So why do you do it? For the little victories and the big wins. Not everyone ends up on the podium, but if you have ever finished a triathlon, you are a winner. There are several things to celebrate after every race—from a new personal record to nailing that perfect photo—that don't require a podium finish.
Remembering All the Things1 of 16
You would think after dozens of triathlons, you would have your race setup down to a science. That is never the case. You not only have to remember all your equipment, but the items needed for transition and nutrition as well. If you get out the door with 80 percent of what you need, you are doing well.
Triumph Tip: To check this off at the end of the day, make a list of all the items you need and set them out the night before. Always bring extra goggles, bike tubes and sunscreen.
The Perfect Rack2 of 16
Some races assign spaces while others give open age group racking. When it is the latter, you have the opportunity to pick the best setup to cut down on transition time, which can be the difference when going for a personal record.
Triumph Tip: Arrive at the race as transition opens to claim your appropriately sized space. You always want something close to the bike in and out, since running with your bike is difficult. Position the bike to where your front wheel point towards the "bike out." Place your transition on the side closest to the "bike out."
Surviving the Swim3 of 16
Swimming is a contact sport. For some, it is the most unnerving leg since oxygen is limited and you have no idea what is touching your feet. Anytime you get out of the water with your goggles and dignity in place, it is a win.
Triumph Tip: Though swimming in ideal conditions is nice, practice in hard conditions to better prepare for the race. When it is windy, you might have to breathe on only one side, and with mass starts, you might need to practice drafting.
Taking It All Off4 of 16
Raise your hand if you have started the run with your helmet on? Yeah, me too. Just like you have to remember to bring all the stuff, you have to remember to take it off. You never want to forget something important like nutrition or carry extra weight like a water bottle.
Triumph Tip: If your race is wetsuit legal, leave your goggles and swim cap on so your hands can be free to take off the wetsuit. After your wetsuit is off in one hand, take off the goggles and swim cap with your other hand as you run through transition.
Happy Gut, Happy Race5 of 16
Your feet take a serious beating during a race, but your digestive system may take just as much. Finding nutrition to work with you instead of against you can seem impossible, but it is necessary if you want to finish strong. If you get through a race without any gut issues, count yourself lucky.
Triumph Tip: Practice with your nutrition in different conditions, just like you practice anything else. Take note of what does and doesn't work, and avoid anything new in the days leading up to the race.
Flat Free6 of 16
Getting a flat not only deflates your wheel but also your hopes of getting a personal best. Watch for debris on the road, carry your bike to transition to avoid sticker burrs and inflate your tires to the appropriate pressure for the race conditions. Every mile you make it without a flat is a good mile.
Triumph Tip: Avoid the far right side of the road as much as possible while still following USA Triathlon rules. The right side of a bike lane or shoulder is often filled with debris, making it far more likely to pick up a nail or piece of glass.
Avoiding the Draft7 of 16
USAT rules state you have to keep three bike lengths between cyclists. Though challenging at times on crowded courses, the integrity of the sport is left up to the athletes. Getting a card from an official can hurt your time and your ego.
Triumph Tip: If you are a speedy cyclist, consider competing in the open division. There are less spots on the podium but safer, faster conditions for the bike.
Saying "On Your Left"8 of 16
A powerful set of words that make you feel fast. The picture that comes to mind is Captain America running laps around Sam Wilson yelling out, "On your left!" Part of me feels like a super hero when I get to say those three words, and you should feel that way too.
Triumph Tip: Try to avoid playing leapfrog with another rider, which can be dangerous and distracting. Ride three bike lengths behind a cyclist for one minute. Once you feel confident enough to pass, continue on at a faster speed. However, don't push your fastest pace to pass someone then slow down significantly.
Finding Your Shoes9 of 16
Your legs are heavy, your heart is racing and you have no idea where you left your shoes. If you make a beeline straight towards your shoes without a second thought, you are going to save yourself some valuable time.
Triumph Tip: Tie a bandana or T-shirt rag around the rack where you left your bike to spot your shoes quickly. It is noticeable but not intrusive, like a balloon. It is even better to run from the "bike-in" to your space a few times in transition, counting the number of racks across and back to your space.
Fast Transition Time10 of 16
You can't win a triathlon with a transition time, but you can certainly lose one. Your transition can be lightning quick if you focus on what you need to get moving, like your shoes, but carry everything else, like your hat and race belt.
Triumph Tip: Put on your shoes and take off your helmet; everything else can be done while you move toward the run out. Clip your race belt (with your bib) to your hat, and safety pin your nutrition to your belt so you can grab it with one hand.
No Bonking11 of 16
Your legs feel like lead bricks, but you are glad to stretch them out. If you are like me, it takes five minutes of running to find some comfort in my pace. However, if you did not plan your nutrition right on the bike, you can feel your gas tank hit empty. Then the tunnel vision hits and everything starts to hurt. Bonking is very real and no fun, so fuel properly to snag this win.
Triumph Tip: Your run depends on how good you fuel on the bike. The focus on the bike is consistent power and consistent fueling. A good rule of thumb is to take in 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour.
Setting a PR12 of 16
As much as we all want to be on the podium, the real wins come from a personal best. If you beat your time by one second or one minute, you should have yourself a victory dance.
Triumph Tip: You don't have to monitor your watch to get a PR. Try practicing without all the gadgets (or at least not looking at them every five minutes) and go for effort level. During a race, you push yourself based on how you feel instead of predefined timing limits. Some of my biggest personal records happened without ever looking at my watch.
Race Photos You Want to Buy13 of 16
Sucking in your gut and putting on a smile is the last thing you want to do during the race. If there is a single photo that you end up looking great in, buy it, then make a dozen wallet-sized copies to remind your family of how awesome you look (#humblebrag).
Triumph Tip: At the finish line, don't look or touch your watch. The event will have your timing results, and you don't want a photo of you looking down as you finish. Make a pose, throw up your hands or jump across the finish line to remember the moment.
Walking Away Injury Free14 of 16
Many things can go wrong during your race from bike crashes to leg cramps. The most important victory is walking away as healthy as when you started the race. Be grateful when you cross the finish line injury-free (even though you are really tired).
Triumph Tip: There is a fine line between pushing your limits and harming your body. A good way to monitor this is checking your heart rate zones and form. If your heart is staying in zone four or five for too long, you may need to back off. The same thing goes if your form on the swim, bike or run starts to fall apart, causing your body to overcompensate. It is better to back off than to blow up. Your body will thank you for it.
Foes, Friends and Family15 of 16
At the end of the day, you are surrounded by hundreds of people that all came together to do something they love (and drink a well-earned beer). The reasons for accomplishing such a feat are as diverse as the people competing. Celebrate your accomplishments among your competitors and comrades.
Triumph Tip: Go meet someone new at the event. It is easy to hang with your team, but try to find a pro or a newbie and ask them how their day went. You might discover a new partner in training (and complaining) for your next triathlon.