Tips for beginners

One of our fellow bloggers Tina had asked me if I have any tips for beginners. Well with my beginning so fresh in mind I thought she had a great idea. Here’s my take on what worked and what didn’t work for me leading up to my first race:

Firstly I’d like to discuss the aggressiveness of the training plan. You might say what? Training plan? but I’ll come back to that. The only thing worse than not being prepared for a race is getting injured and potentially not racing. In my opinion it’s better to train a little lighter leading up to the race than not being able to race. One week before the race I had just pulled a hamstring and my ankle was starting to hurt. I was suffering from over training.

Prepare for torrential rain AND nice weather. My race day was raining so hard with such heavy winds that they cancelled the swim of the tri due to 8 foot swells. Right before they started the duathlon it stopped raining and the wind died right down. I didn’t have time to go back to transition and dump my coat but luckily I was layered and took off my coat while running. Not ideal but at least I didn’t over heat.

Test ALL equipment before the race. I had a speedometer on my bike and was used to doing a certain pace. I wasn’t well trained in knowing how close I am to my own limits by feeling so I gauged using speed. I hopped on my bike after the first run and my speedometer wasn’t working. I didn’t want to stop and fix it so I just kept riding. I thought I was going a little light on the pace but wasn’t sure and was scared to push myself and not leave enough steam for the second run. Also my heart rate monitor wasn’t working so I wasn’t sure of I was over doing it on the run. There are people from all levels of athleticism and I wanted to run MY race to the best of MY abilities. I didn’t want to get caught up being too slow or too fast and run my own race. As it turns out I was spot on my my pacing and ran an awesome second run. However messing with the HR monitor during the first run definitely threw off my rhythm an cost me some time.

RUN the transitions and make note of markers. Races are filled with adrenaline and your mind won’t be thinking in its usual form. You’ll be moving fast an will need to know where to find your bike quickly with minimal thinking. Walk the transitions from both ways and find some identifiable markers ie port-o-potties, first row of bikes. How far down the isle is it? Then jog it. Then run it. Be sure to use and take note of the markers you identified. This is great because it also counts as a partial warm up.

Know your race route. Look up the course before hand and make a mental note of the street names that you turn at. While it should be well marked you are responsible for the course on your own. It also feels good to know how far along the course you are. Mentally go through the course and visualize it. If you can scope it out the day before I hear that also helps.

Actually sign up. Really. Probably not needed to be said but it’s no excuse to say “I was going to sign up but it filled up the day that I was going to enrol”. Shoulda woulda coulda. Just do it.

Do a mock race before your race. Depending on the length of your race I recommend doing a mock one to two weeks before the race. This will give you an idea of what that level of activity is like. If you have done any workouts that are 1.5 to 2 hours in length then this is a great idea for you. You will also get a great feeling for what your pacing will be like. You’ll also get to experience brick training and know what it’s like to run on exhausted legs. If you over do it on the mock and have a hard time / can’t finish, don’t worry, now you know you need to slow it down a bit and pace yourself.

Practice transitioning. Most places require you to have your helmet on before you touch the bike. Follow this rule! Fin out what order you’re going to change in and practice it.

Keep your transition area tidy and small. Don’t sprawl your kit out… Bad etiquette.

Be efficient with your time. Mornings may turn out to be the best even though getting up earlier hurts and subjecting yourself to a serious workout is even more discouraging but it may be best. Training for triathlons can be very time consuming. I try not to take up any family time with my workouts so I get up at 4:30/5am most days. I do a couple of mock sessions before the race and ask the family for the time. Even with borrowed family time I still try to make it early and get it done quickly so I’m back in the family unit.

In summary:

•Take any training plan and take it SLOW.
•Give lots of rest days.
•Prepare for all weather.
•Test all equipment.
•Run the transitions.
•Know the route.
•Actually sign up.
•Do a mock race.
•Learn your pacing.
•BRICK it.
•Practice transitioning.
•Keep your transition area neat and small.
•Work with your lifestyle not against it.

Equipment essentials(Really its not much for bare necessities):

A bike (any well working bike will do, I used a mountain bike)
Bike helmet
Running shoes
Sun glasses.
Bike pump and 2 spare inner tubes

Any use of gels or hydration should be practiced during your training. Make sure they jive with your system. Make sure you can drink without interrupting your breathing too much… Or choking.

I hope you found this helpful. Feel free to comment with things that helped you.

Happy training.



15 thoughts on “Tips for beginners

  1. This post is extremely helpful to a beginner like me 🙂 I didn’t even think about the transition, I have just been so concerned about the training plan. What Triathlon Distances have you raced in? What distance do you suggest a beginner should try? I hope you don’t mind me picking your brain. Do you wear a trisuit? If so what brand to you use?

    • Thanks for the kind word Tina! I’ve done a sprint duathlon last fall so far. This year I have an Olympic distance, sprint then half ironman lined up for 2013. I think it really depends on where a person’s fitness level is currently and where they think they’ll be by race day as to what guides them for their first race. They can always do a mock race to get a feeling for it. I think the biggest guiding factor should be one’s ability to complete the swim distance. If someone can only complete the tri-a-tri distance than I suggest sticking with that regardless of the bike and run capabilities. There is a very real fear that plays in to open water swimming and can make the race mentally uncomfortable when the race should be fun and enjoyable. If the sprint distance swim is something that is doable then I say start there!

      As for my costume I just wore a pair of shorts and a fitted shirt. My personal favourite brand is Underarmor and I’m hoping that I can pick up a two piece tri suit from them this year if they make them again. Otherwise I’ll be looking in to another brand. My motto is anything goes for your first race. I raced with my mountain bike before dropping cash on a road bike (ended up buying an LG used tri bike. Up here in Canada bike prices are a lot more expensive. Check out my post “there aren’t enough ooooo’s in smoooth”).

      By all means let me know if you have any more questions.

      Happy training.

      • By the way Xterra wetsuits are on sale right now. I picked one up but haven’t used it. They’re about 55% off. Makes an affordable way to get a wetsuit for a beginner. I’ll write a post once I’ve had a chance to try it out in the spring.

      • Thank you so much of all the suggestions 🙂 I can’t wait to hear about your Olympic distance tri 🙂 I will definitely be stopping by your blog often. Thanks again!

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