Here is a summary of what I’ve learned since doing my first triathlon two years ago. I’m not out to win any medals, but I love the challenge. Also, afterwards I can have chocolate milk and french fries and not feel guilty.
1. It’s okay to worry about what you are going to wear.
In fact, it’s quite important. You should spend more time planning your outfit for your race than you would for your next girls night out. You have to do three different sports, and you are not allowed to get naked in the transition area. In other words… if you put on a swimsuit, you are going to be biking in it. I would suggest a one piece bathing suit and “tri shorts” (super-sexy tight bike shorts with a bit of padding, not like a diaper amount of padding, just a little cushion to protect the lady parts) if you have them. If you skip the shorts for the swim, opt for a looser pair you can easily shimmy into when you are wet coming out of the water. Good luck getting any lycra on your body after the swim. If you are in danger of being knocked out by “the girls” (or like me, they just hang somewhere in the vicinity of your belly button) without a sports bra during your run, you can wear one under your swimsuit. Also, wear a hat for the run. No one looks sexy with wet helmet head. Let’s be honest, it’s all about how awesome you look in the finish photo, right?
2. Chances are you won’t be last so stop worrying about it.
Even if you are last (someone has to be), you still beat all the people sitting on the couch.
3. Don’t touch your bike without your helmet on. Ever.
I can say from experience that the moment you do, a race volunteer will yell really loudly at you with their megaphone (who gives these people megaphones???) and everyone will turn and look to see who’s in trouble and you’ll feel really stupid.
4. Hang a really bright coloured towel on your bike in the transition area.
That way, when you come out of the water all weak, dizzy, and confused (or is that just me?), you can easily find your bike. Two towels are best, one on the handle bars for your face/arms, and one to sit on while you put on your socks. Putting socks on wet feet while you are panting and standing is damn near impossible.
5. Plan to drink (and eat if it’s a long race) on your bike.
Just don’t be fooling around with your water bottle during sharp turns or near the transition area. You’ll either crash (been there) or drop it (done that).
6. Get yourself some speed laces.
Elastic shoelaces are your friends. Make sure you try them out on a run before the race to adjust the tension to accommodate your feet swelling.
7. Be early.
Arrive early to set up your bike in the transition area. At busy races, it can get quite crowded if you don’t mark your territory quick. Leave only the necessities in the transition area. Pump up your tires, adjust your gears, and double check all your equipment for each leg of the race. Lay it out or arrange it in the order you’ll need it. If you can bribe someone to come wake up early and watch your race, they can be very handy for holding things and taking pictures.
8. Ignore what other people are doing.
Chances are, your first triathlon will be intimidating. There will be uber-expensive shiny wheels and flashy colourful spandex all over the place. People will be running around in various states of undress adjusting their bikes, warming up, stretching and trying not to look nervous. Just do your thing.
9. Pay attention to other people.
Do pay attention to the race officials and volunteers, they are there to count your laps, encourage you, and keep you on course. Don’t be afraid to give them a high five or a big sweaty hug. Or just a thank you would likely suffice. They woke up early and didn’t even get a finisher medal!
10. Good equipment can give you a technical advantage.
My mom kept beating me at races, so I bought an entry-level road bike. Now I can pass her! Your equipment does make a difference, but it doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive. Replacing your knobby mountain bike tires with slick ones is a good place to start.
Good luck and have fun!