10 essential things to know for your first Triathlon... Or second, or tenth

    ..And a list of things which can, and do, go wrong, to cheer you up if you're feeling defeated and wishing you had known.

Medena running into T1 at the Boston Tri, 2012

Medena running into T1 at the Boston Tri, 2012

So many people finish their first Tri a little dazed, after making classic rookie mistakes, wondering "How on earth would I have ever known?!" Here are 10 tips to avoid being caught off guard and having an instant edge in your first Tri! In order of importance...

1. Preparation, Preparation, Preparation!!!

    Plan accordingly. If your wave goes off at 6.56 (yes, AM) don't show up at 6.30 wondering why the transition area's closed and you can't rack your bike. These details are in the race pack. Oh, and you might want to factor in enough time into your warm up, and the enjoyable process of struggling into your wetsuit, especially if it's a hot day...

If you only remember one piece of advice from this article, make sure it's this one.

2. Read the Race Pack!

    The last thing you want is a drafting penalty when you weren't even (benefiting from) drafting from not passing someone quickly enough. You may need to put your wetsuit in a box before going out on your bike. To avoid frustration from being blissfully unaware of these important rules, make sure you get smart beforehand.

3. Timing Chip Placement.

    Make sure your timing chip is on UNDERNEATH your wetsuit, unless you fancy giving yourself a real treat trying to get it off.

Medena and Tina at the swim start of the New England Season Opener, 2012, Boston, MA

Medena and Tina at the swim start of the New England Season Opener, 2012, Boston, MA

    4. Know the Transition Area.

Memorise the Swim In, Bike In, Bike Out and Run Out entrances to the transition area before the race begins to make sure you're not running around like a headless chicken looking for the right exit. Also, do a practice run through of the transition area before the race. It might help a lot to actually know where your bike is when you emerge from the lake unable to breathe, let alone see through your eyes full of water and seaweed hanging off your face.

5. Don't try anything new during the race, no matter how cool it might seem at the time.

    This is not the time to attempt a running leap onto your bike, even though the guy in front of you made it look very easy. Trust me.

6. Make sure your goggles actually serve their purpose: to prevent water from getting in.

    It's better to be able to have a narrow range of vision than not be able to see at all; if you're discovering those allegedly brilliant Aquasphere's don't work for you, then ditch them. You'll thank yourself for making the right decision on race day and not having to 'unleak' them every 100 metres.

7. Take comfort precautions.

    Put baby oil on your neck, arms and legs before  putting your wetsuit on. This will help you get it off as fast as possible, and also help to prevent the delightful phenomenon of chafing.

Speaking of chafing, this can be nasty. Make sure you're confident your run shoes won't grate your feet to shreds on the run. Do a practice run in your shoes for the whole distance prior to the race (without socks too if that's your race plan) and make sure you're comfortable. Anti-friction creams and Vaseline can help blisters, but put these on before the swim to save time.

8. Know the course.

    Don't assume the person in front of you knows where they're going. This is especially important on the swim, unless you really want to swim an extra 200 metres going around the wrong buoy!

9. Forget about looking good. Just forget it.

10. Enjoy the race! That's why you're doing it in the first place.

    If something goes wrong in the race, don't panic, at least not straight away. You're only allowed to freak out when ALL of the following happen in the same race:

Both sides of your goggles keep filling up continuously,

You get your wetsuit zipper pulled undone in the swim,

You take a full 10 mins trying to get out of your wetsuit,

You get a 2 minute time penalty for not putting your swim gear in a box,

While on the bike, you try to put your feet in your shoes, but realise your bike shoes are on the opposite pedals to which they are supposed to be (it takes you a good two minutes to figure out what on earth is going on),

Your chain comes off going up the toughest hill,

You land TWO flat tires,

You cause yourself to wipe out on the bike by trying too hard to go aero and looking down instead of forward,

You mis-pace the run by paying attention to the Sprint distance course instead of the Olympic,

You get out-sprinted by your rival by sprinting to what you thought was the Finish, but discover the Finish was actually 100 M around the corner when they sprint past you.

Feel better now? Thought so.

(5 of these things have happened to me personally. Can you guess which?)

- Coach Medena 
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