It’s official – not only have I caught the triathlon bug, but I’ve press-ganged my little mama and our friend Rose into the madness, too. We’re going to be taking part in the Leeds X-Press Triathlon together in less than two weeks.
It’s quite weird being the expert at something out of the three of us. Mum was running before I even contemplated it, and completing marathons while I was still smug about my first 10K. Mum has a PhD, and Rose’s TED talks have over two million views. They have been asking me tons of questions, and I will confess I’ve been fobbing them off a bit – “I’ll write you a blog post, just read the blog!” Maybe I like holding something over them…?
Finally, I’ve relented, and here is a list of their questions and comments so far – I hope it’s of some help, and to the rest of you guys. I’m only just started triathlon, so any other more seasoned pro tips would be much appreciated!
Do I need a fancy bike?
Not for your first season. At the races I’ve marshalled, I’ve seen hybrids, old clunkers and mountain bikes.
Do I have to ride right on the other riders back wheel like in the Tour de France? I don’t think I’d like that.
Good, because it’s completely verboten to ride close to the other riders like they do in some professional races. It’s called drafting, and you can be disqualified for it. I don’t think I can explain it better than the British Triathlon Federation themselves did (click for full size):
More questions and Answers After the Cut…
Comment with your tips for newbie triathletes below – share the knowledge!
What will I wear?
No need for a proper tri suit for your first one. I would maybe go for some cheap tri shorts like these ones and a sports bra for the swim. Then pull on a t-shirt or running top for your bike and run.
Won’t I have a wet bum from swimming in my shorts, like a nappy?
The padding in tri suits and tri shorts is much thinner than in cycling shorts, and dries faster, so it should avoid the soggy bottom feeling!
What other kit do I need?
Swim (We’re not doing an open water swim, so we just need our normal swim kit.)
Water bottle (if you can drink yours while you’re riding, which I can’t)
Trainers with elastic laces in
Nothing, you’re already in your outfit!
How do I get from the pool to the bike to the swim? Are transitions really scary?
They are a bit scary, but in a really fun way. Have a good think about them before hand, rehearse them in your head and maybe even practice in real life to get a feel for what you’ll need to do. Take a breath – ten seconds or even a minute extra here isn’t going to make much of a difference, and it’ll be better than forgetting to put your helmet on.
Before the race
– Clip your number to your race belt and store any energy gels / shot blocks you think you’ll want later through the elastic loops.
– Rack your bike in transition. This means hooking the saddle over the rail where your number is. For guidance on which direction to point it, speak to the marshals and look for signs. Take a good look at how it is propped up, and maybe take it in and out a couple of times to get ready for T1 and T2 (more on those terms later)
– Prop your helmet upside down on your handlebars, if you can, or on the floor if not. In your helmet, place your sunglasses and gloves/sleeves (if wearing) and lay your race belt over the top.
– Leave a drink of water wherever you think you’ll need it, in the cage on your bike, if you’re really fancy like that.
– Lie your towel on the floor, not invading your neighbour’s space.
– Put your trainers on the back of the towel, and roll your trainer socks down like, well, a condom (sorry, mum) inside your shoes.
– Remember where you put your bike in transition!
Swim > Bike (Call it “T1” to sound like a total triathlete)
– Come out of the pool, remembering to head in the right direction towards transition. Do as I say, not as I do, on this one, mum.
– Standing on your towel, put your race belt on, with the number facing towards the back.
– Put your glasses (maybe gloves) and helmet on, and fasten the clasp. Seems a bit mad to put it on so early, but you can be disqualified for getting on your bike without it, so I would rather be safe than sorry.
– Pat your feet dry a bit with the edges of the towel (they are NEVER going to be as dry as you would prefer, sorry) and roll your socks on, then pull on your shoes.
– Lift your bike off the rack and roll it towards the bike exit. Don’t get on until you’ve left the transition area, there will be a line on the floor to show you where to mount.
Bike > Run (T2!)
– Get off your bike at the dismount line, before transition. It will be really clearly labelled
– Rack your bike back up, the same direction you took it off from
– Take off your helmet
– Turn your race belt round to face the front so they can see your number when you SMASH through the finish line.
– Your legs will feel a bit wibbly when you first start off, but will feel better soon. Keep channelling that circular, forward momentum from your bike and you’ll enjoy your run.
How much do I need to train?
If you’re just interested in finishing and feeling proud, I’d mainly focus on technique. Make sure you can swim the distance (in whatever stroke you like), and are confident on the roads on your bike. I just try to do two sessions of each discipline a week (and sometimes don’t quite manage that). You can go total bananas on training like our internet-friend Cathy, too, though. The main thing about tri training is it feels really varied, and so training six days a week isn’t as much of a brain drain as marathon training is.
Where are all the black triathletes?
I really don’t know.