Everyone's first triathlon is always a whirlwind of both rookie mistakes and personal triumphs. While unforeseen problems will inevitably arise on race day, it's important to prepare yourself ahead of time to prevent unnecessary mishaps.
From not fueling correctly to using an unsustainable pace, keep these nine avoidable things in mind to execute your first triathlon as smoothly as possible.
MORE: 16 Things We Wish We Knew When We Started Triathlon
Starting Too Hot1 of 10
From all the athletes toeing the line to the hundreds of spectators lining the course, race day always has an electric atmosphere. While it's perfectly acceptable to channel this energy on the course, be aware of your efforts early in the race. Don't start your swim at an unrealistic pace or try to keep up with the lead pack if you realistically can't sustain it. You'll end up burning out before even making it to the finish line.
Not Fueling Correctly2 of 10
Race day is not the time to experiment with the new nutrition products you found at the athlete expo. By now you should know what works and what doesn't regarding nutrition and hydration, so apply what you've learned during training blocks out on the course. Create your plan, and stick to it.
Using New Gear3 of 10
Like with fueling, don't race with a new tri suit, bike or pair of running shoes on race day. Only race with gear you've trained with to save yourself from blisters, chafing or mechanical issues associated with new or unfamiliar gear.
Not Previewing the Course4 of 10
Race directors generally try to create a flat course with minimal turns, but all courses have their own technical nuisances you should familiarize yourself with before toeing the line. Make sure you attend an athlete briefing when you pick up your race packet, and if possible, drive, ride or run portions of the course in the days leading up to the race to really get a feel for it.
Waking Up Too Late5 of 10
Prerace preparations take longer than you might expect. Give yourself ample time to eat a solid breakfast, take care of business in the bathroom and arrive at the course with enough time to find parking and set up your transition area. Race day is hectic enough, don't make it harder on yourself by showing up late.
Messy Transition Area6 of 10
Transitioning from the swim to the bike and the bike to the run has a lot of moving parts to remember and execute. Keep things simple during your first triathlon and streamline your setup in the transition area. Leave excess towels, personal products and warmup clothes in a bag with your family or in your car, not next to your running shoes and helmet. You want your setup to be intuitive and comfortable.
Pro Tip: Set up a mock transition area and practice the motions leading up to the race. That way you'll know exactly what you need and how to execute an efficient T1 and T2.
Not Pacing Yourself7 of 10
If you train at a 14 mph pace on the bike, there's no way you're going to sustain 21 mph on race day. Not pacing properly will lead to complete burnout in the later stages of the race. Set a realistic pace based on how you perform on training days, and don't deviate—no matter how many times you're passed. Your first triathlon is all about starting confident and finishing strong.
Not Planning Ahead8 of 10
From location logistics to gear, triathlon requires a serious amount of planning to simply arrive at the start line prepared and ready. Creating a checklist in the weeks leading up to the race that details all the required gear you might need is an especially essential thing for first-time triathletes. Familiarize yourself with each item on the list, use it the night before the race while packing and double check it again on race morning.
Not Knowing Basic Bike Maintenance9 of 10
There's nothing worse than showing up to your first triathlon in the best shape of your life, only to have your race derailed by a flat tire or dropped chain. Just like with transitions, practice basic bike maintenance skills (like fixing a flat tire) in case you find yourself on the side of the road with a mechanical failure. Precautionary measures are also imperative—lube your chain, check the tread on your tires and check your brakes the night before the big day.