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Race Day: Learn From My Mistakes….

August 8, 2011

Now for some race advice from Dan!

Brick Workouts

While training for your first race, do some brick workouts. I love the bike/run brick. The hardest thing to do is know how your legs are going to feel after getting off the bike. It is a different sensation if you aren’t prepared for it. Good runners can see a drastic dropoff in performance if they are not prepared. Your legs will feel like jelly and your body will ask you “you want me to do what now?”

Open Water Swimming

Practice swimming in open water. Whether it be a lake swim or ocean swim, the feel is going to be different. Sighting will be more difficult and it will be good to acclimate yourself to the conditions before doing it on race day.

I bought a wetsuit last year and living in FL never really need it except for a few early season races and I didn’t put my wetsuit on until the day of the race. My friend says to me you know you are going to be more buoyant in the water and some people say they get light headed. I acknowledged his point and walked into the water and floated for a few minutes. Came back in and the gun sounded a few minutes later. I swam about 100 meters into the swim and started to hyperventilate and began feeling dizzy. I had to stop and tread water for a few minutes to regain my bearings. For a few seconds I thought I was going to have to drop out of the race.

Goal Setting

Figure out your goals before the race. I always tell people the goal of your first race of each distance should be to FINISH. However long it takes, no matter what you go through (unless something unforseen happens) to cross that line. There is no better feeling than finishing a race! Don’t set unrealistic goals, if you average 18 mph on the bike in training, don’t tell yourself in the race you will do 20. Keep a log of your training so you know when and what you did. Don’t be afraid to mix up your training to avoid monotony.

Know the Rules! Here are some basics….

a. your chip must be worn at all times

b. in a wave start make sure you start with your color coded wave or age group (sounds simple, but you’d be surprised)

c. keep the buoys to your left when swimming south to north and vice versa

d. You can use any swimming method you need to complete the swim (freestyle, backstroke, side stroke, doggie paddle)

e. you may rest on a lifeguard’s surfboard but you may not advance your position while doing so

f. your swim time ends when you cross the mat, not when you get out of the water

g. you must wear a helmet AND HAVE IT STRAPPED before you leave T1 or you will be disqualified!

h. No outside music, no ipods, mp3’s or radio device, the course will be open to traffic and safety is priority number 1!

i. ride on the right hand side of the road unless passing

j. you must stay 3 bike lengths behind the person in front of you (4 if you are racing WTC rules). If the official deems you are closer than that you will be penalized (drafting- 2 minutes)

k. if you are going to pass someone you must pass on the left and as a courtesy call “on you left” so the rider in front of you knows you are passing

l. you have 20 seconds to make your pass, otherwise you can be penalized for “blocking” (2 minute penalty)

m. your number on your bike must be visible from the left for the official to see

n. You must wear your race number during the run

o. your time officially stops when you cross the mat.

(there are other rules for different races, but thought I would cover the basics)

Get Organized

Get there early on your first race. I always like to get there early, make sure I get a good place on the bike rack (depending on the race- some races will number your place on the rack) lay out my essentials (shoes, socks, helmet, sunglasses etc) This will also give you time to go to the water and warm up, take your bike for a test ride or run to get the blood pumping. Most importantly, this will give you time to hit the porta potties as almost every triathlete experiences some form of “race jitters” and if you get there later, lines will be long. Coffee can help alleviate the this problem before you leave the house.

When a friend and I were doing Augusta 70.3 in 2009. It was a point to point swim and they had porta potties by T1. Well since everyone had to wait for the buses to take them to the start the lines were long at each stall. One gentleman came out and said this was has no toilet paper in it. So a guy in front of us turns around and reiterates that to the people behind. Nobody moves out of their respective spot in line. My friend turns to me and a few others in line and says, “I guess everyone just showed their cards”.

Remember Your Goggles

Bring a spare pair of goggles. At a race this year, I was going to jump in the water quickly before the race started and a wave hit me and I lost my goggles in the ocean two minutes before the start of the race. I had to sprint back to transition and get my spare pair. Nothing like breathing heavy before the race starts.

Race Day Attire

Figure out what you are wearing for each leg of the race. If you are wearing a tri suit or tri shorts and top this is easy as you will wear that your whole race (unless you are doing a longer distance in which case you might want bicycle shorts for comfort). If you are putting bike shorts or a different top on in T1 – make sure to have a towel as putting on shorts or a shirt while wet can be disasterous. This will also help you if you are putting on socks and want to wipe off the sand or mud that can accumulate on your feet. Some races allow an individual to bring a small water bucket to wash their feet while in T1.

Race Your Own Race!

Your first race you are not racing against everyone else out there. You are racing against the course. Just like golfers cannot get caught up in what other golfers are doing on the course you cannot get caught up in what they are doing. Some may be better swimmers or more experienced bikers. Do not “spend your pennies” (thank you Craig Alexander for that) until you know you are close enough to the finish to do so.

Enjoy It!

Do not get so caught up in the race that you forget to enjoy it, appreciate the spectators (they are unlike any other and are great motivation) – I always acknowledge with a smile or wave. Try not to think of the pain you are in- there will be some along the way. Think of the food and drink across the line, always helps to know food awaits. Think of your medal and the fact that you are now a triathlete! ( and your life will now transition into eating, training and sleeping, HAHA)

10 minutes after the race, if you aren’t dissecting your race, telling yourself you could have done better here or there I would be shocked! We all do it! Then you go home and sign up for race 2!

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