|After discovering some mishaps along my journey to the finish line, I share with you what I learned at my first triathlon.
1. Face Your Fears: Swimming Swimming is a big fear of mine. So I decided to hire a swim coach. Not just any swim coach, a child’s swim coach. I needed a few lessons onbasic swimming techniques to just get comfortable in the water.
2. Get the Right Gear Pick up a really good pair of goggles, a swim cap and a swimsuit. Know that swimsuit sizes for women run differently than your typical swimwear. Also, I purchased two pairs of goggles—one that had a really good dark tint for my sunny-day workouts and a clear pair for early morning or evening swims.
3. Focus on Your Weakness, But Not Too Much Since swimming was my weakness, I thought I needed to spend every second in the pool. But a friend said, “During my sprint, my swim portion took me 12 minutes.” A light bulb went off. I realized if I just got decent at swimming, I could pick up my pace during the run (since running was my strength). So, I rearranged my training to swim for 20 to 30 minutes a few times a week and really push myself hard during my run and bike workouts.
4. Practice Your Transitions Many newbies overlook this. I did too. A couple of days before your event, spend about 20 minutes practicing. Run to your bike, run with your bike, and practice getting on it. Ride your bike for a few minutes and then practice getting off of it and running your bike back to your transition spot. Also, practice putting on your socks, shoes, sunglasses and bib. It’s amazing how many seconds you can shed with practice
5. It’s Okay to Panic If you’re scared of swimming, like me, go out in open water a couple weeks before your race. Make sure to bring a friend or coach to support you. The first time I went out in the water, I had a panic attack.Things were touching my legs, fish swam by my legs and salty water tasted awful. All the unknowns and unfamiliarity got to me. But, I was able to get that out of my system. By race day, I felt confident going into the water.
6. Garbage Bags and Cooking Spray The first time I tried to squeeze myself into my wetsuit, it took me almost and hour. Tip number one; don’t try to do it in your house when it’s warm. Pro triathlete Sarah Haskins and her husband, handed me two garbage bags. Apparently plastic bags help suits glide on. So I stuck each leg into a garbage bag. Her husband then sprayed my legs and arms with cooking oil. What took and hour at one point, took five seconds. I never leave home without garbage bags and cooking oil.
7. Lay Everything Out and Take Your Time As simple as this sounds, do it. Lay out your shoes, socks, sunglasses, bobby pins, helmet, goggles and swim cap on a towel. Everything has a place. Organizing your gear will help you seem less frazzled when going through transitions. When you’re switching items, it’s okay to talk to yourself to help you stay focused. It helped me remember to take off my helmet before starting my run.
8. Crumple Your Race Bib Why crumple your race bib? To keep it from flaring around when you bike and run. Crumple it up into a ball, and then uncrumple it. Itwon’t look pretty, but it will help it to stay put. Plus, all the pros do it, so again, you’ll look like you know what you’re doing.
9. Start to Unzip Your Wetsuit Back to the dreaded wetsuit. If you lather yourself up with body glide or cooking oil, taking it off shouldn’t be too difficult. As you run out of the water towards the transition area, start to take off your wetsuit. By the time you make it to your transition spot your wetsuit should be half off. All you have to do is slip your legs out. You’ll save tons of time.
10. People Will Touch You in the Water Know that during your swim portion there will be people that didn’t practice swimming in open water prior to race day. Understand that thosepeople might panic, grab your legs, or accidentally swim into you. Try to swim on the outside of everyone, or stay back in the wave to give yourself room so you can avoid random people grabbing you. If it does happen, know that people are probably doing it by mistake; they’re not trying to take you down.
11. Say “Left” During the bike portion you need to stay three bike lengths behind the biker in front of you. If you think you have the speed and power to pass them, yell left and pass on the left. You have 15 seconds to pass and get ahead of the rider. They should then back off to give you the appropriate space. Sometimes this doesn’t happen as it should, but you should be the bigger person and follow the rules.
12. Heavy Running Legs When you get off your bike and start your run portion, know that your legs will feel like a ton of bricks. It will feel like there is super glue on the bottom of your feet. Nothing is wrong with you; it will just take a little bit of time for your body to adjust. It’s a weird feeling at first, but if you’re mentally prepared for it, you won’t panic. Just work through it and continue on your merry tri.
13. How to Hold Your Bike If you watch YouTube videos of the pros, you’ll see them holding their bike seat with their hands as they run through the transitions. As a newbie, don’t do this! That is a very hard skill to master and it’s easy to lose control of your bike. To keep control of your bike, place your hands on the handle bars. When it’s time to get on your bike at the appropriate spot, keep your head looking forward as you swing your leg over your seat and reach for the pedal.
14. Follow Signs and High Five Spectators Whether it’s your first tri or hundredth, there are people out there cheering you on (whether you know them or not). Give them some love too and high five someone. It will give you a little boost of energy and help you go the distance.
15. Cross the Finish Line Like a Champ If you’ve read all the slides and take these tips into consideration for your event, then you’ll look like a pro at your race. It’s our secret. So if you look like a pro, and you race like a pro, it only makes sense to finish like a pro. When you see that finish line in the short distance, pick up the pace and charge. Finish strong, throw your hands up like Rocky Balboa and celebrate… you just completed a triathlon. You now have bragging rights.