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10 things I learnt from my first triathlon


By Lucy Fenwick

There's no hiding, triathlon is daunting! There's not only the 3 sports to put together, but all the rules and the 'what-ifs': what if I have a mechanical? what if I forget my helmet?


But after completing a few of them, here's the 10 things I have learned!


1. You don't need ALL the gear

So there is sooo much gear, but remind yourself of what is a 'must-have' and what is a 'nice-to-have'. You need your bike, helmet, running shoes, goggles and most likely a wetsuit (if your first is an open water); don't worry if you don't have anything else. A friend of mine did her first triathlon in a swimsuit just throwing over some shorts for the bike and run, another did her first in her daughters bike... so yeah, you get the picture!


2. Don’t stress about the swim!

As long as you are comfortable enough to swim the distance it doesn’t matter how fast you go or what stroke you want to do. Your time only starts after you cross the start line, so if you aren’t a confident swimmer it’s okay to hang back and start after the initial rush.


Enter the water slowly and once in, dip your face under whilst blowing bubbles out a few times, exhaling slowly between each head dip. This helps adjust to the water temperature before starting the swim.


It’s also worth noting you might feel a bit dizzy getting out of the water, after being horizontal for a while, so take your time to get out slowly before making your way to the transition zone.


3. Vaseline on the wetsuit

With the unpredictable British weather, it’s likely you might wear a wetsuit for the swim (if the water temperature is below a certain level this is compulsory!). Vaseline on the ankles and wrists does wonders for helping ease off a tight wetsuit before you jump on the bike.



4. Remember where you put your bike!

After finishing the swim and getting back to the transition zone, hundreds of bikes in rows can seem like a maze. In more than one triathlon, I’ve run straight past my bike before realizing I’ve missed it. As well as remembering the row number, my top tip is to get a bright, garish towel to lay under your bike.


5. Learn to fix a puncture

This terrified me as well, what if my day finishes with a puncture? Fear not, learn to fix a puncture and take your time doing it. You can find out if your race will have some mechanical support that can assist with this, but don't panic!


6. Transition rules between legs

  • Clip up your helmet before you remove your bike from the transition zone.

  • Before starting the cycle: walk or run your bike out of the transition zone until you are past the bike mount line.

  • After finishing the cycle: jump off your bike at the dismount line and walk or run your bike back into the transition zone


7. Take a snack

Triathlon burns a lot of energy, and the cycle is great digestion time to take in some nutrition pre-run. Take a small snack e.g. a flapjack, sports gel or banana, to either have on the bike or in transition if you don’t feel comfortable eating and riding. I often tuck a cereal bar in my sports bra if I don’t have pockets.


8. Bring a support crew

Seeing a friendly face on the sidelines is better for a second wind than any energy gel on the market! My sisters are my number one support crew and having them cheering at the sidelines gets me through every event.


9. Smile for the paps!

You want to have very cool race photos right? some races will provide a ‘race belt’ to pin your race number on, spin the number round to the back for the cycle and reverse for the run. Crucial for finding yourself in those finisher photos - I still haven’t cracked remembering to smile though!


10. ENJOY IT!

It sounds cookie-cutter but you are doing it! You are completing something really epic, so take time in each discipline to remember what a great achievement it is, stay present on each leg and enjoy it!

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