FIRST TRIATHLON MISTAKES
The most common first triathlon mistakes can easily be avoided and finding out more about them may be helpful in preparing for your first Ironman.
Here are some common first triathlon mistakes I’ve thought of along the way that may be helpful to you.
Please read them carefully as they may help you have a more successful and enjoyable race.
Some are extremely important and could have a profound effect on your triathlon performance. This is especially true if you are attempting your first Ironman.
GET PLENTY OF REST
As race-week approaches, avoid any changes in your sleep pattern if possible. If you develop insomnia in the days before the race, take a sleeping aid if you have to.
You HAVE to be sure and get proper rest. This is especially true “two or three nights” before the race. It’s not always a great idea to take any sleep aid that will leave you drowsy the morning of the race.
It’s very common and quite normal to not sleep great the night before a race and it’s not really that serious if you have ensured that you have several good solid nights sleep before that final night.
Often to go into a race with insufficient sleep is not necessarily one of the most common first triathlon mistakes but it does happen and can be easily avoided.
MAKING LAST MINUTE CHANGES
Don’t make any last minute changes to your equipment.
In order to avoid making this mistake on your first triathlon, it’s important that if you are trying anything new, make sure you try it out 3 or 4 weeks before the event.
Two serious first triathlon mistakes I made in my first ever triathlon were buying new tubes for race-day and having the wrong size and finding out an hour before the swim start.
In another race I bought new goggles at an Ironman expo because they looked pretty cool but they leaked through-out the entire race.
There is often so much to buy at some triathlon expos. There is always new training aids and bike components available. This is NOT the time to try these out!
If you like something you see, buy it and save it for your future training and racing and you will avoid making one of the more classic first triathlon mistakes.
AVOID LATE BIKE TUNE-UPS IF POSSIBLE
Tuning up your bike at the last minute is one of the more important first triathlon mistakes to avoid if at all possible. It happens far too often and can be easily avoided. Avoid getting a bike-tune up just before the big race!
Do it a month before or 3 weeks before and RIDE IT to test it out. Bike mechanics make mistakes and you don’t want to find out on the race course or have a disaster just before the race.
One year before my last training ride before Ironman Canada I had a new chain put on my bike with only 8 days to go until race-day.
The chain was not put on properly with the correct tension and flew off while I was standing up on the pedals. I ended up with a concussion and a broken collar-bone.
My race was over for the year before it even started. I should have been more careful and not left it so late. It just goes to show how easily accidents can happen. In my case it happened in a late training session, but it could just as easily have happened out on the Ironman bike course.
Don’t let this be one of the first triathlon mistakes that puts a damper on your race.
MAINTAIN A CONSISTENT DIET
It’s not a good idea to change your diet the week prior to Ironman. Stay with what got you there. If possible get a room with kitchen facilities and buy your own food.
If you normally ate quite a lot of pasta or rice at home during all that training then stick with that in the week prior to the race.
It’s always best to have a kitchenette so you can make your own meals and that way you know exactly what you are eating. Cook what you cook at home.
Be careful at the carbo load. At one carbo load pre-race dinner I came down with food poisoning just 2 days before Ironman Hawaii and I was still sick on race day and had to pull out of the swim. Or I should say, the medical team in the boats pulled me out of the race.
There wasn’t a thing wrong with the food, but I happened to be allergic to shell fish and didn’t realize the pasta sauce I ate had clams in it. It meant a year of training and all the expenses to get to Hawaii were pretty much for nothing as far as that race was concerned.
PRACTICE GETTING YOUR WET SUIT OFF
Practice wet suit stripping at home. Get used to reaching around and pulling the zipper down. On race-day, unzip it as soon as you get out of the water and pull it off your arms and down to your hips.
As you approach the wet-suit strippers, just lay down and they will each take one side and pull it off and hand it back to you.
Another of the more common first triathlon mistakes is a novice triathlete getting frustrated trying to remove the wet suit by themselves. Frustration leads to energy loss and is not a great way to start your day.
AVOID CHAFING FROM YOUR WETSUIT
Sometimes there will be chafing on the back of the neck from swimming with a wet suit. To be safe, you can put a patch of waterproof tape on the area where rubbing occurs and that will be more comfortable for you.
Avoid making this mistake and you will spare yourself having to deal with a needless aggravation through the entire race and often for days after.
