They say the best way to learn is to make mistakes. As a newbie and Clydesdale, in my first year of competing, I've made my share of mistakes. Heres my top 10 list of newbie mistakes:
10. Wearing a black swim cap. This one might seem a bit silly, but its true.
"You arent gonna wear that black swim cap," the guy standing in the water next to me at the start solemnly said. "I was planning on it" I replied a bit confused.
"You don't want to do that," he added with a knowing nod. "Why" I said a bit wide eyed? "Because they won't see go down when you drown," he added and swam away.
I looked into the dark, murky water where he had been standing and considered this, removed the cap, and threw it to the shore. Only after the race, I realize that I have dark hair.
9. Butt Burn ... otherwise known as the Lack-O-Glide factor. It took me about a year to discover the joys of lubrication. The leg pain after a marathon is nothing compared to the searing pain of taking a shower with raw nipples. However, nothing identifies a newbie triathlete like the Charlie Chaplin butt-burn wobble walk after an especially long session on the bike.
8. The Clydesdale Category. I'm a big guy -- 6'2 and well over 200 pounds. I've always considered myself big in a gladiator sort of way. But according to the official rules, I'm big in a huge, wide-butted, beer wagon-pulling sort of way.
7. MAX, ADE, OX, GU, BOOM, GEL. There are a bewildering amount of performance enhancing drinks and supplements on the market. They have one thing in common: a fluorescent Day-Glo color. I tend to judge them by the stickiness factor. The more they make my hands stick to the handlebars of my bike, the better they must be.
6. Transitions are NOT free time. For all of the pros out there they may be free time, but for newbies theyre a time of profound confusion and terror. Mistakes happen all the time. "Why am I wearing my swim goggles?" I think as I power out of the transition area on my bike?
5. A wet suit will kill. Try to remember to Valero the wet suit zipper pull leash to your wet suit. The first time I wore my wet suit I didnt know to attach the leash to the wet suit.
About five minutes into the swim the leash wrapped itself around my neck like a vicious python bent on my death. The more I struggled to disengage myself from its death-like grip, the tighter it got. My flailing only seemed to encourage it. I finally did manage to free my throat and continue the swim. Five minutes latter, it was back.
4. Big girls on mountain bikes. Big girls on mountain bikes are surprisingly fast. Dont take it for granted that just because youre on a big ring, carbon fiber, aero bar outfitted, race-tuned tri-bike that you'll easily pass that big girl up ahead. Make this mistake at your own peril and your self-esteem will suffer.
3. Du vs. Tri. Don't confuse a du with a tri when racing or checking the results. My first Olympic-distance triathlon was almost my last. I watched the awards ceremony with a mixture of terror and awe as the results and blazingly-fast times were announced. I was amazed at the speedy results. Needless to say I was not the slowest triathlete in the world just the only one at the du awards ceremony.
2. Twelve year-old-lap counters. When competing in a pool, avoid the 12-year-old lap counters. I wondered out loud to the twelve-year-old "why do I have to swim two more laps when the other two racers in my lane are done." This seemed especially odd since I had lapped both of them. The twelve-year-old was not moved by my logic. Math must not have been his best subject in school.
1. Beer. Avoid all triathlons that are not sponsored by a brewery. Not only does a post-race beer greatly help in the recovery process, but it also helps one forget all the mistakes. Plus as a added benefit after enough beers, that big girl on the mountain bike don't seem so big anymore.
Roman Mica is a amateur Clydesdale triathlete who lives and races in Boulder, Colorado and has his own website; www.EverymanTri.com. He is also one of the founding members of www.raceAthlete.com. He has a book published, entitled My Training Begins Tomorrow: The Everyman's Guide to IRONFIT Swimming, Cycling & Running.