My Top Tips for Triathlon
Yesterday I completed my first Olympic distance triathlon in Yverdon. Two weeks ago I attempted the Lausanne triathlon and it ended up like this:
“Get back on your bike as soon as possible”. Even the lovely guy in Happy Sport repaired it in less than a day saying I should ride it the next day.
My relationship with my bike is going through a rough patch. New this summer, the bike actually fits me properly and that alone has made such a difference to my cycling and especially when cycling downhill. Once I got used to clip-ins, despite the increased amount of road rash to my right calf (I still, on occasion, unhook one side and try and dismount on the other), I now feel the benefits of them helping to work my legs through the entire spin. I’ve always been a nervous rider and this bike was the reason I was becoming more confident. For it to just collapse underneath me for no apparent reason was pretty scary, let alone face the oncoming traffic. My bike betrayed me and I now have issues trusting it again. Cycling since has been a challenge and every bump in the road scares me rigid. Imagining myself completing rides and focusing on cycling well and positively are helping; pushing negative thoughts out of sight and out of mind.
I am no pro’ and no expert, but for what it is worth here is my tuppence, based on my experiences, on competing in triathlon.
Top Tip No. 1: Invest in some decent kit – don’t always go cheap, aim for value for money.
For the sprint tri’s I did back in 2011, I borrowed, destroyed and bought (with cake!) a bike that didn’t fit me properly. A bike that is mine, that fits and is half decent has made such a difference.
I brought a very cheap, two piece trisuit back in 2011. It’s been great but yesterday was its last outing. My skin is rather delicate and that extra 5k resulted in some sore chafing. I will go for a one piece (the riding up has become too annoying) and ensure it is of good quality.
Top Tip No. 2: Invest in some extras.
There are lots of bits and pieces and flashy gadgets that you can buy to make race day go smoother and be more enjoyable. These are what I will be investing in for next time:
a) Anti-chafing gel – for feet, as well as other parts of the body, to help prevent blisters.
b) Wetsuit – it’s not obligatory to wear one unless the water is below 14ºC. As a fairly strong swimmer and comfortable in the water I rarely wear one, but also because I don’t have one. Yesterday, although I was sweating on the run, I also had goosebumps and did not feel too well. A wetsuit might have kept me warmer. They also make you more buoyant and speedier… I always like to make life harder for myself.
c) A waterproof watch – there is so much choice on the market and I will be looking for one that primarily shows me my time and pace. This will no doubt involve in getting some gear for my bike separately. Yesterday’s monitoring tactics involved racing cars in the opposite lane who I guessed would be driving near enough to 30km/hr, checking the church clock every time I cycled past and checking in with a man who was running at my pace and had a watch.
Top Tip No.3: To sum up the previous tips – make it count.
Money, money and more money. Equipment, entry fees, licences – it does all add up. (Let alone buying ski kit for this winter, too). I budget and live pretty frugally to cover my costs. I only selected to do one or two races this summer because of the costs. Make sure that what you do, and what you buy, are worth it.
Top Tip No.4: Slow and steady wins the race.
You don’t want to go THAT slowly, obviously. However, I definitely took the bike ride steadier than I did in Lausanne. With each lap, as I got to know the course, I improved my line around the bends. I watched the other cyclists and tried to copy them. If I was scared (definitely squealed once or twice – I hate cobbles!) I slowed down and made sure I stayed on the bike, and that it stayed intact underneath me. Speed increases with confidence, but my advice is to not get cocky – make sure you finish.
Top Tip No.5: Make sure you have at least one person there to support you.
My lovely parents came all the way to Lausanne to watch, only for me to worry them sick as I didn’t come round on lap 2. They, along with other friends, couldn’t make it. To be honest, I thought it would be good for me to just concentrate on myself. However, it was a very lonely race. There were only 30-40 women in total competing and we were well spaced out over the course. Drafting was allowed yesterday (normally just the pro’s draft), and WOW is that scary when a group of lycra-clad lads come flying past you on a roundabout leaving you with nowhere to go but forward. For the women, I think there were about 4 of them in a group somewhere but apart from them, we were all on our own.
The run was hard. I had completed the bike and that had been my main goal. I knew I would finish but I had lost my enthusiasm. I thought about friends and family and tried to imagine them cheering me on. I honestly think I would have run faster with a loved one there. Emotions were high crossing the line: for me this was a really important goal and to finish and not have someone to share my success with was a little bit sad. For anyone going to watch any race, cheer on EVERYONE! Not just your mates, not just the older generation who look like they are struggling, but everyone.
Yes, something I really struggle to do and probably the hardest challenge for most people. With each achievement, I believe in my abilities a little more and find new confidence. The brain is so powerful – there really is nothing like mental preparation and training to have a positive ‘can do’ attitude. Know that your body can do anything you want it to do, if you believe it can. It might take a while to figure it out as you get stronger mentally and physically, but apply yourself in the right way, don’t give up, be strong and focused, and you’ll make it happen.