Every triathlete was, one day, a beginner. Even the pros! Without a doubt, they all made beginners mistakes. Interestingly, nearly every triathlete faced the same typical rookie problems. And they all wished they had known better beforehand. So, if you are a newbie triathlete, this article will greatly help you out. Let’s review the most common beginners mistakes to avoid on your first race.
1. Not enough anti-chafing lubricant
In triathlon, the more lube, the better. As a beginners triathlete, you may never have heard of pre-race lubrification. However, in endurance sport, irritations and chaffing is real, and very painful! In triathlon, because of the combination of multiple sports, chafing is everywhere.
To avoid bad surprises, make sure you tried your race kit and wetsuit before tackling your fist race. Ultimately, the goal is to know the location of all your abrasive hotspots to treat. Additionally, utilize your pre-race testing to find the anti-chafing product which works the best for you.
A common anti-chafing product is Body Glide. But plenty of other brands and textures are offered (gel, wax, balms). You can compare and try which solutions works the best for you. But don’t fall for the typical beginners mistake! Make sure to test it before race day.
2. Bike helmet still on…out of T2
Some triathletes are so caught-up in the excitement of the race that they rush out of T2 with their bike helmet still on. Most of the times, this happens to beginners who did not practice their transition routine. It is not a big mistake per say. It will neither trigger any pain nor a disqualification. Perhaps, just a little discomfort after a couple of miles. What is certain is that it will look a bit odd!
A great way to avoid this beginners mistake is to practice transitions before your first race. Make sure to setup your transition wisely. For example, having a hat or visor setup on top of your running shoes is a good reminder about the helmet. Indeed, it is fairly hard to put a hat on while still wearing a helmet!
3. Try something new on race day
It cannot be said enough: do not try anything new on race day. It is one the most popular triathlon advice. However, beginners tend to overhear it and show up on race day with a brand-new tri-suit. Newbies also tend to experiment with the food provided at the aid-stations. Of course, they have no clue of how their bodies will respond to it. These are obvious beginners mistakes which can severely compromise a first-race experience.
Whatever you plan on using during your race, always try it before, in practice. For example, a new piece of equipment might need some break-in. It might also turn out to be very uncomfortable and cause painful irritation. Identically, a new type of food might not be adequate for your system. It could unfortunately lead to terrible GI issues during the race.
4. Neglecting nutrition
Unfortunately, nutrition mistakes are not always beginner-specific. In fact, a lot of triathletes focus their training only around swim, bike and run. They often forget that nutrition is equally as important. As a result, they have no nutrition plan on race day. Which means that they have no clue on how to fuel their body before and during the race. However, a bad (or inexistent) race nutrition can completely throw off performance. It also affects a lot the mental and can turn any good race into a very bad experience.
When preparing for a triathlon, get to know yourself, nutrition-wise. By race day, you should know about your water, fluids and calories needs. Moreover, you should know your nutrition timing and the type of food that works best for you. If you plan on using the specific race nutrition from the aid-stations, try it beforehand. The best time to test nutrition is during your practice. See how various intakes make you feel, and gauge how your body reacts to it. For nutrition suggestions, you can check this article about nutrition essentials for triathlon.
5. Disorganized transition setup
A disorganized transition setup is very typical of beginners mistakes. It is very understandable that newbies do not know about transition-area rules and setups. If you are a beginner about to sign-up for your first race, I recommend doing a bit of research about transition setups. Rules can vary slightly between events.
In general, bikes are installed in a head-to-tail fashion. This means that every other bike is facing opposite direction. This is meant to maximize the spacing between bikes and leave a bigger transition spot available for your setup. Your gear must be contained in a rectangular 2’x1’ area, on the ground, alongside the right of your bike (when facing the bike). If you like, you can hang some of your stuff on your bike (like helmets, sunglasses), but not on the rack. Then you big gear bag can be stored away, off to the side of the transition area.
On race day, the setup of your transition spot happens before the race. The transition-area usually opens hours before the race start-time. Take your time setup your transition properly before rushing into putting on your wetsuit. When setting up your transition, make sure to visualize your race flow. Think about the steps, in order, that you will take when entering and leaving T1 and T2. Think about what you will need, and how you will execute your transition. Example: first, take off the wetsuit, then put on the helmet, then sunglasses, then dry your feet, etc.
I very strongly advise to practice transitions a couple of times before racing. For example, setup a transition area in your yard and rehearse T1 and T2 in real conditions. This will not only give you confidence for race day, but also greatly improve your transition organization and efficiency.