What to know when doing your first triathlon.
Taking on your first triathlon can be a daunting experience with a huge amount to prepare for and think about. Alongside all of the training that’s required to get your body in shape, you’ll also have plenty of questions about how things actually go on the day. To help solve some of the pre-race anxiety you could be experiencing, here are a few general things you should know for your first tri…
There are a lot of pitfalls when it comes to fueling your body during a triathlon, and if it’s your first one, it’ll be an especially tricky task to get right. Over time (largely by trial and error), you’ll discover what is the right nutrition plan for you and your body, but to begin with there are a couple of tips we can give you.
Eat smart the day before. Despite popular wisdom, a bunch of carbs before a race does absolutely nothing good for you. Focus on getting loads of protein in your body and drink around two liters of water.
Drip feed. This may seem counter-intuitive, but the trick to staying fueled is to have a little bit of food/fluid fairly often, instead of gorging during your transitions.
Preparation is key
There are a few different types of preparation and all will contribute to the success of your first triathlon.
Of course, you’ll need to get yourself organized by packing your tri-bag with all your essential items the day before. Are your drinking bottles filled? Cycling shoes already fixed to the pedals of your bike? The list of preparations goes on and on.
It’s also a good idea to dedicate some time to mental preparation. Think about your gear and make sure you know what order you’re going to put it on. Lock in your mind where the entrance to the transition area is when you come in from the swim. Which way out will you need to go?
Ease into it
At the beginning of each leg, take it easy. It’s important to give your body adequate time to warm up and acclimatize to the activity at hand. Be it swim, bike or run – you should be relaxed as you start off.
That means on the cycle, spin the pedals at an easy rate without cranking too high a gear. On the run, take long strides to loosen up your body. For a first-timer, the swim can be one of the most stressful parts of the race and the start is always especially chaotic. Hang back a little from the front of your start group and enter the water as late as possible to avoid the churning scrum of legs, arms and icy water!
On the swim
Sighting is an important one for your swim so make sure you’re looking up every few strokes to check you’re on the right line. This will cost you a little bit of time, but it’ll prevent you going dramatically off course which can be much worse! As you grow in confidence you’ll be able to swim while sighting less often, but for your first tri, don’t be afraid to look!
As you finish your swim, kick out a bit harder with your legs to send a bit of blood racing back to your extremities in preparation for the ride and run legs to follow.
On the bike
One guaranteed way to make your own life easier when you get to the bike leg of your first triathlon is to ensure beforehand that the bike is in an appropriate gear. If the start of the ride is uphill you’ll need to accommodate for that with the gear you have your bike set up in.
When you’re about three quarters of the way through the bike and comfortable, stand up out of the saddle for a couple of minutes to stretch out your legs and hips in preparation for the run.
On the run
Many triathletes (not just first timers either) have been caught out by an unpredictable surface on the running leg. Make sure you’ve got the right shoes for the course – even if it says the leg is a road run, make sure there are no off-road sections where you could slip up.
The run is most often the toughest part of the race, both mentally and physically – so try to ensure you have a little bit of strength left in reserve to help carry you through. Squaring your shoulders and running upright (as opposed to slouched over) will help you dig deep to complete the race.
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