Don’t run your existing tires at a different pressure than usual. Don’t switch to a different chain lube. Don’t try new shoes, even if they’re the same kind of shoes as your old shoes. Don’t wear new shorts. Don’t wear a new jersey. Don’t even wear new socks.

Oh for the love of all that’s good in the world, don’t wear new socks. That is so important, for some reason.

Don’t even put new music on your iPod’s “Race Mix” playlist, because one of the untested songs my affect you adversely. Indeed, it’s probably best to not put the playlist on Shuffle, because the order of songs is untested.

I could go on. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that I already have gone on.

I always accepted this strict prohibition on trying something new on race day as prima facie logic (“prima facie” is Latin for “self-evident,” and is used when you need to sound very authoritative). “Well of course you don’t want to do anything new on race day,” I thought. “Something unanticipated with that new thing could go terribly, horribly wrong and then all your hard work will go down the drain.”

This is, of course, absolute and complete nonsense. Trying something new on race day is a fantastic idea, for several subtle — yet exquisitely valid (“valido”) — reasons I am about to make up.

To Add a Sense of Danger to Your Story

The first — and most crucial reason — for you to try something absolutely and completely different on race day is because you, as a racer, are first and foremost in the business of building an interesting memory. A story to tell to your family and co-workers. A tale of action and adventure, drama and suspense. Success or tragedy in the face of odds that would daunt a lesser person.

Unfortunately, if you stick to the PRAT rule, your story of how your race day went is going to go more or less along the same lines as the story you’ve already told all those people before about your practice efforts of the same distance (and often on the exact same course).

As the guy who’s written the same story about the Leadville 100 around 15 times now, you can trust me: it’s not easy making the same story interesting over and over. 

Which means, if you don’t do something new on race day, the only thing that differentiates your race story from your training efforts is that there are more people doing the same thing as you this time. 

If, however, you wear — or eat or ride — something different, you’re adding an element of suspense. Or at least what’s going to have to pass for suspense in a race. And that, if you’re lucky, will distract people from the fact that you’re telling them the same story you’ve been telling them after every race, ever.

Possibility 1: The Brilliant Risk-Taker

Suppose, just suppose, that on race day you threw caution to the wind and — based on an interesting article you read recently — switched to 25mm road tires instead of your traditional 23mm tires, and you inflated them to 100psi instead of your traditional 120.

[GEEKY GEAR NOTE: Yes, I am doing both of these things at the St. George Half-Ironman this weekend, but they're no longer new for me; I switched to 25mm tires and lower pressure last season. However, they were part of the exciting story I told to friends and family when I raced in Bend.]

Now, further suppose that you have a great day on your race. In fact, since we’re just fantasizing right now, let’s say you took second in your age group (we’d say first, but we want to keep the fantasy somewhat realistic, as well as give you something to strive for in future fantasy races).

If you’d gone with the old PRAT rule, all you’d have to say about your race would be, “Well, I’ve worked hard and raced smart and everything seemed to click.”


But — but! – since you, being the maverick take-the-bull-by-the-horns do-or-die type that you are, made a bold and risky decision which you almost certainly agonized over (and you absolutely must recount every moment of that agonizing when you tell your story), you’ve got an element of drama to hang your story on. Talk about your concern over your 2mm decision as you stood at the starting line. And then your surprise as you felt like you were shot out of a freaking cannon, riding like an age-grouper possessed. Dropping people as if they were good habits.

(Yes, you should use the “good habits” simile instead of “bad habits,” because that sets you up to explain that good habits are a lot easier to drop than bad habits, and you were dropping people easily.)

Would you have done just as well if you hadn’t made what we have established as a bold and risky decision? Probably. But nobody can prove it. And most people are too nice to (openly) dispute it anyway.

Possibility 2: Unimaginable Tragedy

Sadly, not every race is going to be your best race ever. Sometimes you will be slower than expected. Or you’ll hurt. Or throw up. Or you’ll be slower than usual and start hurting and then throw up.

Sure, you could shrug your shoulders and say, “I just had a bad day,” or “I pushed too hard.”

But why would you when you could blame your tragically-flawed, ill-advised, and impetuous decision to go with a different concentration of your favorite sports drink? Having a reason for why you started to cramp up is so much more satisfying to the people listening to your story than “Oh, I dunno, every athlete cramps once in a while. Just bad luck or maybe I went too hard too soon in the race, I guess.”

