So you’ve trained for your first triathlon, swum, biked and run and maybe included some stretching and strength and core stability work as well.
Perhaps you have joined a swim squad and worked on your swim technique to become a more efficient swimmer, as well as cycling and running to build up your endurance and fitness.
Or you have done a few Brick sessions, riding and then running straight after riding to get comfortable running on legs that have been cycling. The first few times your legs feel like jelly then they become more accustomed to it.
On race day you might be quite nervous which is quite common even for experienced triathletes.
Top Tips for your 1st race
- Getting in the water
It can be quite a nervous time getting in the water for your 1st race, walk-in and splash some water over your face and into your wetsuit if you are wearing one. Do a few breaststrokes and look around to see where the start line is and where the turning buoys are.
- The Start and Start position
Most triathlon swims start in the water, position yourself off to the side of everyone (on the edge) or behind to help minimise people swimming into you. This also helps you to get into a comfortable swimming rhythm earlier. Remember to take deep breaths right from the start, this will also help to stay relaxed and to not feel overwhelmed in the water.
- Going around the turning buoys/markers
Depending on where you are, it can often get quite crowded going around the turning buoys, you can go wider to avoid this and it is ok to do breaststroke around the buoys, just do it off to the side of everyone
- Sighting and looking where you are going
It is important to try to swim in a straight line and cover the shortest distance you need to in the swim. You can check your direction by looking ahead whilst swimming or by doing a few breaststrokes to see where the next buoy is. You should do this every 10-15 strokes, and don’t necessary just follow someone unless they seem to be going the right way !
- Find a comfortable rhythm in your own space of water and relax
Relax in the water and concentrate on your technique, being smoother and more efficient is the key. You have a ride and run after this, so keep to a comfortable pace, gauge this by your breathing
- Exiting the water
As you are getting towards the end of the swim, start to kick a little bit more to get the blood flowing into your legs. Take your time to stand up and take your goggles off and put them on your head. It’s ok to walk to your bike especially if you heart is racing a bit !
These are unique to triathlon, take your time and plan your transitions.
- Understand the layout of the transition area
Understand where you come in and exit for each of the legs, and most importantly know where your bike is !
Count the number of rows or look for key landmarks (poles, signs, banners, trees, buildings) as to where your bike is. For your 1st few races, take your time in transition, it is better to stay relaxed and take your time rather than to rush.
- Develop a process for going from swim to bike and bike to run
Prior to the race, run through in your head the process of going from swim to bike and bike to run. Think of what you will need to put on and do, sunglasses, socks, shoes, race belt with race number, bike.
There are some rules for transitions in Triathlon to be aware of…
- Put your helmet on before you take your bike off the rack
- Rack your bike before taking your helmet off
- No riding bikes in the transition area
- Getting on and off your bike (mounting and dismounting)
There will be a mount and dismount line for getting on and off your bike, you can’t get on your bike until you pass this line and you need to be off your bike before it. There will be marshal’s at these points. If it is crowded at the mount line, you can walk/jog past the line to find your own space and get on your bike.
- Focus on your cadence and spinning your legs (ideally 85-100 rpm) which helps to be an efficient cyclist and for running after riding
- Change your gears to help maintain your cadence, and change to make it easier early on any hills
- Start slowly and build into it, your heart rate will likely be quite high getting on the bike, give it a chance to recover early on the bike
- Aim to keep to an even effort level throughout your ride especially if it is windy – try not to push hard into the wind, focus on effort level not speed
- Have small sips from your drink bottle
- Start off slowly and build into the run
- Find a comfortable pace and control your breathing
- Shorter quicker steps is a more efficient way to run
- Walking is ok!
It’s ok to walk, it will help your Heart Rate to drop and recover and also helps to maintain an even pace, running to an aid station and walking to get a drink and then running again or a run-walk approach such as running 4min and walking 1min is also a good option.
Enjoy the finish line, you have trained and focused for this and it is a big achievement
Enjoy it and smile, and celebrate!