How do I get the most out of myself in close-fought races? I shared six of my strategies on the Suunto blog. I recently had to play all of these cards battling to 2nd place at Challenge Cancun! My tactics have come a long way since my professional debut and I’m humbled by all that I’ve yet to learn! Read the first three tactics here and find the full article at

The Art of Battle

Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Pro triathlete Cody Beals loves a good race battle. He’s been having them since his high school cross-country days. More recently, he fought it out against two athletes at the inaugural Challenge Cancun triathlon, ultimately placing second. Cody thrives on competition, and is not afraid to employ deception to defeat his rivals.

The most dramatic battles, he says, are when you are neck and neck with another athlete. Knowing how to do battle is an important part of triathlon. It’s something that can be trained, and requires a certain degree of cunning. Cody shares his tactics.

Photo: TriMexico

6 tactics to overcome your rivals

1. Let them do the work

The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Cody advises to sit back and let your rival work for you. He learned this the hard way after many years of trying to be at the front of the pack, especially on the runs. He expended so much energy doing this he got his butt kicked in finishing sprints over and over again. He eventually learned it’s better to sit back, bide his time, allowing his rivals to do the work.

“This offers a strong physiological advantage on the swim and the bike if you’re drafting off other athletes, within race rules,” he says. “On the run, it’s a small advantage physically, but more psychological.

“It’s a good tactic if you find yourself neck and neck with someone else. It’s the Muhammed Ali rope-a-dope thing; acting like you’re weak and sand bagging a little bit.”

2. Play up a perceived weakness or look strong

Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

In his own words, Cody says he’s “not the prettiest runner”. This is true when he’s fresh, and even more so at back sections of Ironman courses. In certain situations, when he wants his rivals to believe he’s in worse shape than he really is, Cody accentuates his running style.

“I let my head wobble back and forth, throw my arms even wider, looking worse than in reality, when in fact that’s just how I run,” he says. “This can get into another athlete’s head.”

Alternatively, the opposite ruse – looking stronger than you really are – is also advisable in certain situations.

“This is often something you do out in back sections of the run course,” Cody says. “Most triathlons feature sections like this where you can scope out the competition. I like to smile at my rivals, maybe give them a thumbs up. Or to really get inside their head, I might offer a word of encouragement, like a ‘good job’.”

3. Remember they are struggling, too

In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity
― Sun-Tzu, The Art of War

In the heat of a race, when he’s really suffering, Cody likes to remind himself that his rivals are, too.

“I like to tell myself that they are suffering as much or more than I am,” he says. “Often you feel like you are locked in this titanic struggle all on your own. But it bears remembering that everyone else out there is also going through this. Remembering that gives me strength.”

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Photo: José Luis Hourcade