How to Prepare for Success in Your First Triathlon:
In the world of sports there are two types of athletes: those who start from scratch and those who have been doing it before them. A beginner is someone who has never done anything like this before, but they still want to do it because they enjoy the sport or because their friends told them that it’s fun. They might not even know what they’re missing out on if they don’t try something new.
A veteran is someone who has already done everything possible with the sport. They’ve trained hard, they’ve prepared themselves mentally and physically, and now they’re ready to take on whatever challenges come their way. A veteran may be one of these guys:
You’re probably wondering which category you fall into right?
Well, if you think about it, most people who have been around long enough to have experienced many different things tend to gravitate towards the former group. So if you’re going to be starting your first triathlon, then you’re probably a veteran. If you’re just getting started, though, then you’ll likely end up being a beginner.
The reason why I say this is because it takes time and practice to become proficient at any activity. You need to put in the work and learn from mistakes along the way so that when you finally reach your goal (which will hopefully be reaching it) that it doesn’t feel overwhelming or impossible.
Whether you’re a beginner or not, however, I’m sure that you’re here because you want to reach your goals in becoming a pro in whatever events you get into. If you’re a beginner then that’s good because it means that you’ll be less likely to give up when you fail the first time (everyone fails at some point, no matter how good they are). The important thing is to keep trying and keep practicing—even the pros do that!
How to Prepare for Success in Your First Triathlon:
Here are some tips and tricks for a beginner that you might find useful as you prepare yourself for your first triathlon. Of course, if you’ve already done a few of these then that’s great! Just because you’re a beginner doesn’t mean that you can’t surpass your expectations just like any other competitor. Everyone starts somewhere after all.
Tip #1: Dress for Success One of the most important parts about any sport is making sure that you have comfortable clothing that you can move around in. Since you’ll be swimming, biking, and running in a triathlon, it only makes sense to choose apparel that caters to all of these activities. Swimsuits are probably the easiest to find, but you might want to consider getting one with quick-drying properties so you don’t feel weighed down when you’re finished swimming. As for biking apparel, you’re going to want to find something with lots of pockets for storing food and water so you can access these materials easily.
Finally, running shorts (or a loose pair of pants) are always a good idea so you can avoid things like chafing when you’re running longer distances.
The most important clothing piece, however, is probably your helmet. While this may not be as necessary for swimming or running, a good bike crash can easily ruin your day. The last thing you need is a head injury!
Choose apparel in colors that you find appealing. If you like the way you look in it, then you’re going to be more likely to wear it.
Tip #2: Get Your Supplies Together Having everything you need before your big event is important so you don’t have to worry about forgetting something at home. You don’t want to be that person that shows up without a swimming suit!
Water bottles are a must for every event, so make sure you have one (or two) of these with you during your training. You don’t want to get dehydrated during any of your training sessions!
You should also have some sort of energy bar or gel ready for when you’re feeling weak or tired during your first triathlon. This is especially important if this is your first time doing one of these.
Tip #3: The Basics for Interacting With Other Competitors One of the biggest mistakes a triathlon newbie can make is interacting with other competitors in a rude or hostile way. This isn’t like a championship event where everyone is out to beat each other. In fact, most seasoned veterans will tell you that these events are about having fun and enjoying the thrill of friendly competition.
One way to ensure that you have a good time during your first triathlon is by riding close to the person in front of you. This allows you to draft (ride in the slipstream) which will reduce the amount of energy you use when cycling. It also makes the ride go by much quicker since you aren’t pushing as hard on the pedals. Just remember to stay a few feet behind them (they might feel cramped up in the back if you get too close!) and don’t start until they start.
Other things you can do to interact with other participants is by giving everyone a big smile and a thumbs-up when you pass them. Even if you’re having a bad race, someone else might be having an even worse one and will appreciate your encouragement.
Tip #4: The Swim Start The swim start is going to be hectic, and if you’re not prepared for it, it’s going to be very easy to get lost or confused. Here are some tips to ensure that this doesn’t happen to you.
The last thing you want to do is to get in the wrong swim start line. These are usually labeled with the age divisions (such as 20-24, etc). If you get in the wrong one, you’re going to have a miserable experience because you’ll be out of your comfort zone.
The best way to avoid this is to check what time your age group is scheduled to go off. If there isn’t an age breakdown, then the event organizer will have each lane divided up based on skill level. Find your lane and get in the shortest line behind it. If you get in the wrong one, don’t panic.
Just quietly slip out of it and get back in line where you’re supposed to be.
Tip #5: Enjoy Yourself! Once the race starts, don’t forget to enjoy yourself! One of the biggest reasons people do these events is because they’re fun. Even if you’re not at your best, don’t worry about it.
No one is expecting you to win.