PREPARE FOR RACE-DAY WEATHER
Many races can be cool in the morning. When you head out on the bike I would suggest arm-warmers if it is cool at all. Take a pair of those long sports socks and cut them off at the heel.
They will slip nicely up your arm and will keep you warm and then you can just toss them at an aid station along the way.
Not being prepared for possible shifts in weather conditions on race day is a first triathlon mistake that often happens. Often, all that’s necessary is to pay attention to the race-day weather reports.
HAVE A HYDRATION PLAN IN PLACE FOR YOUR RACE
For instance, if you use a fuel belt, you can leave an (old) water bottle at special needs filled with your drink supplement and re-fill your small bottles from that.
Then you can just toss the water-bottle at an aid station.
A common first triathlon mistake is to not look far enough ahead into the race and be properly prepared. Having a hydration plan set in place before the race even starts is very important.
WEAR A HAT
Make sure you wear a hat on race-day. You must stay as cool as possible. Fill the hat with cool water or ice and put it back on your head. I realize a lot of people simply don’t like wearing a hat, but it can end up being a wise decision if you’re up against a hot sunny day.
Use sponges regularly on face, neck and shoulders. This is really important on those super hot days.
In the course of their first triathlon often the mistake of getting over-heated proves a costly lesson for novice triathletes. It really saps your energy when you need it most.
STICK TO A PLAN THAT SUITS YOU
This is a tip to help you avoid a first triathlon mistake that happens far too often. If you’re planning an Ironman for your first triathlon, you may not really have the time or the inclination to do a lot of shorter races before-hand.
Maybe you want to experience it all for the very first time in your big race or perhaps for confidence reasons you just want to avoid going into shorter races.
Some people feel(and rightly so for some)that if they do a half-iron race and have a poor result as their first Ironman gets closer, it will hurt their confidence for their big race.
There is no hard and fast rule saying you have to do shorter races first. For instance, Ironman Kona was my first triathlon and my first open-water swim.
There will be people who will try to pressure you into a shorter race with the idea that you can practice your transitions. Yes this is true, but you can also practice the same thing at home by doing your own unofficial race on a usual training day.
Regardless what distance of race you’re doing, do your own unofficial race in training about two weeks before race day. Do an Olympic Triathlon distance with all the right distances of the swim, bike, and run at a pace a little faster than your usual training pace and this will give you a chance to practice your transitions without the pressures of having to perform and meet certain expectations in a real race.
This will work very well in preparation for an Ironman as well. Don’t increase the distances beyond an easy 1500 meter swim, a 40km bike, and a 10km run. You should actually be tapering and resting in your final month before an Ironman. However, two weeks out from your race is an excellent time to do this one last fairly long training day. Not only will it give you one last chance to practice your transitions, it will also serve as one final tune-up for race day. If you have been tapering as you should, this final tune-up will help keep you sharp. The key is not to over-extend yourself. That’s why it’s best not to enter an actual race. Just do it by yourself at a comfortable pace.
LEARN HOW TO FIX A FLAT(in your sleep)
Flat tires do happen. Practice changing a flat until you know exactly how you will do it and what tools you will need on race-day. Practice on the rear tire, because 9 times out of 10 that’s the one that will go flat.
A common error on the list of first triathlon mistakes is not knowing how to change a tire could well put an end to your day.
As frustrating and difficult as you may find it is to change your tube, it does get easier with practice and should not be avoided in the “hopes that a flat will never happen to you on the day of the race.”
Most races these days will have official bike maintenance vehicles on the course, but there is no guarantee how long it will take them to come across triathletes who have bike problems.
TRAIN WITH SALT TABLETS IF YOU PLAN TO RACE WITH THEM
I have quite a lot of visitors asking about using salt tablets. I always avoided them myself as I believe there is sufficient sodium in most replacement drinks. However, some people do sweat more and as a result require more salt.
I would suggest using salt tablets for quite some time in your training before actually racing with it. It can easily end up being a more serious variety of first triathlon mistakes if you have never tried using salt-tablets before the race and then find out they have an adverse effect on you.
By trying salt tablets out on hot training days, you can at least determine if it will cause any stomach upset or other problems. You should also be able to tell by your endurance, energy, and recovery whether or not it is making a difference.
Hopefully these few tips on the more common first triathlon mistakes will help you avoid them.
Visit Ironman.com for information on upcoming Ironman and Ironman 70.3 events.