First triathlon ever?
We understand if you are jittery, tense and excited all at the same time! Not only do you need to push your body to extreme limits, also transitions, gear, weather, race rules, when to eat, sunburns and well, just completing the race are playing on your mind.
So what do you really need to keep in mind before your first triathlon? We have put together a checklist of things to do and gear to have to help you keep those nerves in check!
- Know Your Course
The course for the race varies with events so it’s a good idea to look over the course. We don’t mean run the course, but just look it over to know the lay of the land. Important details to note are:
- Transition Points
- Your Bike Rack
- Rules for the Competition
Transition spots can be quite confusing so make sure you know where you are meant to be. Mark your spot using a bright towel. Do not use a balloon as some might suggest. It might get tangled up with your neighbor’s bike! Walk through the transitions before the race. This rehearsal will ease some of your anxieties on the big day. If swimming is not one of your biggest strengths, swim a part of the course before the race if possible.
- Check Your Gear
Take your time and go over your gear before you pack it. Actually, it’s even better to make a checklist and tick it off – after all, even brain surgeons use one. Organize your gear in the order you will use it. Trust us; you’ll be really grateful you did.
Pack some spares just in case. Do you have enough nutrition bars, gels, and water bottles? Make sure you have a few extra, it is easy to drop bars while in the race and it is vital not to run short.
Keep a spare set of goggles in your bag just in case. It’s best not to see if Murphy’s Law is true at all! Make sure you have your bicycle pump and repair kit. To throw more maxims at you: it’s better to be safe than sorry. For instance, take along a little bit of toilet paper. There’s nothing worse than walking into a Port-a-Potty with a nervous stomach and finding out the roll is empty!
Finally, no matter what the weather conditions are supposed to be like: Sunscreen, Sunscreen, Sunscreen!!!
- Tweak Your Training
This one starts at least a week before race day. Over training is a rookie mistake that is easy to avoid. According to six-time Hawaii Ironman champion Dave Scott, you should reduce your training volume to 30 percent if you have been training regularly1. You also need to ensure you are comfortable with the gear you will be using on race day and have practiced your transitions. Try out your energy gels or sports drinks during training; you don’t want to chance an upset belly on race day. And no matter what fancy moves you see your competitors pull, do not try anything new on the big day. Knowing what you’re doing is a great confidence booster.
- Hydration and Nutrition
Make sure you stay hydrated through the week. Also have a plan chalked out to stay hydrated in the race along with sufficient nutrition. Knowing how many fueling stops are along the route will help you plan how much you need to carry.
Protein and Carb Intake
Again, Ironman Champion Dave Scott recommends slightly increasing your protein (PRO) and carbohydrate (CHO) intake two days prior to the event. He also recommends reducing the portion sizes of your meals the day before the race. You know your body best so plot the race accordingly. For example, you may want to have more nutrition while cycling as opposed to running. You will have practiced this during your training.
Plan your breakfast for the big day. Stay away from foods that are high in fats and fiber. Experts recommend that you have your meal about two and a half to three hours before the start of the race. During transitions wait eight to 15 minutes before taking in liquid or food until your breathing reaches a steady pace.
Nutrition – After the Race
It is also important not to forget your diet immediately after the race, to avoid dehydration and other stresses. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends consuming 0.5 to 0.75 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight immediately after the race. Get those carbs from a smoothie or sports drink so you rehydrate as well! 2
You can also check out our blog which explains the different kinds of nutrition for triathletes to help you plan your pre-race and race diet.
- Know the Rules
Rules and regulations can vary, based on the type of race and category you participate in. It is important you know the exact instructions to avoid confusion. For example, some races allow you to wear a triathlon wetsuit while in others it may be banned due to a higher water temperature.
Have a look at the rule for helmets too, as most races won’t allow you to mount your bike until your helmet strap is fastened while other races will not allow you to rack your bike unless your helmet buckle is still fastened. These are slip ups that are easily avoided.
Another rule that should really be studied well is your race number display. Again many races have different requirements, so it is best to be prepared. For example, some races require that the number goes on the seat post of your bike, while others may require it elsewhere. Your number needs to be behind you for the bike section and in front of you for the run. A triathlon race belt can really help with this. Check out the BlueSeventy Race Belt, one of our favorites. Its spring-loaded cork locks are quick to use and, as a bonus, you can always strap them on to you running shoes to avoid tying your shoelaces!
- Just before the Race
The time you have been waiting for is nearly here. Use the time between checking in and the beginning of the race to mentally prepare yourself for the race. Warm up well, listen to your favorite tunes and relax. Don’t forget this is supposed to be fun so soak it all in and enjoy yourself!
The next few hours are going to be exhilarating. Just finishing the race is going to be one of the most rewarding feelings you will ever experience. Enjoy every little bit of it. All this will be worth your journey to become an experienced triathlete.