Monday, September 13, 2010

How-To: Finish Your First Triathlon

I want this blog to be as much an education as it is a journal, so from time-to-time I plan to enlighten my readers with helpful information and how-tos about triathlon, racing, and occasionally life (although that last part may be taken worth a grain of salt).

One day I want to volunteer for an IM and work the transition area, but until the day I'm in town for an IM and not racing or sherpa-ing for someone, I'm sticking to local triathlons and running races.  On Sunday, I had the opportunity to work on the bike course for the Nation's Triathlon.  Any triathlete, even a professional one, can learn a LOT simply by closely watching participants while clapping from the sidewalk.  Any triathlete can also have a few absolutely gut-busting laughs by closely watching participants. 

Here are some thoughts on how to finish your first triathlon, gathered only through Sunday's observations:
  • DO be prepared for any and all weather conditions.  Races go on in everything except lightening - because there is no piece of clothing that can protect you from that.
  • DO a see-through clothing test before race day.  River water, sweat, rain, liquid nutrition...your clothes are going to get wet somehow and one goal for crossing the finish line of your first triathlon should be doing so with some dignity and secrets remaining.  I'm especially looking at you Asian women and European men who think racing Kona in all white is a good idea.  
  • DO NOT think just because you are an elite wave male and can average 25 mph on the bike, you are impervious to sliding out and crashing into a stone guard rail when you refuse to slow down at a turn-around.  Because then you and your gashed elbow bleed on me and we all get a whole lot closer to that "guts and glory" thing than any of us anticipated.
  • DO NOT race on a bike you have never ridden before - and trust its owner when he says you won't get a flat, especially if you do not know how to change a flat.
  • DO bring all necessary parts to change your flat.  If you are riding deep dish rims, a flat kit definitely includes a valve extender.
  • DO wear thick socks on the bike if you do not know how to change a flat or have a complete flat kit...because you are going to end up running back to transition in those socks.  So make sure they're socks you can run in for 6 miles along a rain-soaked highway gutter. 
  • DO wear an LL Bean Storm Jacket while preparing to volunteer/spectate in any and all weather conditions.  My wallet is my clothing sponsor at the moment and boy was I glad it decided to buy me this jacket.  I spent 6 hours riding very slow around the same 6 miles of the bike course in everything from outright down pour to drizzly gray and was dry and comfy the entire time.

Here are some of my volunteers...not wearing LLBean, poor things.
  •  DO NOT warrant a police escort, unless it means you're winning.  [I wish I had a picture of this one, but my camera died.]  The last two women headed out, chatting away to each other, and they came back, chatting away to each other.  Behind them, cleaning up cones and opening the roads: 5 police cars with lights flashing, 1 SUV, 1 U-Haul, and 1 bus picking up volunteers.  All riders had to be off the course by 12:45 and these women were not going to make it back to transition by then, but it wasn't 12:45 yet and thus the two ladies could chat away until then, at which time they would be escorted into the bus and their bikes into the U-Haul.  
  • DO be prepared to be on the course as long as it takes - whether you make it to the finish line or get escorted onto the bus - because perseverance is a pretty darn good prize too.
    • DO always support your fellow participants, volunteers and spectators along the course, and your friends and family who got you to the start line and will greet you at the finish line.

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