So it's your FIRST Triathlon and you've done all the work and you are ready to rock it out on race day! You may feel a little nervous but excited at the same time. Perhaps you are a runner making the transition to multisport activities or a college swimmer who wants to add another dimension to your sport.
Whatever your reasons for taking on this new adventure, here are my TOP 10 best pieces of advice for your first race! You GOT THIS!
1. Don't worry about being in the front of the pack for the swim start. I find this to be a little overwhelming and it won't help you relax in the water. Instead position yourself in alignment with the first buoy - in the straightest line possible- Don't worry where you are compared to everybody else- stay focused on YOU and your race. If you are racing a pool swim, oftentimes people don't know how to calculate their swim time and you will see SUPER slow swimmers at the front of the line up. You have ZERO control over this so just don't worry about it. If you need to pass, then tape on people's feet and usually (if they have good triathlon etiquette) they will let you pass at the next wall.
2. There is never any reason to panic in the water. If you are in a wetsuit the chances of you drowning are almost ZERO so RELAX. Stay out of your head and know that you have swam many yards to get ready for this race and you are a decent swimmer. If you feel anxious or panicky then just do gentle breast stroke, or side stroke until you get your groove back. This happens to everybody at one time or another.
3. Learn to breathe on both sides. That's right, BOTH left and right. I find this super helpful in the open water because you want to see what's going on around you and it will help you with SIGHTING. PRACTICE this often and get good at it.
4. Make sure your bike is in good working order! I always take my bike to the shop a week before the race for a tune up and once over check. This includes shifters, brakes, tires, chain, and just about anything else that needs attention. Leave your bike in an appropriate gear for the first part of the ride, especially if you are going up hill.
5. Lay your helmet on top of your aerobars or someplace where it's super easy to just flip it over, pop it on your head and GO! Have a towel to step on in case there is gravel or dirt while running to transition and lay your shoes with the velcro straps OPEN wide. When you get really good at transitions, you will be able to leave your shoes clipped in the pedals.
6. Drink while on the bike so you have energy for the run! If it's a sprint distance race, I ALWAYS make sure I drink those last 2 or 3 miles on the bike before the run. Something other than water such as an electrolyte drink is best!
7. Always make sure your RACE BELT is with your running shoes ready to strap on and GO! You must have it on display when you cross the finish line so put it somewhere where you can't forget to put it on. That along with hat, sunglasses, and a gel for nutrition. (Open the gel before you leave transition so you don't waste time ripping it open during the race.)
8. When your legs feel like jelly, don't worry! Everybody has this same feeling. The best thing you can do to prevent jelly legs is to PRACTICE running off the bike several times a week before race day. HYDRATION will help keep your HR down too! If you mentally break up the run into smaller segments this will help you conquer it without feeling overwhelmed at how tired you feel.
9. Don't throw your equipment around your transition area- this can result in a penalty from one of the officials. You can't leave anything on the course such as water bottle, nutrition, or sunscreen so if you do drop something make sure to pick it up quickly!
10. Whatever your reason is for racing, make it a good time! Whether you are shooting for a podium finish or a Personal Best, remember to enjoy the day HAVE FUN!