This strategy is even more useful if you have an actual accident during the race. If you crash, it is always preferable to blame your (new, untested) equipment instead of your being distracted or tired or just not having fantastic handling skills. “I will never race with ACME Brand Valve Stem Caps again!” sounds so much more interesting than, “I was riding, and then I was sliding; I don’t know what happened in between.”

Possibility 3: Cooler Heads Prevail

It’s always possible — though kind of sad — that things will go pretty much as expected, even with your roguish decision to try something new on race day.

And that’s too bad.

But all is not lost. In this case, it’s best to introduce some vague, previously-unmentioned and unverifiable ailment that had been plaguing you prior to the race. An ailment that would no doubt have slowed you down during the race, and quite likely would have forced you to abandon.

Which — being the steely-eyed competitor that you are — you did not want to do.

Hence, throwing caution to the wind, you adapted by wearing your new Rapha bibs, hoping their extra cushy chamois would compensate for your near-debilitating butt zit. And — lo! — it worked. Even with fate pitted against you, you made the hard decision and pulled out a decent race.

(Calling an expected finish “decent” is a good way to make it sound like you could have done better had the universe not been conspiring against you.) 

Here, Let Me Show You What I Mean

Lesser bloggers would present this treasure trove of valuable information in a purely hypothetical sense, and leave you to your own devices as to how to use it.

Not me, though. I’m putting my feet where my shoes are.

Specifically, yesterday as I looked over the Altra shoe site, I saw they now have a shoe designed specifically for tri running:


They call this shoe the 3-Sum. Based on the color scheme, I prefer to call it The Tequila Sunrise. Whatever you call it, it’s made for fast transitions, pulling straight on after yanking off your road shoes, with no socks necessary. 

Within an hour or so, I expect to have a pair. (The Hammer is in the area, picking them up for me. It’s nice that Altra’s a local company. It’s also really extra-nice that they’re comping me this pair of shoes.)

And this Saturday, I expect to use them when I race the St. George Half-Ironman. After which, I expect to have a remarkable story to tell, full of drama and suspense, capped off by either by a glowing recounting of my amazingly fast transition and comfortable feet. Or by my complete and utter foolishness in running a half marathon not only in a new pair of shoes, but in a new kind of shoes. Whilst running without socks, for the first time ever. 

Races are about drama, and you can’t have drama without dramatic tension. In my case, the dramatic tension will take the form of a new pair of shoes.

I wonder if I’ll even be able to sleep tonight.


  1. Comment by Wife#1 | 05.1.2013 | 9:17 am

    Oh man, I’m getting blisters just thinking about running in shoes without socks.

    This proves without a doubt that you’ll do anything for a great blog post. And that’s why we all follow you. God bless you sir, can’t wait for the race report!

  2. Comment by Mark in Bremerton | 05.1.2013 | 9:22 am

    “…it’s made for fast transitions…” Let’s see, now, transitions; a minute or two. Running; an hour or two. Hmmm, wonder how they work for that? I guess we’ll find out. Good luck – the report will have all the drama we can handle, and more, I’m sure!

  3. Comment by Cliff Elam | 05.1.2013 | 9:23 am

    It took me months to be able to run in my Zoot’s without socks and without blisters. Strangely I find my riding shoes (tri specific, but still) easy without socks.

    Maybe put some body glide on *top* of your feet?



  4. Comment by Fifth Column | 05.1.2013 | 9:24 am

    “Oh, wonder! How many goodly shoes are there here!
    How beauteous Altra is! Oh, brave new world that has such new gear in it!”

  5. Comment by Ellen | 05.1.2013 | 9:26 am

    True story: I have always run half marathons wearing my Lucky Socks. I also lose a toe nail every race or so (and have switched out shoes, etc, of course). Last race, I could not find my Lucky Socks!! Looked everywhere, cursed the laundress (me, actually) and ultimately grabbed a different, Non-Lucky socks.

    No lost toe nails. Huh. Live and learn. My toes and I love my new Ultra Lucky Socks.

  6. Comment by Jill Homer (@AlaskaJill) | 05.1.2013 | 9:29 am

    I once rode the 25 Hours of Frog Hollow solo on a rental bike that I didn’t even sit on top of to test the standover height before I wheeled it out the door.

    I would never, never run a half marathon in a completely new shoe setup, especially sans socks.

    Good luck. :)

  7. Comment by Doug (Way upstate NY) | 05.1.2013 | 9:31 am

    Humm. I see some rationalization coming down the road.