The post-race celebration is also an important part of the event. Most events will have food and drinks available immediately after you finish. This is a good time to grab a snack (if you need it) and talk with your fellow competitors. You might be surprised to find that some of them are eager to discuss strategies for upcoming races or training tips for you.
These are good people to know, so don’t get too caught up in the moment that you forget to introduce yourself.
The morning of the race…
Whether you’re participating in a sprint distance or a long distance event, you’ll still have to deal with the morning-of jitters. There are some things you can do the night before and the morning of to ensure that you’re able to take advantage of your peak energy and that you make it to the start line (and finish line!) without any issues.
The Night Before
First and foremost, make sure you have everything you need for the race. This means having your clothes laid out, shoes ready to go, and any other gear you want to take with you (nutrition, music, etc) all packed away in your bag. Having to look for your stuff in the morning is just going to cause unnecessary stress and distract you from being able to get to sleep before the race.
It’s also a good idea to get in about 1-2 hours of pre-race nutrition and hydration before you go to sleep. This will ensure that your glycogen stores are full and your fluids are topped off, but won’t leave you needing to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. It also helps to avoid having to get up early to pack everything you need and could save you from forgetting anything important.
The Morning Of
Get up at least an hour or two before your start time. No matter how excited you are, don’t set your alarm any earlier than you need to. Getting up too early can cause unnecessary stress and anxiety which can seriously affect your performance.
Once you do get up, eat a small breakfast and try to eat something with a little bit of carbs and protein in it (a date and almond butter sandwich usually does the trick for me). This is important because it’s going to keep your blood sugar stable and your hunger at a minimum until you’re able to eat post-race. Next, start drinking a cup of water every 10-15 minutes. You should have finished the entire cup by the time you’re ready to leave.
About 20-30 minutes before you’re ready to go, sit down and do some light stretching. This is going to get your muscles and joints loosened up and ready to go so you aren’t as stiff at the start of the race.
Also, make sure you have your id, chip (if applicable), and any nutrition or extra clothing you plan on taking with you in your bag and double check that you have your runner’s belt on or pocket (if applicable). At this point you should only have to do a final check to ensure that you have everything you need before leaving.
Finally the last few things you should do are use the bathroom (it happens), do some more light stretching, and then start to wind down and relax until it’s time to go.
During The Race
The main thing you want to avoid during a race is going out too fast, which for a lot of people who are just getting into running means starting out way too fast. The longer the distance you’re running, the more important it is to start off at a pace you know you can hold for the duration of the race.
Slow down immediately if you feel any pain in your body at all or find that you’re starting to struggle to breathe If this happens you should be walking until you feel like you can run that particular moment again.
Remember, running long distances is as much of a mental challenge as it is a physical challenge. Set small goals for yourself like how far you can run or how fast you can complete a mile. Once you hit that goal, celebrate how awesome you are for achieving it and then set a new goal.
You should also be paying attention to your breathing and your heart rate throughout the race. Your heart rate shouldn’t go above 150 and your breathing shouldn’t go above 12 strikes per minute. If it does, slow down immediately.
Also, make sure to keep hydrating! Carry some water with you that’ll fit in your pocket or fuel belt and take a few sips every mile. If it’s really hot out, try to take in a gel every 15-20 minutes as well.
Taking a new route can greatly help mental exhaustion since it keeps you from getting bored (make sure its safe though).
Slow down gradually and walk through the finish line. Once you’ve finished, find a place to sit down or lie down somewhere dark if possible and just relax. You should stay hydrated and try to eat some food as soon as you can after your race is over.
It may take a few hours for you to feel normal again, so take it easy.
Remember that aches and pains are normal, but if they start to really hurt then you should get them checked out by a medical professional.
Congratulations on finishing a race!
Tips and Hints
Spend at least a month or two training before the race. The longer you can train, the better off you’ll be.
Be smart about your training. If you’re training for a 5K run, there’s no reason to be training in the mountains.
Remember to always warm up and cool down before and after your run. This is just as important as the actual running itself.
Be creative and remember to have fun! There are tons of races out there and it’s fun to experience them all.
And there you have it, a quick checklist of things to do before any race you wish to participate in. I hope this helps you enjoy your experience during the race and allows you to finish strong! Good luck and have fun!
Brendan J. Frye
Brendan J. Frye is a blogger, writer, and aspiring novelist. Fantasy and science fiction are his favorite genres although he enjoys reading and writing in many different styles. Visit his blog to find out more!
Sources & references used in this article:
First Triathlon: Your Perfect Plan for Success by L Smith – 2010 – books.google.com
Ultraendurance triathlon participation: typical race preparation of lower level triathletes by JP Gulbin, T Gaffney – Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical …, 1999 – search.proquest.com
Your First Triathlon: Race-ready in 5 Hours a Week by J Friel – 2012 – books.google.com
Tips for Success-Triathlon by H Aschwer – 2001 – books.google.com