Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Anal-Retentive Guide to Preparing for Your First Triathlon

I'm so excited that I'm ready to jump out of my skin! As my children might ask, "How many more sleeps until [insert highly anticipated event]?" Four more sleeps until race day!  I have run a few marathons and several other races, but this triathlon feels much different.  Perhaps it's because it's been a whole year since I've last raced.  Perhaps it's because I am finally back on my feet after a rough year of injury, my first DNS, a surgery and two months off all exercise.  Perhaps, just perhaps, it's because this time around I am a total newbie, an absolute rookie, green as Kermit the Frog in the world of triathlons.  What do I do when my world seems to be spinning out of control and I have no power?  Why I plan, organize and obsess about the few things I actually can control, of course!  Here's a brief run-down on my last two weeks of uber-preparations:

Two weeks before:
  • wore my tri-suit for a swim/bike brick. By golly, it does feel good!
  • took a free bike maintenance course at REI and learned how to clean my bike, what tools I should have at home and on long rides, and how to change a flat 
  • met with my tri-expert friend to pick her brain, freak-out and get excited
  • looked over check-lists to see if I had all the clothing and equipment I would need
  • crashed my bike trying to get my bare feet into my pre-clipped cycling shoes while riding.  Note to self: Put on shoes FIRST, then mount the bike. I'm still a beginner after all!
  • did a race-simulation with a friend, had a ball, gained confidence, got an idea of what transitions will be like, got an accurate swim time for seeding purposes
  • sent updated swim time to race director
My speedy shoes with lock-laces.  My first case of poison oak on the right leg
One week before:
  • washed my bike
  • broke my valve putting air in my tires prior to a ride (oops, it must've bent during my crash)
  • to my bike to the shop to double check the fitting and get a tune-up
  • discovered that I bent my chain ring when I crashed
  • had my chain ring upgraded ($50 for that spiked circle of metal!) 
  • bought a two new tubes (one for now, one for later)
  • got my bike blessed
  • had husband install lock-laces on my running shoes (Thanks Stevie!) Sweet! Love 'em!
  • got my race number, start time, lane and position from the event website
  • printed race day information and directions to the event
  • studied and printed the bike course (I will also drive it the day of the race.)
  • studied and printed the running course (I will also drive it the day of the race.)
  • carefully laid out all my clothing and equipment head to toe by sport before carefully packing it into my pack
  • watched video after youtube video of setting up transitions
  • continued gentle daily workouts that didn't exceed more than 60 minutes
Final things I need to do:
  • change tubes (I need Steve to babysit me while I do this. I'm petrified I'll break something again. One bike maintenance class, does not make me a bike mechanic.)
  • see what the timing chip strap feels like while swimming, biking and running
  • see how easy the bib belt is to put on and how it feels while running
  • breathe, breathe, breathe and HAVE FUN!
What's in the bag (or what's spread across the table)?

o   Tri-suit
o   Swim cap
o   Goggles
Timing chip ankle strap

  • o   Bike loaded up with the following:
    • GU strapped to frame
    •  Water bottle filled with Gu Brew
    • Pump
    •  Tire change kit
  • Towel (Do I really not take a towel into the pool with me?!)
  • o   Helmet
  • o   Sunglasses
  • o   Heavy long sleeve (I froze last post swim bike.)
  • o   Light long sleeve (This shirt might do too.)
  • o   Wind breaker (It might rain or be windy.)
  • o   Bib belt
  • o  Running shoes
  • o   Cycling gloves
  • o   Shoes with lock laces
  • o   Short sleeve shirt (I don't know if I 'll wear it, but it's there just in case)
  • o   Arm warmers (Another just in case item)
  • o   Cap
  • o   Garmin (I don't know if I want this. Hmmmm... Do I really want ONE more thing to put on?)
I have put in eight weeks of structured training and done my homework.  I am as ready as I'll ever be and yet I imagine I will learn a TON on race day and be humbled.  My goals are to have fun, meet new people, gain experience and complete the race in as smooth of a manner as possible.  I have a vague idea of what times I'm capable of, but this race is not about time.  Next time I blog, I will officially be a triathlete!  I certainly hope I like it as much as I think I will.  I've already signed up for another sprint tri and have my eyes set on an open water Olympic.  Wish me luck!  If it looks like I forgot anything, let me know!  I still have four sleeps until race day.  Plenty of time to buy, try out or pack additional items.

My kids' race day clothes


  1. I race a sprint tri on Sunday as well! I have to admit that my preparations are not THAT perfect, though. I just hope for perfect weather and bring nothing apart from the tri suit :)

    If your Garmin is waterproof (310XT), you can wear it for the whole race, or if you have the quick release kit for the 310XT, you can wear just the strap for the swim and have it mounted to the bike already, then put it on your wrist in T2.

    As for mounting the bike with the shoes already on it, it looks like your shoes aren't made for that. There are special tri bike shoes with just one large velcro strap that closes to the inside, for example these (Northwave Tribute):

    Good luck on Sunday!

  2. Thanks for the helpful tips Benjamin! Will definitely look into Garmin & tri shoes. :) Good luck to you too!