Getting nervous about your first triathlon? Don’t worry!!! It is natural to feel a little anxious before your big race, especially during the last few weeks leading up to your race. As a new triahtlete, there are so many things to think about before the race actually arrives. There are questions like “what do I wear,” “how do I transition from the swim to the bike,” and “what do I eat the night before the race?” As a beginner triathlete, there are so many things to learn about the sport of triathlon. Sometimes you may feel overwhelmed and almost scared about competing in your first event. I know that during my first triathlon, I must have asked my husband a thousand questions leading up to the big day. I did my training, but was not really sure about anything else. I have to say that I was nervous before the race, and wished that I had known a little more about the sport of triathlon before I did my first race. Through my experiences over the last four years as competitor and a race director, I have learned a lot about this sport and would like to share some of my thoughts for all those new triathletes just getting involved in this wonderful sport. Here are some basic triathlon training tips that we would like to share with you before the big day arrives.
- Set a goal for yourself: You should set a personal goal for yourself before race day. Your goal can be as simple as completing the race, or finishing the race in a certain time. Try to avoid setting goals that seem unattainable in order to avoid disappointment on race day. This goal is YOUR goal, not your friend’s or your training buddy’s. This will help you focus during your training sessions leading up to the race.
- Have a nutrition plan in place before race day: Before you compete in any race, you should have a nutrition plan in place. You should train with foods and liquids that you plan on using race day. You need to know how your stomach will react to certain foods and drinks while you are training. For a shorter race like the Tri for Sight, you should be able to get through the bike with about 16 – 20 oz of fluids, while taking in small portions of water during each mile of the run course. Water will be offered at every mile of the run course during the Tri for Sight. Gels, bars and sports drinks are all things that you can experiment with during your training to find what works best for you.
- Give yourself extra time race morning so you do not feel rushed: You want to make sure you have plenty of time race morning. Try to arrive to the race no later than 6:00am so that you have plenty of time to set up your transition area without feeling rushed or anxious. This will provide extra time in case you have to make any last minute adjustments to your bike, or other race gear. There will be mechanics on hand race morning for any last minute bike problems.
- Avoid over-training: You want to make sure that you are giving your body enough time to recover between workouts. As a beginner, your training is going to be different from somebody who has been doing this for years. It is best to start out with one workout a day, and grow from there. If swimming is your weak spot, you want to make sure you hit the pool more than once a week. Proper recovery from your workouts is just as important as the workout itself. If you are totally lost about developing a training schedule, hiring a triathlon coach would be your next best step.
- Focus on yourself, not others around you: You are competing in this event for yourself! If you start to worry about winning, or beating others in your age group, you will start to lose focus on what you are trying to accomplish. There is always going to be someone who is faster, stronger or more experienced. It is not worth your time worrying about others around you. You should have fun and enjoy the experience of triathlons.
- If you have questions, just ask: You are going to have multiple questions during your first race. Feel free to ask other athletes around you, or the event management team to help you with your questions. If you don’t ask, how will you ever find out the information you need? I know I constantly asked questions during the first few years that I competed in this sport, and I still ask questions now. There is always somebody out there that can help you with questions about training, bikes, gear, nutritional questions, etc.
- Know your personal limits: You have to be careful to stick to your training plan, and not get caught up with what your buddy is doing. For example, if you are only used to running three days a week, you would not want to jump right into running five days a week. You are the best judge of how your body feels and how hard you can push yourself. Especially during the really hot days, you should use extreme caution and make sure you stay hydrated and workout more in the mornings and evenings to avoid the heat of the day.
- Go through all of your race gear a few nights before the race: You are already going to be a little nervous for race day, so try to eliminate as much stress as possible before the race. A few nights before the race, start getting all of your race gear together, and make sure that you have everything that you need. That way, if you find out that you need to purchase an item for the race, such as gels or bars, or new goggles, you will have time to run to the store before race day. Then, the night before the race, you can put everything you need into your gear bag and have it ready for the morning. I have learned that waiting to the last minute to get your gear together can be quite stressful and distracting.
- Don’t try new things on race day: This is very important for any triathlete! This includes drinks, food, gels, socks, shoes, etc. If you plan on using something race day, make sure that you practice with it in your training. One of the biggest mistakes of a beginner triathlete is trying a new gel or bar on race day, which can upset your stomach and make for a bad day! Having a plan ahead of time is the best way to approach the race.
- Relax and have a good time: We are in this sport to have fun, so make sure you enjoy your race! You have done the training, and have put in the time, so now is the fun part of competing! Your family and friends will be there to support you, and there will be plenty of volunteers to answer any of your questions. Try to stay as relaxed as possible before the race by giving yourself extra time race morning to get everything set up in transition.
Make sure you check out our website for future updates! Individuals who are new to the triathlons should attend one of our pre-race meetings geared more towards beginners: 11:00 am and 1:00 pm on the Saturday before the event at Spindletop.