Nothing beats the buzz (maybe I need to get out more) of standing on the start line of any race but I am sure you’ll always remember the feeling of your first triathlon. Whether you’re sick with nerves or so laid back you’re in the zone, all the hard work is really behind you and that’s what’s got you to start. So try to relax and most of all, enjoy. Enjoying your race is the most important thing.
Hopefully you’ve trained for the distance you’ve entered, the Shock Absorber Women Only Triathlon has a great ‘First timer wave’ if you think that’s what you’ll need to get your confidence for next time.
Make sure you have all your kit and that it’s laid out in T1 and T2 in logical order and in line with the race rules - some races allow transition boxes, others don’t - so check before hand so you’re not thrown off course at check-in.
I was most worried about the swim (until I was out of the water and then I was most worried about the cycle and then once off the bicycle I was …. You get the picture). You worry about everything that can go wrong - goggles getting knocked off, swimming the wrong way, being pushed under etc but none of those things actually happen. Yes, you need to be a little assertive but just pitch yourself where you’re most comfortable and if you think your swimming is relatively slow, then start towards the back and you can always overtake people if needed. Once you get more confidence, after a few races, reassess this. This is a women’s only triathlon but women can be just as ruthless about swimming over you if they think you’re in their way so try to hold your own space. Perhaps take 50 metres or so to get into your rhythm and then if it all feels good - speed up. Dorney Lake will be a nice temperature and it’s a great lake to swim in.
You should hopefully have practiced taking off your wet suit - they can be tricky but don’t waste energy panicking, try to keep calm but stay focused - the mantra ‘strong and stable’ might work here. Some years ago whilst exiting the water in a triathlon in the New Forest I took down the top half of my wetsuit as I ran up what seemed like a really long transition to T1, and I was only wearing a sports bra under my wetsuit - it was a nasty beige colour and as I ran past my family who were up early to support me, my 9 year old niece burst into tears. Turns out she thought I was topless. Oh the embarrassment for her. So do try to wear a tri suit under your wetsuit as it’s quicker than having to put on a cycle top and spares everyone's blushes.
REMEMBER - do your helmet up before touching the bike otherwise the marshalls can DNF you or give you time penalties. I guess they do it for safety reasons but that’s no consolation if it happens to you - it’s as frustrating as failing your driving test for an otherwise perfect drive but forgetting to look in your rearview mirror.
Enjoy this is the first opportunity they’ll get to spot you - after all, it’s hard to recognise someone in the water, in a wetsuit swim hat. Take on some fluid and gels, if needed. Count the number of circuits you’re supposed to be doing as you don’t want to cut it short. Hopefully you won’t have a puncture or a mechanical but if you do, don’t give up, try to sort it and carry on. The main thing is to finish.
When you come back into T2 - dismount carefully and head to your spot to rack the bike, only unclipping your helmet once you’ve stepped away from your most treasured possession. Now all you have to do is get your running kit on - might just be changing out of your bike shoes and into your trainers or you might have a running cap to put on or shirt change. But whatever, don’t waste too much time as you’re onto the last part of this. transition zones can be a black hole for time and if your 5km is 2 minutes quicker than someone else's, what’s the point if you’re taking an extra 5 minutes in transition - the clock keeps ticking.
On the run, try to pace yourself, save the sprint for the finish shoot. I have seen triathletes who leave T2 feeling okay and go way faster than they’ve run before only to bonk 1k from the finish and have to walk it in. Just be mindful of how you feel and of the distance still left to finish the race.
And finally, remember to smile, scream, shout or jump at the finish line - you are a triathlete.
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