“Stay calm within the chaos”

A few weeks back, I offered tips on preparing for your first triathlon. Hopefully you’ve all been training hard and are pumped for your big day!

With triathlon events season now in full swing, race day is getting closer for many of you. Anticipation and excitement are building – and your nerves are probably out of control. It’s normal to be nervous for race day. From remembering everything you need to bring to navigating the transition area, it can be chaotic. Never fear! I’ve got you covered with 10 pointers to keep calm, whether your race is this Saturday or not til September.


Where the hustle & bustle happens

Where the hustle & bustle happens

1. Set Up Your Stuff 

Every tri has a transition area. This is where your bike, shoes and all your gear live during the race. Arrive early enough to score the spot you want, whether that’s close to the entrance, the exit or near a big tree so you can easily spot your stuff on your way into the transition area.

Set up your bike on the racks so it’s easy to pick up (don’t forget to hang your helmet on the handlebars!). Bring a small tub of water to soak your feet post-swim (if you’re in open water with a sandy beach) and a towel to dry off a bit. Have your socks and shoes set out, a shirt if you want to wear one post-swim and your bib, with the pins already attached. And put additional items like water, gel, your watch, etc. where you can easily grab them. Basically, plan ahead so that anything you might want post swim or bike is easily accessible.

2. Swim Cap Secret
Most tris require all swimmers wear a cap for safety reasons. These can be a pain to get on, especially for those with long or thick hair but there’s a simple secret to make it easier: Splash some water on the inside of the cap before you put it on.

3. The Right Top
Many seasoned competitors will spring for a triathlon suit but if it’s your first one, don’t feel like you have to go that far. You can wear regular running or biking clothes for a tri, just with a little reverse layering (starting with fewer clothes for the swim and you can always add on more after).

Unless you’re comfortable running in just your swim top/sports bra (girls) or shirtless (guys) you’ll want to have a shirt waiting in the transition area you can quickly toss on pre-bike ride. Keep in mind, it’s not easy to put on clothes when you’re wet. Plan to wear a looser fitting top so you’re not struggling to put it on and wasting extra seconds in the transition area.

4. Don’t Pre-Pin Your Race Bib
At my first tri, I thought I had a million dollar idea: Pre-pin my race bib to the top I planned to wear post-swim, and I’d end up saving precious seconds. What I ended up with was a bib that ripped off and had to be completely re-pinned. See above tip and remember – it’s not easy to put on clothes when wet. You will struggle. All the more reason I’m really excited to try out my new XRACEWEAR top this year! See my review and you’ll understand why.

The Swim

5. Hang Back
If you’re not exactly Michael Phelps in the water, you’re not alone. Most people I’ve spoke to cite the swim as the hardest or most intimidating part of a tri. Don’t be afraid to hang in the back of pack and take it easy. It can get overwhelming to try and keep up, especially with all the commotion so close to you. Plus, giving yourself some extra room will cut down on the chance of being kicked by another swimmer.

6. Open Water Is Not The Same As a Pool
When I started training for my first tri, I was really excited to get in the pool and learn proper technique via lap swimming. I was even more stoked when I got the hang of it fast, and had no problem swimming the entire 500 yards required of me for a sprint tri.

Then I got into the lake on race day. And it all went to hell.

Open water swimming is not the same as lap swimming. It’s an ever farther cry from running on a treadmill and transitioning to the road. Know this going in and be ready to swallow some water and forfeit your perfect crawl stroke in favor of the doggy paddle. You may even want to locate the buoys and lifeguards prior to the swim just in case you need a minute to catch your breath. That being said, don’t forgo lap swimming as part of your training regime. Even if your form and breathing technique go out the window on race day, you’ll feel more prepared and be stronger, mentally and physically, for the swim portion.

The Bike

7. Be Geared Up
Sneak a peek at the course ahead of time and have your bike in the appropriate gear for early uphill or downhill terrain. It’s not a bad idea to start out in a lower gear anyway, just to get your legs going and warmed up.

8. Respect The Rules Of The Road
Okay, it’s really just complying with proper etiquette. It’s very simple and just like driving. Ride on the right, pass on the left. A little, “On your left” heads up when you’re passing doesn’t hurt either.

The Run

9. Do Your Bricks
There’s a sensation one experiences when taking off for a run immediately following a bike ride – and it’s not necessarily a good one. Even if you’re the most seasoned runner out there, your legs are going to feel different post-bike ride. The best way to deal with this odd feeling and avoid a fail on the running portion of your tri is simply to practice.

Triathletes often incorporate a style of training called brick workouts. All it means is performing two different workouts one right after another. For example, a bike ride followed by a run, or a swim followed by a bike ride.

Hopefully you’re reading this at least a week or two prior to our race so you have the opportunity to sneak in a couple bike-to-run brick workouts.

10. Smile – You’re Almost Done!
You’ve conquered the swim, owned the bike ride, now all that’s left is the run. Whether 5k, 10k, 13.1 miles or a marathon (if you’re going full-on Ironman) it takes more mental grit than anything to get through the last leg of a tri. The best advice I can give? Smile and enjoy it! You’re on the homestretch to completing the challenge. Plus your smile might perk up other runners struggling worse than you.

How many of you are racing a tri in the next few weeks? If anyone has a question I haven’t answered here, please comment or tweet it to me @runlikeagirl311!


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