  8. Comment by Fifth Column | 05.1.2013 | 9:35 am

    “But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”

  9. Comment by TK | 05.1.2013 | 9:46 am

    I’m getting the feeling that this weekend is going to inspire an seven part race report. If so, please keep the parts coming fast and furious…I won’t be able to endure a week of cliff-hanging posts to find out if Fatty gets Hammered.

  10. Comment by Marsupial MattC | 05.1.2013 | 10:27 am

    Oh Fatty you are SUCH a risk taker! The THRILL of it! The AUDACITY! You are a HERO doing this in the name of a good story! I’m on pins and needles I can tell you!

  11. Comment by Brian | 05.1.2013 | 10:29 am

    Socks are over rated. Now losing the tighty whities from under your tri suit, that’d be scary.

  12. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 05.1.2013 | 10:38 am

    I can hear it now. cue Sylvester Stallone voice……

    I coulda’ ben a contenda


  13. Comment by Josh | 05.1.2013 | 10:46 am

    I run without socks all the time. Works for some, not for others. I think the biggest risk you’re taking going sockless is that high heel. Zoot dropped that design because so many people were getting rubbed raw in the Achilles area. For me, with my old Zoots that had that it was 50-50. Sometimes I was okay, sometimes the shoes would get the best of me. That makes for a long, painful hobble.

    On one hand, I wish you luck. On the other, I’m hoping for epic suffering because that makes for a great blog post. See how I am?

  14. Comment by blair | 05.1.2013 | 10:54 am

    do they come in a sittin-on-yo-ass-eatin-fried-crap model? because that’s what i’m doing in lieu of tris

  15. Comment by Erik van Bommel | 05.1.2013 | 11:25 am

    A long time ago I used a newly built, completely unridden pair of tubular wheels, built up by me (my first ever self-builds) the day before a century! Having found them fantastically light and fast from the off the last 10 or so miles was like tiptoeing through a minefield as most of the spokes had worked loose and the wheels handled atrociously. I have built many wheels since then, and ridden many centuries, though never within 24hrs of each other!

  16. Comment by Barton | 05.1.2013 | 11:54 am

    as most others have pointed out, the one thing that comes to mind is: blisters. new shoes AND new shoes sans socks? All I can say is: Good Luck! (and think, that’s another edge towards The Hammer)

  17. Comment by Dave T | 05.1.2013 | 11:55 am

    Back in the 80’s a friend and I bought brand new touring bikes the week before we left to ride across the country. When we hit a particular desolate stretch of hwy 56 in Utah both of us experienced several broken spokes on the rear wheels. After spending all day changing broken spokes we managed to limp into Cedar City. The next day when we were at the hardware/bike shop it was discovered that the spokes on our wheels were not installed correctly. Since then I tend to like to fully check out the equipment I will be using before a big event. Good luck.

  18. Comment by Clydesteve | 05.1.2013 | 12:03 pm

    Tequila sunrise would be an excellent model name.

    I will not comment on your decision to try sockless on race day, ’cause my momma always said: “If you can’t say somthin’ nice…”

  19. Comment by Obstinate Roadie | 05.1.2013 | 12:20 pm

    No socks! And before Memorial Day! Tisk, tisk.

    Oh, trust me. When you factor in the one-piece tri outfit I’ll be wearing, this will be the LEAST of my fashion faux pas. – FC

  20. Comment by Skye | 05.1.2013 | 12:22 pm

    I wogged (walk + jog, way different from run) a marathon once and debated with myself the safety of eating blue gummies that were being handed out at a rest stop, because I had only ever eaten red ones before. Then, I realized what a hilariously paranoid state of brain that was coming from and threw all caution to the wind and ate the blue gummies and few miles later I ate some little pretzels and I tried 4 new flavors of gu throughout the day and I ate some smarties and pretty much anything else that was being handed out.
    I did get some HUGE blisters that day though, and we’ll never know if I should blame wet shoes for 6 hours (Seattle in November, it rained all day) or if I should blame the blue gummies afterall….

  21. Comment by Kate | 05.1.2013 | 12:51 pm

    I rode last year’s Dirty Kanza (well, 160 miles of it) on a saddle and tires I was using for the first time that day. I could say that my old saddle was so terrible for prolonged road (or road-ish) rides that ANY saddle would be an improvement, but in the spirit of this post I’ll mourn that I surely would have finished just behind Rebecca Rusch if it hadn’t been for my risky saddle switch.

