One of the joys of being a beginner in any sport is that you will improve. What normally follows that first block of training and your first triathlon is an enormous learning curve. All the triathlon mistakes from race number one serve as good motivation for making corrections to improve performance at the next event.
Why wait until after that first race to get on the learning curve? Why not start now?
This column is written to help you make the learning curve as steep as possible before your first race. In fact, the goal is to prevent you from making some common training and race-day errors and avoid the faux pas that could make you look like a triathlon nerd.
Sporting Panty Lines
Ladies and gentlemen, you do not need to wear underwear beneath your cycling shorts. Not only is there not a need for underwear, doing so is counter-productive to your comfort. Underwear bunches up and can cause points of pressure and chafing. Skip the panty lines beneath your shorts by skipping the undies. Additionally, wash your cycling shorts after every use.
Losing Your Bike
It is very common to see new athletes enter the swim-to-bike transition (T-1) area and run down a row of bicycles with a look of bewilderment on their faces. The expression is saying, "Who moved my bike?"
No one moved your bike; you just didn't pay attention to where you left it.
Get to the race venue with time to spare on race morning. Give yourself enough time to set up your stuff and orient yourself to the entrance and exit points of the transition area. Once your bike is racked, walk from the swim entrance to your bike. Walk to the bike exit. Walk the bike entrance back to your transition area.
Using the Transition Area as a Break Room
I have video tape of what has to be one of the longest T-1s on record, a common triathlon mistake made by newbies. Once into T-1, this athlete began her record transition by breaking out a towel and drying herself off, taking special care to run the towel between each toe.
After drying her feet, she sat down to put on socks and her cycling shoes. The next step was applying sunscreen to exposed skin. She was careful to make sure the lotion was fully rubbed into her skin. After a bit of digging in her bag, she unwrapped a sports bar and enjoyed about half of the bar before removing the bike from the rack and scurrying toward the mount/dismount line in that special hurry-in-cycling-shoes manner. Her T-1 time was 15 minutes while others in her group were around a minute.
The best part is she had no idea her transition time was so long.
You don't have to have the fastest T-1 time at your first race, but you should try to minimize the time you spend in each transition. That's speed you don't have to work for; but you do have to think about it.