One of my fellow Girls Gone Sporty Ambassadors is a newbie triathlete and asked me if I had any new triathlete tips. I don’t think about myself as a person who can offer a ton of advice, simply because I am still so new, with only two triathlons under my belt. But in those two races, I did learn quite a lot, so here are some of my big newbie tips.
Practice Open Water Swimming
This is the biggest one to me. If your race is in open water, get in open water and practice. Even a calm lake is very different from a pool. Number one, it’s cloudy. You may not be able to see anything. Number two, even if you can, there aren’t going to be lane lines at the bottom of the lake. You also won’t have a wall to grab onto or push off of while turning around. So find a body of open water and get out there and practice. If you aren’t sure where to swim, check with your local triathlon clubs.
Of course, this shouldn’t have to be said, but NEVER go open water swimming alone.
You will likely want mirrored goggles for your outdoor tri to help out with the sunlight. Some people say that goggles with gray lenses also help them prep for open water swim. They block some of the light in the pool and make things a bit darker, so you’re not as used to a perfectly clear swim. I can’t say that I’ve noticed a difference, but hey, why not try everything?
Try All Three Sports in Your Tri Kit
What are you wearing for your triathlon? Assuming you’re not going straight into a half IM or IM distance race, you won’t be changing between races. So what should you wear?
I bought a tri specific outfit. Tri shorts, which are like bike shorts with a smaller chamois so that you don’t feel like you’re running in a diaper, and a tri top, tight enough to swim and bike in. (Actually, my tri top isn’t tight enough so when I swim, it sort of spins around my waist. It’s not ideal, but it works. My Team Fight kit fits much better.)
But what if you don’t want to buy a special outfit? I definitely noticed some women in my last tri swimming in bathing suits and then pulling on bike shorts afterwards. I’m guessing they then changed into running shorts, because running in bike shorts sounds awful. And if you never bike in bike shorts… I guess you don’t need to wear them.
But whatever you choose to wear, try it out. If you plan to wear your bathing suit the whole time, practice biking and running in it. Do you need to put a sports bra under it? Does it chafe in weird places?
Plan Your Transition
Transition is where you keep all your stuff between legs of the race. You rack your bike and next to your “down wheel,” you put all your stuff. This is a photo of my very wet and muddy transition from the Iron Girl Columbia tri. My bike is the one with the white wheel. The wheel over my transition spot is from the bike of the person racking on the opposite side (in this race, it happened to be Kim). What do I have there? Clockwise from upper right: Sunscreen, a pouch of bandaids and hairbands and other things I probably won’t need, but might, a water bottle to wash off my feet, a towel to dry off feet, bike shoes with socks inside, visor and handheld water bottle for run, race belt with number on running shoes.
Note that bottle of water and towel. That’s an awesome tip. Your feet might be muddy and gross after running to transition from the water, and being able to squirt them off is awesome.
How did I figure out where to put everything? I laid it out a few times at home and figured out what would be easiest. How did I want to put things on. A lot of people roll up their socks and stick them in their shoes so they can just shove their feet in and go. This did not work for me at all. So this series of piles was my best option.
Take A Picture of Your Transition Spot
The photo above is actually from my race. I was lucky enough to not have to keep all of my stuff at transition. My bag, etc., went to the team tent, along with my phone. Having a photo of my transition spot meant that I wasn’t thinking “Wait, did I remember X?” I could just look at the photo and know.
Throwaway Flip Flops
After you setup transition, what do you wear on your feet? I always get a pair of super cheap flip flops that I can throw out before I get to the water. That way I don’t spend a ton of time wandering barefoot. Or worse, going into a portapotty barefoot. Ugh.
Trust Your Training
One of the biggest concerns I have heard from newbie triathletes is whether or not they can do it. Trust your training. You can do this.