My first experience of a triathlon began pretty much like around 75% of the people who enter one in that it sounded like a great idea over a drink and a meal with some friends. Now I am never one to shirk from doing something that I have said I will do, but a triathlon? Come on!
Still, it was for charity and even through the sluggishness of the ‘day after the night before’ I was up for it. But what I didn’t realise at that time was just what I had let myself in for, so, what tips can I give you, the newbie tri-athlete that will ensure you enjoy the day as much as you can and finish like a champ?
TOP TIP 1
Get prepared. Sure, we all know we have to train but think about your weakest aspect of the race and try to focus a little more on that. Personally I was not looking forward to the open water swimming so I would push myself that little bit harder in an attempt to allay my fears. Instead of just hitting the pool I would get out in the sea and swim. At first I would swim perpendicular to the shoreline and not stray too far out, but as my confidence improved so did my distances away from the beach until I became, I won’t say too confident, but at least I found that I did not mind so much not being able to touch the ocean floor.
TOP TIP 2
Don’t worry about the kit too much. My first triathlon was done on an old Kahuna mountain bike I had owned for over 15 years and my body boarding shortie wetsuit. Luckily the swim was just under a kilometre and the cycle ride was 25 kilometres so I didn’t suffer too much. Sure there were guys there on bikes that cost the same as my car but I still managed to beat some of them on my trusty knobbly wheels and front suspension dinosaur and best of all I did it with a smile on my face. Which brings me on to…
TOP TIP 3
Enjoy yourself. The training should be the hardest part of your triathlon so train with friends and family. If you are with motivated people it helps to keep up your own motivation and makes it easier to get out on those days when your sofa looks so much more inviting than putting on your running shoes and splashing through muddy puddles. It also means that you will have your own personal support on race day if they have not signed up themselves. You will be surprised at the amount of well wishers you will have on your side, not just your personal training partners and family, but strangers too. So smile and wave, high five the more exuberant and know that they are there to help you finish with their enthusiastic and often vocal support.
TOP TIP 4
Practice your transitions. This is where I really fell down, literally. I wish I had thought to try and practice my jog through the transition area with my bike, both getting on and getting off. What’s so difficult about getting on and off a bicycle? Well when you are surrounded by a few hundred people all doing the same thing, with a crowd cheering your every move, plus you have just completed a fairly long swim and your legs and arms feel like someone else’s…well plenty can go wrong. I ended up in a heap with my bike wrapped around my left leg and a nice gash along my shin. Take a few minutes out to practice the moves and whilst you may not look as elegant as the pro’s on race day, you may at least avoid having to talk embarrassingly about how you got the scar on your leg for the rest of your life.
TOP TIP 5
Keep it simple and keep it slow, at least when you start. Don’t go for the podium for your first race as you will just burn yourself out during the swim before you even get to your bike. Take it steady and pick up the pace during the last half of the run and you will find that you will be breezing past others who have made this simple mistake. Oh and remember to take off your cycle helmet before you start your run, yes I have that wonderful memory about 10 minutes into the run of realising mine was still on my head…and the picture on Facebook to prove it!