A triathletes mindset
Race day makes no promises and when you are competing in three different disciplines within one race, a lot can happen. From small issues like leaky goggles to bigger problems like a flat tire or bad weather, you have to be ready to adapt. Instead of expecting a perfect race, be flexible and overcome these obstacles as they arise. Be prepared by bringing an extra pair of goggles and know how to fix a flat tire. You cannot control the weather, other competitors, or just plain bad luck, but what you can control is how prepared you are, both mentally and physically, and your attitude.
Stay close to home
For your first race, make it easy on yourself and select an event close to home. If the event is within easy driving distance from your home, it helps reduce race-day stress and hassle. You can also do some of your training on the course, increasing your confidence.
Get in a good warm-up
A good warm-up is essential, especially in unfavorable race conditions. Complete a 15 to 20 minute easy paced run and throw in 5 to 10, 30 second strides to get your legs turning over. Time this so you end with about 30 minutes until your start time, which will allow you to put on your wetsuit and get down to the water.
If you are allowed to get into the water prior to the swim, do so, unless it’s too cold. You do not want to freeze while standing on the beach waiting for your wave. If you are not allowed in the water prior to the start, or the conditions don’t warrant it, get down to the water and splash some on your face, dip your goggles in, and get a feel for what that first plunge will feel like.
The swim leg of triathlon is simultaneously the shortest and most universally feared part of the race. The key to the swim is to stay relaxed and calm. The worst thing you can do is to try and go too fast. You’ll probably end up going faster than you should, tiring out and possibly panicking.
If you start to panic, slow down, tread water, breath then keep going. Breaststroke or do polo drill for a little to keep your head above water. Or if you need assistance, put your hand up for one of the water safety personnel. You can rest on their board or boat, as long as they don’t propel you forward on the course. If they need to paddle you to safety, you’ll need to withdraw from the race. But I’m sure this won’t happen.
Instead of trying to go out fast, focus on smooth movements and moving effortlessly through the water rather than moving at a frantic pace. Remember go at your own pace. Just because there are a lot of people splashing around does’t mean that everyone is going much faster than you – it just seems like it. Swim your race at your pace and resist the urge to try and go as fast as possible.
Exit the water, but don’t throw your goggles or cap on the ground or hand it to a loved one. The only place you can store your race equipment is in your designated area in transition.
Note the land mark you used and your rack number so you can easily find your bike. A few rules:
# make sure you don’t interfere with other athletes equipment in transition.
# fasten your helmet before you remove your bike from the rack to start your ride. Keep it on and fastened until you replace your bike after the ride leg.
# don’t ride your bike in the transition area. Run your bike out to the mount line. You can get on your bike at any point after the mount line. If it’s congested move through the area before mounting.
Like runners, cyclists often start like a bat out of hell. Get settled and don’t worry about your speed right now. Keep to the left (in Australia) and keep your distance (12 metres) from the cyclist in front of you. A few rules:
# don’t draft. Drafting allows you to get an unfair advantage by following the bike in front too closely and is cheating.
# road rules apply, so keep to the left unless overtaking other cyclists, don’t overtake on the left of another cyclist and never cross double lines.
# don’t litter.
# keep you shoes and helmet on at all times. You must also ensure you have a covered torso.
# You are not allowed to accept assistance such as clothing, food, drinks etc from anyone except authorised race personnel.
Complete the bike leg and approach the dismount line. Dismount before the line and run your bike back into transition.
This should be your fastest transition of the day. Dismount as quickly and safely as you can and then simply take off your helmet and shoes, put your running shoes on and grab your race belt and put it on as you run out of transition. Remember every second counts.
While your legs will be warmed up from the bike, they’ll also be quite tired and heavy. If you’ve been practicing brick runs in training you’ll be familiar with this sensation and know your heavy legs will go away after the first 1 -2km.
On race day, don’t go out too fast. It’s far better to start off a little slower and save some energy and leg turnover for the last kilometre of the run. During the tough final kilometres, having some mantras ready can help you mentally get through. Give the run everything you have in the last kilometre and leave it all out on the course.
Make use of the aid stations provided by the race directors and keep hydrated. Like on the bike leg, don’t litter and don’t accept assistance from your friends, family or coach.
Smile across the finish line…you’ve just completed your first triathlon!
When the last cyclist is back in transition, you’ll be able to collect your bike and gear then head home to celebrate. Congratulations.