  22. Comment by Susie H | 05.1.2013 | 12:53 pm

    hahaha…good luck! :-)

  23. Comment by DOM | 05.1.2013 | 1:14 pm

    I hope you’ve been training in zero drop shoes. If not, your lower legs are going to be out of commission post- race, maybe mid-race.

    Didn’t read the previous post, huh? – FC

  24. Comment by Skol | 05.1.2013 | 1:29 pm

    You’ll be fine Fatty – those shoes look nice and fast – its all a mental game anyways.

  25. Comment by Raph | 05.1.2013 | 2:04 pm

    Aie Caramba… Losing all that weight, and risking it all just like that… Seems like a crazy thing to do but also why we enjoy fatty’s tales so much. Enjoy the race.

  26. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 05.1.2013 | 2:12 pm

    @Kate beat me to it but I wanted to sponsor you with this new saddle we have here the ‘spongy wonder I’ll send it up and I know you will do so much better on it knowing that the transition from sitting to standing is that much faster, and the sitting part that much smoother. I’ll paint it first to match the shoes ‘cus we know what a fashionista you are.

    and if this doesn’t grab you I have a brand new Brooks Saddle in the box I can send.

  27. Comment by Deuce | 05.1.2013 | 2:19 pm


    Just saw this story on ABC News about a motorcycle hitting a cyclist on a Calif hwy, and there at 1:06 in the story is a person with a Fat Cyclist kit! Damn…you guys are everywhere!!


  28. Comment by Jenni | 05.1.2013 | 2:51 pm

    I think those shoes look awesome. I’ll take a pair in size 8, kthxbai. And I think you’re going to be fine. You’re running so fast these days by the time they start to bother you, you’ll be done.

    Now, the real experiment. Will you be taking them out of the box NEW NEW for race day, or are you going to run around the neighborhood today? Hmmmm….

    Definitely taking them for a run around the neighborhood today! – FC

  29. Comment by NDE | 05.1.2013 | 3:18 pm

    I agree with Cliff. Body Glide will go a long way. I once went into a tri with huge blisters on the soles of my feet, in my arch, from using new orthotics a few days before the race. I went to town with the Body glide and ran the whole race without any issues.

  30. Comment by UpTheGrade SR,CA | 05.1.2013 | 3:19 pm

    Great strategy, now you’ll have a good rationale for why you were Hammered! And you’ll have us all on the edge of our seat just waiting to see by how much – I’m going with 15 minutes.

  31. Comment by T-Bone | 05.1.2013 | 3:28 pm

    I run 5km & 10km without socks I’m Sprint & Olympic tris all the time with no issue. The one 70.3 I did without socks was a disaster. Blisters & then blood running down the back of my heels for th

  32. Comment by T-Bone | 05.1.2013 | 3:32 pm

    I run 5km & 10km without socks in Sprint & Olympic tris all the time with no issue. I even tried some new racing flats last year in a Sprint race untested & did my fastest ever 5km. The one 70.3 I did without socks was a disaster. Blisters & then blood running down the back of my heels for the last 10-11km of the run. Made a mental note to self: Never run a half marathon without socks ever again!!! Good luck Fatty, may the Force be with you.

  33. Comment by Mygraham | 05.1.2013 | 3:40 pm

    Hey I’m gonna do the same thing…new shoes bought today…same race…same color shoe….but it’s the kinvara. Its just a half…we’ll be fine! I wanna hear how the altra’s treat u. The Hammer told me u were gonna be in a Spidey kit….my kids r way excited to look for Spidey and cheer him on….unless you’re changing that too:)

  34. Comment by gogogo | 05.1.2013 | 4:11 pm

    uh oh you are so gonna regret that!!!

    good luck! can’t wait for your race report.

  35. Comment by Lindsay | 05.1.2013 | 8:18 pm

    I’ll second the zero-drop concern. I’m trying to get used to a pair now. It seems that most people take a few weeks to get used to them, starting out at 1 or 2 miles at a time. I did a 45 minute run/walk in them today. My feet and calves are laughing at me as I type.

    Good luck!! Can’t wait to read about it.

  36. Comment by ClydeinKS | 05.1.2013 | 9:04 pm

    as mentioned earlier with the high heel tab on Zoots, the achilles is an area to watch. A little body glide on the achilles and I never had a problem, love them to the tune of 3 pairs now. The pic you included looks like the heel tab is very similar, consider some glide. And, for the Hammer’s sake, find some Febreeze Sport to spray in after wearing them – Mighty Athena insists the odorless insole is false advertising. Interested in the Altra and zero-drop, looking forward to your review!

