We were all beginners once, and some of us are always willing to offer our wisdom/items not to eat before a race, otherwise feel the wrath of your stomach.
But honestly, I do enjoy providing as much advice to fellow female athletes who are interested in running their first marathon or triathlon. It brings me joy seeing so many women wanting to compete whether it is for the joy of competing, a goal to lose weight or to prove that you can do anything you put your mind to.
Therefore, these are my top 10 tips for beginner triathletes.
1. Choose a race close to home
I can not emphasize this enough. My first race was in Miami, and my mom and I decided to leave the day before the race from Baltimore. Well for starters, the race is in April, so you are dealing with spring breakers leaving for vacation. The airport was packed, it took 2 hours to check in. When I got to the check-in desk with my bike boxed up, the airline said that it was too big. Here I am, about to miss my first race because the box was too big and won’t fit on the plane. But thankfully, one of the airline folks offered to help me cut the box down next to the check in desk and tape it back together. It eventually passed, was checked, but then we had to RACE, to the plane because it was about to leave.
We eventually made the plane but only because the man who helped us with my bike, moved us through security fast. He also delivered the bike to the plane. What I am trying to say is if you pick a race close to home that you can drive to, you will not be stressed about travel. Plus you can practice in those temperatures and course conditions.
But if you decide on a destination race… SHIP YOUR BIKE. Every airline is different, and it will cost probably the same amount of money to ship through a company as it would be to check your bike.
2. Any Bike will do
If you own a road bike, you are good to go. If you bought a tri-bike, use it. A hybrid will make for a more challenging race, but remember, you are doing this to finish. Any bike will do and with that, do not compare yourself to other competitors bikes. Everyone is different, and so are their wallets! If it moves and has two wheels, you are ready to race. You can decide later if you want to upgrade.
3. You do not need a wetsuit
My first race, I did not use a wetsuit. I decided after the race that I should get one as I love the sport, but some people end up after their first race, not wanting to race again. So rather spend your hard-earned money on something you will never use again, rent or race without it.
4. Packing list
Put together a packing list. This will be incredibly helpful when you are checking off items the night before your race. You do not want to come race day and realize you forgot your sunglasses or helmet.
and to follow number 4…
5. Do not bring a suitcase with you to the race
What I mean is do not bring everything under the sun with you to transition and leave it there. I understand some people need a bucket to sit on because of balance when putting on shoes, but I have seen people bring the bucket to wash off their feet after running through grass and dirt. I have a better tip… use a water bottle.
But seriously, if you packed correctly, you will not need to bring three bags with you into transition. You should only have your bike, shoes (running and biking), helmet, sunglasses, goggles, bib and nutrition (water and food).
6. Practice your dismounts and transitions
In my first race, I did not do this very well and got jello legs when I dismounted, eventually falling on my cassette and nicking myself. If you practice dismounting and going straight into the run, you will be better prepared.
When it comes to transition, everyone should practice going from the swim to the bike and the bike to the run. This includes taking off your wetsuit if you have one, putting on your shoes, helmet and heading out for the bike. Then you should practice dismounting, heading back into transition and taking off your shoes and helmet (after you rack your bike) putting on your shoes and heading out on the run course. It will help your preparation.
7. Remember where your bike is
If you are doing a race with a lot of people, it is critical you remember where your bike is. Whether that is counting how many racks in you are from the swim exit, putting baby powder on the ground outside of your rack, a balloon, whatever. It will help because after you exit the swim, you may be a bit foggy still and missing your bike spot is very common. I have done this before, and my go-to is always counting how many racks in I am and my spot on the rack. I also place my towel a bit further out so I can see it amongst everyone else’s items.
8. Focus on you!
Remember this race is for you and about you. So that girl who just ran by you, so what! The guy on the bike who went by a bit too close for comfort, don’t worry about it. Focus on you and your race. Put one foot in front of the other and keep going. If you have to walk, walk. But get to that finish line and get your medal! You are a triathlete!
9. Have a go-to meal plan
Before my first race, I was still learning about what I should and shouldn’t eat. Well for starters, don’t eat a salad. You do not want to have to stop and go to the bathroom mid-race. It’s not fun. So practice your meals before long training days. That way you will know what works for you and what fuels you best!
10. Go short before going long.
I can’t tell you how many people say they want to do an Ironman race as their first triathlon. I set a goal that I would do an Ironman one day. So I built up to it. I raced small then went longer and eventually the full Monty. Ironman races are the most recognizable, but also the toughest. Not just on race day, but training. I was putting hours upon hours in on training. Mentally it takes a hit. That is why I recommend starting small first, whether it is a sprint or Olympic. SEE IF YOU LIKE THE SPORT FIRST, before committing to 140.6 miles. Plus it will save you at least $700 in registration fees. I won’t’ get into the other costs.