Triathlon season has begun and it's the most exciting time of year for multi-sport athletes. All those hours spent in the pain cave over winter have paid off and now it's time to reap the rewards. But what if it's your first triathlon? You're bound to have a lot of questions. Follow these 5 tips to not only survive but thrive in your first triathlon.
1. Don't underestimate an open water swim
If you've done all of your swim training in the local pool but are taking part in an open water swim event, there may be an element of surprise waiting for you. An open water swim is very different from a pool swim in lots of different ways. Not only this, it depends on the type of open water, as events range from lakes to canals to the sea and even oceans, all of which come with their own challenges.
When choosing your first triathlon, it might be an idea to choose a pool-based swim as this will ease you into the sport and is less likely to scare you off! Especially if you are not such a confident swimmer, swimming in open water can be very tough, especially if it's tidal. Practice in a lake or the sea before the race so that you have an idea of what to expect.
2. Wear the right kit
A triathlon is very different from a running race as there is a fair bit of specialist kit you will need. Make sure you have a good quality trisuit that is comfortable and has the right support for you. You want a triathlon suit that has a chamois pad to keep you comfortable on the bike but one that isn't so big and bulky it'll get in the way on the run.
There are also other items of triathlon clothing that you may wish to get such as cycle socks, a race number belt, and even race number temporary tattoos. These are all triathlon-specific items that you probably won't have otherwise, so do your research first and make sure you have all the kit you need before the big day.
3. Don't neglect brick training sessions
If you have never tried running after cycling, you need to practice! Running off the bike is a totally different experience to running on its own and you might be taken by surprise at how your legs feel. If you haven't practised, you are more likely to get injured and it would be a shame to ruin your day.
Brick workouts are training sessions where you practice doing two or even three of the triathlon disciplines back-to-back. This is usually running after cycling as this can be one of the toughest aspects of a triathlon. Getting your legs used to doing different types of movement and being under different types of strain is very important and will prepare you well for your big day.
4. Recce the course first
If you have been training on flat ground the whole time and there is a huge hill on your race course, you are likely to suffer! Make sure you check the course before you even sign up so that there are no nasty surprises. Things you want to consider are whether the bike leg is done on closed roads or if there is going to be the hazard of traffic, whether there are any notable ascents and descents, and whether the entire race is done on road and tarmac or if any of the run or bike are off-road.
Being fully prepared for the race will be great for you mentally and will mean there is less to worry and stress about on the day. It will also mean you can train appropriately and wear the right gear!
5. Remember to have fun!
This is perhaps the most important point. It's always important to remember why you signed up in the first place and to not take it too seriously. Unless you are a professional athlete and rely on prize money and sponsorships, it doesn't matter if something goes wrong. Make sure you enjoy yourself!