Tips For Preparing For Your First Triathlon

So you’ve signed up for your first triathlon. Congratulations! Now all you have to do is get gear, get fit, and get excited. There are tons of books, podcasts, blogs, and probably even friends who can tell you what “stuff” to buy and how to train. At a bare minimum, on the gear side, you need a bathing suit (or other running/cycling outfit that can get wet), a bicycle, a helmet, and a pair of sneakers; everything else is a matter of comfort and preference. As for training, you really just need to swim, bike, and run . . . a lot. Again, the methodology you follow is really up to you.

With these elements in hand, you’ll be just about ready to race. However, there are a few more tips and tricks that will be useful no matter if your goal is to simply cross the finish line, or if you have a specific time in mind. First and foremost: practice anything you want to do on race day before race day. If this sounds basic, it’s because it is; yet athletes flout this advice all the time, and almost always to their own detriment.

With “practice before race day” as a baseline, here are several activities to try in advance that will give you a little extra edge come race day:

Swimming in open water. Open water can be scary (even for veteran swimmers!), so try to swim in a river, lake, or ocean at least once in advance. This will help allay any panic you might feel when you get in the water on race morning. Swimming outdoors also provides a good opportunity to test your goggles against murky water and sunlight, both of which can spell trouble on race day if you’ve only trained in an indoor pool.

Getting into and out of your wetsuit. It goes without saying that if you practice swimming in your wetsuit ahead of time, you will also practice putting it on and taking it off. However, it’s worth giving extra attention to the “removal” process, because if you struggle getting out of your wetsuit, you risk wasting a lot of time and energy in the first transition of your race.

Changing a bike tire. No one wants a flat, but these things happen, and if you don’t know how to change one on your own, you could be stranded on the course for quite a while before help comes. If you’re fairly bike-savvy, look up a YouTube video or check if your local bike shop has classes.

Doing a “brick” workout. This involves either getting out of the pool and immediately onto your bike, or, more commonly, getting off of your bike and immediately going for a run—just like you’ll do in the race. Practicing these transitions can be a logistical challenge, so make sure you plan to store your bike somewhere safe either before or after you need it.

Eating on the bike and the run. Depending on the length of your race, you’ll need to consume calories during the bike and/or run segments of your race. Do plenty of practice sessions with whatever you are considering eating and drinking on race day to make sure it sits well with your stomach and doesn’t cause you any gastrointestinal distress (read: emergency bathroom breaks).

Running with bungee laces. Some triathletes thread these special laces—also called “speed laces”—into their running shoes to shave off time in transition, because the laces save you from having to tie your shoes. However, it’s important to try them out in advance, because if they’re too tight, you could wind up with foot pain, and if they’re too loose, your shoe might fall off!

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