Ten Tips for your First Triathlon
Author: Bill Driskill
Last updated: March 01, 2013 14:12
Race Day Tips for your First Triathlon
1. Read the race website and all information you receive from the race carefully. Read your confirmation email and bring a copy of it and all receipts or race packets with you to the event. Have a race checklist and pack everything the night before your race.
2. Arrive early. Be the first one there at the race in the morning. Arriving early eliminates many potential problems and hassles like finding a parking space, or a place in the transition area, or lines at registration or the restrooms, and arriving early gives you a chance to enjoy more of your first triathlon, to get the full experience of the event from start to finish.
3. Pick a good location in the transition area. Place your bike at the end of one of the bike racks in the transition area. This placement on an aisle will give you more space and quicker access in the transition area. When you warm up on your bicycle (an important thing to do at every race) place your wetsuit on the bike rack where your bicycle was located to secure your spot. Your towel on the ground underneath your bicycle also serves to ‘designate’ your transition spot.
4. Warm up in all three sports. Start with a bike ride after you have secured your spot in the transition area. Ride (if allowed – some races allow riding in the transition area, others do not) your bike out of transition area and start the bike course making riding enough to warm up and finish with your bike in the proper gear for starting. Follow this with a run out of transition area onto the run course to finish warming up your legs and to get a peek at the start of the run course; an important and strategic place in all triathlons. Finally make sure and warm up for at least 10 minutes before your wave starts in the swim by actually swimming in the water, not just standing in it.
5. Have a well thought out fueling plan for the whole day. Consume enough calories before the race; many athletes skip breakfast – which is a big mistake on race day. Take in 200 or so calories of energy fuel 30 to 40 minutes before the start of the race, and don’t eat or drink too much on the start of the bike – give your stomach at least 10 minutes to adjust from being horizontal to vertical, but then fuel regularly on the bike and run. Have post race nutrition available after the race to consume within the ‘window of opportunity’ for proper recovery.
6. Line up appropriately at the start of the swim. If you are a strong swimmer you should be up front so as not to have to be hindered by slower swimmers in the water. If you are a weak swimmer start at the back, and even pause for 10 to 20 seconds to let all the other triathletes start, then start your swim behind them and swim confidently through them. Determine before the race which way you ‘drift’ when you swim (most swimmers veer to one side or the other depending upon their breathing pattern) and adjust by starting on either the left or ride side of the pack at the start. Remember to: Draft, Sight, and Breath while you swim.
7. Always take your wetsuit off while still in the water and carry it to transition area. Wetsuits become increasing more difficult to remove as more water drains out of them. Swim as far as possible into shore – walking is much more difficult than swimming in waist deep water, and once you are about thigh deep stand up and take off your wetsuit. Peel it all the way down, then step out of it while still in the water. Make sure to bring a pair of “run-swim” shoes to get to transition area. Place this old pair of worn out run shoes at the swim exit and remember to slip them on to run to transition. There is nothing worse than stepping on a sharp rock barefoot while sprinting to your bike.
8. Keep your helmet buckled at all times while on the bike. Have your transition area equipment placed as you will need it, with your bike gear first then your run gear. Put your helmet on first, then your sunglasses and leave your helmet buckled the entire time you are on your bike. It is an automatic disqualification to be riding or sitting on your bike and have your helmet unbuckled and is an all too often tragic mistake for athletes riding into the transition area to unbuckle their helmet while riding to ‘save time’.
9. Inflate your tires the morning of the race. Know what your proper tire pressure is for your bike, have a good floor pump that you bring to the race, and pump up your tires before placing your bike in transition. Tires lose air pressure over night and low tire pressure can cost you precious seconds or even minutes that you have trained hard for on the bike course. Make sure your bike is in good working order, your shoes are not over worn, and you have a good pair of goggles that does not leak. Confidence in your equipment will provide you with power on the race course.
10. Make it a fun day. Meet other triathletes and ask then questions about their race. Observe what goes on around you at the race and take notes on your performance at the race; I called it: "What worked and what didn't work" in my training log. Each race will help you to sharpen your racing skills; nothing makes you better at racing than racing, and each race is also an opporunity to measure and monitor your progress and re-affirm your commitment to the sport and your goals. Celebrate your success and enjoy your finish!