    Haven’t noticed but are you also rocking a pair of S-Works Trivents for the ride?

  37. Comment by Jeff | 05.1.2013 | 10:01 pm

    I hope you’ve been running without socks for a while… you can get by in a sprint tri, but the 13.1 could be blistery otherwise. And I see others have been posting about the high heel tabs. I’ve had to retire my otherwise awesome Zoots because of Achilles chafing issues.

    Hope to figuratively (hopefully not literally) run into you at the race this weekend, Fatty!

  38. Comment by Hautacam | 05.1.2013 | 10:51 pm

    Please, please, please, please, PLEASE promise me that you won’t post ANY pictures of your feet post-tri. I wouldn’t want to see them under regular race conditions, and after your first race in new shoes without socks — well, that would just be too much.

    When I close my eyes I can still see the pic of your feet and the Hammer’s feet post-race from a different event last year. To quote a wise man from Portland, “some things, once seen, cannot be unseen.”

    Good luck and safe racing!

  39. Comment by N1LUL | 05.2.2013 | 6:45 am


    I don’t care how cool those shoes are, PLEASE don’t run sockless in new shoes (especially 0 drop). If nothing else your feet will be a mess for a while, and worst case is you get injured and mess up the rest of you spring/summer season.

    A couple of funny blog posts are not worth the long term consequences

  40. Comment by Tom in Albany | 05.2.2013 | 8:17 am

    Doug (way upstate NY) nailed it. See you all Tuesday (and Wednesday AND Thursday AND quite possibly Friday) for the Fatty ‘excuse-fest’!

  41. Comment by Jacob | 05.2.2013 | 8:43 am

    I can’t imagine running without socks. I never get blisters on my feet and I walk barefooted a lot, even outside because I grew up in the boonies and still live in the boonies, but I’ve worn shoes without sock and it feels bad and the soles of my feet get really hot and sticky without my even moving. I know a lot of running don’t wear socks, but I can’t understand why (other than the obvious speed benefits in transition. I’m talking about pure runners who do this).

  42. Comment by AUChefDave | 05.2.2013 | 12:03 pm

    Listen, I rode an event last weekend with a new cassette and chain. It was the rear spokes that let me down and try were not new. Besides remember your last name, Cyclist, get a hold of your inner Jensy and just say ” shut up legs”!

  43. Comment by Barefoot Rose | 05.2.2013 | 2:45 pm

    The materials of construction are everything.

  44. Comment by JDBruin | 05.2.2013 | 7:25 pm

    Wondering, with the reference to “tighty whities”, if a man thong might be more aerodynamic under the tri onesie? Something to consider perhaps, every second counts…

  45. Comment by Sam | 05.3.2013 | 2:19 am

    A rookie mistake one may day Fatty. We all learn from out mistakes and I love it that you can take it with a pinch of salt and talk about it.

  46. Comment by Jim B | 05.3.2013 | 2:51 am

    The obvious answer about the shoes is to be scientific about it. Run with the old shoe on the left foot and the new shoe on the right foot. If the sole thickness is a bit different you may have to reorient your direction every 100 yards or so otherwise you’ll end up running in a very big circle.

    Good luck!

  47. Comment by Eric | 05.3.2013 | 3:15 am

    Risk taker extraordinaire fatty :D I get blisters with socks on, never mind without them haha.

  48. Comment by Ian | 05.3.2013 | 9:08 pm

    Variety is the spice of life – or so they say. But maybe a little too much ’spice’ may cause you blisters.
    I like your risk profile and the way you have made light of the PRAT rule.

    And if you don’t know already a PRAT or being a PRAT is very common in some parts of the UK where it means someone who is a major idiot, silly or dumb – In a sentence ‘Like don’t be a prat’

    Hope it all worked out!

  49. Comment by roan | 05.4.2013 | 1:51 am

    Fatty, by the time you read my comment(next week) if ever, this will be moot. So for the next tri you should compile a complete list of the readers’ suggestions, throw caution to the wind, and let the drama unfold. I like the blue gummies mentioned somewhere above…but in the shoes for a test run several days in advance. This is for a foot fitting form. You would need a size 1/2 larger.
    As for Tequila Sunrise…hummmm, I ’see’ you staggering to the finish line with a touch too much of the former and the sun is setting.

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