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7 Race Tips for First Time Triathletes

I love first-time triathletes. Meeting them is probably one of the best parts of my job. They always have the same look on their faces – part fear, humility, confusion, nervous energy. It’s probably the only time when the sole focus is getting to and savoring that finish line–long before all the other distractions of the obsessed triathlete kick in (here’s lookin’ at you GPS, cadence and heart rate monitor!). There is nothing like the feeling of that first time across the finish line. I often get asked pre-race questions and thought I would compile a list of my top tips for tri newbies:

1. Race attire – What should I wear? The short answer – whatever makes you comfortable! Triathlon can be intimidating for newbies–hell it still can be for seasoned athletes! Therefore, you want to make sure you are comfortable so it’s one less thing to think about. Feel free to march to your own beat. Heck, I completed 3 Ironmans without a watch. Didn’t need one. Didn’t care. With that, here are additional considerations:

  • Are you planning to wear the same outfit for the race or change in transition?
  • Are you prepared for warmer/coolers temperatures?
  • Are you wearing a wetsuit? If so, does your race attire fit comfortably under your wetsuit? If not, does your race outfit work well in water?
  • What kind of short padding do you prefer?
  • Do you require extra bra support?
  • Are you wearing a race belt?

Ultimately, there are no right or wrong answers to the questions above, but it’s good to plan ahead so you are well prepared for race day. While not essential, it’s generally a good idea to have trained in your clothes at some point pre-race day. My advice is to do what works best for you and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

2. Race Fuel – Don’t underestimate the amount of nutrition your body needs pre-during-post race. Pack a snack in your bike, pocket and/or transition bag. The amount of fuel options available on the market can make you dizzy. Choose what works best for your body, distance, and goals. Most importantly, make sure you like the taste!

3. Lube is your best friend. I always recommend it, regardless of distance, temperature or attire. Here are some common problem areas:

  • Groin- anywhere you anticipate rubbing from the saddle or your shorts
  • Underarm
  • Behind the neck if you are wearing a wetsuit

Remember, anywhere on your body where sweat and moisture can build up is fair game for chafing. Prevention is your best bet.

4. Get organized – Triathlon can be the breeding ground for folks of OCD organizational tendencies. Doesn’t apply to you? Just give it time. In the meantime, here are some tips:

  • Pack your transition bag neatly and anticipate what you may need – extra socks in case of wet weather? SPF? Lip Balm? An extra hair tie?
  • The last thing you want is to have to dig around during transition. Set up your space neatly and in logical order. For example – Store your socks in your bike shoes. Place your sunglasses, gloves and race belt in your bike helmet.
  • It’s always good to make it a habit of throwing items back into your transition bag when you are done with them. Items are often shuffled around, so it’s easier to keep everything in one spot for pick up.

5. Know your gear – Ideally, you should practice whatever you plan to use on race day. You should know the basic mechanics of your bike and how to change a flat like it’s in your job description. In your saddle bag, you should make a habit of carrying a spare tube, patch kit, CO2 inflator + cartridge, and mini multifunction tool kit. Self sufficiency rocks.

6. Rules of the road and race etiquette

  • Don’t be a transition hog. Make sure to rack your bike in the correct direction and only take up your own space.
  • When passing on the bike, call out and pass on the proper side for that particular race. Don’t hog the road and always be aware of those passing you.
  • Be a good sport on the course. I’ve seen everything from shoving and screaming matches to awesome acts of kindness. I much prefer racing with the awesome category. Don’t forget to thank your race volunteers!

7. Take a deep breathe, relax, and have a sense of humor! Although triathlon is an individual sport, so much of your race experience is tied to the actions, attitude and camaraderie of your fellow athletes. Have fun with it!

7 Race Tips for First Time Triathletes