Triathlete Max Dunn: Racing for The Hidden Opponent

Max Dunn is a student at Indiana University -Bloomington and will be competing in the America’s Multi-Sport Festival on Saturday, September 26th in Muncie, Indiana. Max will be racing to raise awareness for mental health and The Hidden Opponent organization. He caught up with our editor the week leading up to the race to tell us about his athletic career, his training, his own performance anxiety, and his goals for the upcoming event.

Tell us about yourself and your athletic career growing up?

My name is Max Dunn. I am 21 years old from Carmel, Indiana. I am studying psychology and coaching at Indiana University – Bloomington. I am a high school volleyball coach and I am studying to one day work in exercise programming for mental health patients. Growing up, I played a variety of sports; anything from baseball and basketball to swimming and cross country. I started volleyball in high school and loved it, so I began to take it more seriously. When I got to IU, I made the Men’s Club Volleyball team. It was around this time that I also got into coaching high school girls volleyball at a local club. 

How did you get into competing in the triathlon?

In terms of triathlons, I actually started racing in duathlons; which is a run/bike/run format. I started racing in duathlons in May of 2020 because I wanted to try something new athletically. At first, I thought that I would never be able to complete a multi-sport event because of how difficult it is, but I wanted to give it a try. From the very start of my first competition, I found that I loved the people, the race, and the environment.

What kinds of things do you do for training

I am now beginning to train for triathlons, but I have focused my training on duathlons for the past few months. For training, I typically run around 20-25 miles per week and cycle between 30-45 miles per week. My workouts consist of long runs of up to 7 miles or BRICK workouts; which are Bike/Runs. A BRICK workout would be something like a 20k bike followed by a 5k run. 

What is the hardest part of being a triathlete? Physically? Mentally?

I would say the hardest thing about being a duathlete/triathlete would be keeping yourself mentally strong for the entire race. Physically, you put yourself through long hours of training so you know that when a race comes, you can finish and hopefully with a personal record. However, keeping a calm mind and controlled heart rate throughout the entire race is very difficult. You definitely have to be comfortable with just being alone with your thoughts during the race and it can be easy to get distracted. 

You mentioned you suffer from performance anxiety. Has this always been the case? How do you center yourself before a race? 

I have suffered from performance anxiety since I was in middle school. This happened in sports and even in my extracurricular activities like music or class performances. It took me away from playing music in high school and from playing college volleyball at Indiana. Before a race, I try to talk to people who I know and I also try to meet new people. Closer to the start of the race, I try to meditate to get my head in the right position to perform well. 

Tell us about how you found The Hidden Opponent and your decision to race for mental health awareness this upcoming weekend. 

I found The Hidden Opponent through a post that was made on Instagram and I decided I wanted to support a cause that I can relate to personally. Many people with performance anxiety do not come out to race or compete because of the way they feel before or during a race. I want to race for The Hidden Opponent to show people suffering from performance anxiety, depression, or any other mental health problems, that regardless of what they are going through, they can compete and they can succeed.

How will you be raising awareness with your upcoming race and what are your overall goals for the race?

To raise awareness, I am going to try to wear The Hidden Opponent colors or name on my tri-suit. I also want to try to talk to people about how they feel when they race and learn about different strategies that they use do to calm themselves before or during a race. My overall goal is to earn a podium spot at the conclusion of the race and to set a personal best time. 

To support Max and learn more about his racing, you can follow his Instagram at @maxx_dunn_

Donations to The Hidden Opponent can be made at this link and dedicated to “Max Dunn Racing