Austin Tri-Cyclist Blog

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

So You’re Doing Your First Triathlon

by Robert Dao
Baby steps!

With the triathlon season about to get into full swing, many of us are getting off the trainer, dusting off the spandex, and heading to our favorite races. While many of the athletes getting back into racing are seasoned veterans, many among us are heading to the races for the first time. Your first triathlon can be a daunting experience, with so much to learn, and so much to soak in. While it can all be fun, it can be just as stressful if you don’t have a good idea of what you’re doing. Here are some of the most common FAQ’s to get you through the first of hopefully a long list of races!

What do I bring to the race?
While some people can get away with the bare minimum on race day, there are a few key things you don’t want to forget. I always start packing in the order of the race: swim, bike, run. You’ll absolutely need to have your swim cap, goggles, and wetsuit (if necessary) for the swim. For the bike, you’ll need your bike (obviously, but I’ve seen people leave home without it), helmet, water, and bike shoes if you have them. For the run, you’ll really only need your bib number and running shoes. Extra common things can always include nutrition for longer races, sunglasses, a hat, and a towel to dry after the swim. As always, bring what you think you’ll need and don’t feel bound to this list!

When should I arrive? 
Usually, transition opens up about two hours or so before the race starts. I usually like to show up no more than half an hour after transition opens, but it all depends on how early you like to be. I like to be early to things. When you’re planning your morning, remember what all you’ll have to do. You’ll need to unload your equipment from your car and get to the transition site. You’ll need to get your numbers marked on your body at transition. You’ll need to get transition set up the way you want it. And lastly, you should leave some time to warm up! I like to show up really early so I can make sure I have the time I need and then some extra to relax, get myself mentally prepared, and have time for something to go wrong!

What should I eat for breakfast?
For breakfast before a race, just eat what you normally would before a morning workout, but don’t have anything too heavy! Personally, I like to eat half of a bagel with a little peanut butter, and then nibble on a banana through the rest of the morning.

I’m not confident about open water swimming, what do I do?
Relax. Just relax. Swimming open water is still swimming, just without that white line to stare at. If you’re worried about the mass of people, there are a few ways to stay safely away from the crowd. The easiest way is to line up on the side of the pack. That way, people aren’t trying to cut you off and there’s no one in your way. The other tactic can be to start in the back and wait a second after the gun goes off. If you give everyone a chance to hit each other before you start, it clears things up for your swim! Then you can make your way up the pack as you’d like.

How strict are the rules?
Depending on the race, they can be strict, especially on the bike. So make sure you are familiar with the rule book! Drafting is the most commonly violated rule, so always make sure you are three bike lengths behind the rider in front of you unless you’re passing! Here’s a link to the official USAT rule book.

How should I handle the actual race?
First thing’s first. Have fun! None of us do the sport because we hate it, we do it because it’s a good time! Especially for your first time, don’t get too caught up in having the perfect race, winning your age group, or beating that one person you’ve been training with. The most important thing is that you go out and have fun! There will be plenty of other races to go try to win. Just race for what you trained for. Don’t try to push yourself harder than you did in your preparation, don’t try to speed up just because someone else is, and let yourself relax.

Will there be people to help answer questions?
Always! Almost everyone at the races will be more than willing to help you with any last-minute questions you may have!

Robert Dao is an employee at Austin Tri-Cyclist, a personal trainer for Driven Performance Training, and a USAT-certified triathlon coach with experience working with junior, collegiate, and adult triathletes of all skill levels. While competing in triathlon at the collegiate level, he spent a good amount of time getting new athletes adjusted to the sport, making sure they were the best athletes they could be while still having fun racing.

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