6 Tips for New Triathletes This Summer
I realized that it’s been almost 12 years now since I did my first triathlon / could consider myself a new triathlete. While I’m not planning to swim-bike-run this summer (though I never completely discount it because it’s hella fun), I did start thinking about a few tips that I would give my beginner self, or would tell my younger sister—she’s considered trying a tri in past years and never gotten to the race start, but I have high hopes that she’ll do one at some point!
So, what do I wish I knew as a new triathlete?
Get in open water beforehand
Trust me, your first open water swim should not be the start of your first race. It can be incredibly disconcerting and a teensy bit dangerous. Going from a clear pool with marked lanes to murky water that you’re sharing with a hundred other swimmers is a rude awakening. A lot of times, races have swim practices open the day ahead of the race itself, so take advantage. (If you couldn’t get in open water ahead of time, seed yourself towards the back of the pack so you don’t end up in the middle of a stampede.)
Panic in the water? Make like an otter
Especially if you’re wearing a wetsuit, panic in open water is a common occurrence. If it happens to you and you start legit gasping for breath, simply flip over on your back and let yourself flow/half-tread water while you calm yourself down. You can also always grab onto a boat or SUP or buoy, but take a few seconds to just breathe deep if you can—usually it will calm you down enough to keep going.
Drink on the bike
Even in a sprint, at least take a few sips of some kind of beverage (I like a sports drink like Tailwind with calories for a longer event, nuun for a sprint). You’ll end up with a super dry mouth on the run otherwise, in the case of a sprint, and in the case of an Olympic or longer course, you’ll potentially start to see effects of dehydration set in by the run.
Also, practice drinking on the bike
Race morning is not the time to be setting up your bike with a new funky water bottle holder. Do this in practice.
Get a tri suit that zips in the front, not the back
Thank me after you’ve braved the port-a-potty pre-race. (I still prefer a tri suit to shorts and a top from a comfort perspective.)
Like so many sports psychs and coaches have said on The Consummate Athlete Podcast, if you’re only doing this for a result, it’s not going to be rewarding, and you’re never going to truly be ‘happy’ at the end… because every race isn’t going to go perfectly according to plan, and at some point, someone faster than you is going to come along. So remember that you’re doing this because you thought it would be fun (and it is), so try to smile at least a few times during the race—and at the finish line!