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Tips for your first triathlon
… by Bob Gamble
Tips for Your First Triathlon
We’re starting a new series for the Club Newsletter – Triathlon Fundamentals for New Triathletes. To kick this off, here is an overview of basic concepts and tactics for your first Sprint triathlon. We’ll explore each discipline in greater detail in future newsletters, but this will get you started.
Hang your bike in your designated spot by the nose or rear of your seat, not the handlebars. You should only take up a space that is 2 feet wide, under or directly beside your bike. Place your bike shoes near the front of the area, as you’ll need them first, and put your run shoes right behind them. Place everything on a mat oriented so you can pick it all up and directly put it on. Keep it uncluttered. Have a hand towel handy to clean your feet with. Make sure your bike is in the small chainring and in an easy gear, and make sure your helmet is unbuckled. Remember where your bike is! Identify its location using trees or other landmarks; you don’t want to spend time looking for your bike!
Embrace the nervousness that you’ll feel – it’s quite normal – but don’t stress. For in-water swim starts, get your face wet, warm up slowly, move around and loosen up. For your first race, start to the side or near the back so people don’t crawl over you. They won’t do it intentionally, but you will get bumped and slapped if you’re in a pack. At the swim start, adrenaline will make you want to go out at a harder pace than you can maintain. Resist this urge, and start significantly slower than you want to. Relaxing and swimming slowly and rhythmically is faster than thrashing frantically, for many reasons. There is an adage, “slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.” Rolling over on your back and gasping for air after 150 yards isn’t very fast.
Be careful when you finish your swim and first stand up – you will probably be a little dizzy. Move deliberately and don’t rush. Remove your goggles and swim cap while exiting the water. Walk or jog slowly from the water to the transition area; you can build your speed later, but for your first race, stay calm – you’ve still got to bike and run! In transition, don’t rush! Moving slowly and deliberately is much faster than rushing frantically and dropping or forgetting things. Dry your feet, put on your shoes (socks if you prefer), then put on your helmet and sunglasses Remember to buckle your helmet!
After you put your helmet on and buckle it, carefully un-rack your bike and walk or slow jog to the “Mount” line. Cross the line before getting on. Look to make sure no one is coming by you – this is where crashes can happen. Spin easy until your legs ‘wake up.’ Settle into an easy rhythm. Again, adrenaline will may you want to hammer. You’ve got the rest of the bike and then a run to deal with. Make sure you drink and consume some fuel during the bike. Drink before you get thirsty; you are drinking for both the bike AND the run.
Slow down coming into T2 and don’t rush. You must dismount before you cross the mount/dismount line. Re-rack your bike in your spot, then remove your helmet and shoes. Put on your running shoes and race belt with your bib.
Your legs will feel funny and probably heavy – be careful with your first few steps, and realize that they will loosen up. Again, set a smooth, easy rhythm as you take off. Remember that your slowest run is faster than your fastest walk, so set a comfortable pace that allows you to keep running if possible, but don’t be afraid to walk on the up-hills. Just keep moving!
Your goal for your first race should be to enjoy it and “learn what you need to learn” for future training and racing. Ignore your times and your position. No one will remember or even care about your time, but they WILL know that you did a triathlon and that you are a triathlete. Cross the finish line and know that you’ve accomplished something difficult and significant, and pat yourself on the back. And if you don’t finish your first triathlon, don’t worry – the purpose of your first triathlon is to learn, and you will have learned a great deal. Toeing the starting line in a triathlon is an accomplishment by itself, and you are miles ahead of anyone who hasn’t experienced that.
You can check out some more tips for the new triathlete on these YouTube videos:
All Las Vegas Triathlon Club races are timed and require a timing chip. Once you purchase a chip, it is yours to keep for all future Las Vegas Triathlon Club races. Timing chips are NOT required to race, but you will not receive a time for the race without one.