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Tips for Newbie Triathletes - by team member Sika Henry

Tips for Newby Triathletes

By Sika Henry

Are you training for your first triathlon? Moving up in distance? Have you recently signed up for your first 70.3 race? Well, you are in luck! I did my first triathlon (a Sprint) back in 2013 and boy have I learned a lot over the past few years. In fact, I’m still learning the ins and outs of this wonderful sport. Here are some of my tips for tackling pre-race jitters, fighting low points during a race, and staying motivated.

Do…

Organize and lay out everything the night before

I don’t know about you, but I can barely function before 6 am. Add a race to the mix and my mind goes haywire. I find that it’s best to do everything the night before – I lay out my kit, pack my transition bag, apply my bike and helmet stickers, attach my race bib to my belt, etc. I get a better night’s sleep knowing that I’m ready to rock n roll come race morning.

Review your “Athlete Guide”

Every race has a guide. You can usually find it on the race website. Review the schedule. Make sure you know when packet pickup is – most of the time it’s actually the day BEFORE the race. Make note of when the transition area is closing and work backwards from there – I like to set up my bike, helmet, shoes, and nutrition 30 – 45 minutes before the transition area closes. Review the swim, bike and run course.  Familiarize yourself with the rules (i.e. drafting, wetsuit legal, etc).

Wear sunscreen

You might say, “Well I never burn”. Doesn’t matter. Neither do I. Us triathletes typically race during the summer months which means the sun’s rays are at their strongest. Throw in no shade, black asphalt, and hours of baking in the sun –Ironman 70.3 Eagleman anyone? Always protect your skin. It will thank you in a few years.

Accept that you might have low points during a race

The longer the race the more likely you will hit one, two or more low points. Don’t worry. You are not alone. The good news…the races where I’ve done my best and set PRs were the one’s where I struggled the most. When you are pushing yourself to your perceived limit it HURTS! During these dark moments I try to recite positive mantras: “You are strong,” “You can do this,” “Focus, believe, achieve.” And remember, if it were easy everyone would do it.

Plan ahead and add a few races to your schedule

I often get asked how I stay motivated month after month. My secret: I make sure I’m registered for multiple races throughout the year. After you cross the finish line you deserve some rest, but it’s easy for days of rest to turn into weeks or even months. This is why I make sure I have no excuses. I recently took a few days off after my Half Ironman. But it was easy for me to get back into training because I have the Boston Triathlon coming up.

Don’t…

Try anything new the day of the race 

This includes nutrition, goggles, flying mounts (really bad idea…epic fail), shoes, basically anything you can think of. Stick to your routine. If you haven’t practiced it before the race don’t even think about experimenting the day of. When I received my new Pearl Izumi race kit I took it for a test drive a couple weeks before my first race of the season. Don’t try breaking in a pair of brand new sneakers or even your goggles on race day.

Beat yourself up if you don’t PR or reach the goals you set for yourself

I’m still working on this one. Us athletes tend to be very hard on ourselves. We put a lot of time and energy into this sport and make sacrifices. Needless to say, it’s very frustrating when things don’t go our way. With that being said, not every race is going to be a homerun. One of the things that helps me cope with a bad race is having other races on the calendar. Just knowing that I can redeem myself in a future race brings me some peace. My coach also makes me write down something positive after every race. It’s easy to focus on the negatives. Sometimes we overlook some really great things we accomplished, despite not having the race we planned for.

Compare yourself to others

Again, this is something I’ve been working on this year. I’m the worst! I’m known for saying, “So and so averaged 22 mph on the bike. What is wrong with me?” Listen we ALL have our own strengths and weaknesses. We don’t know how many miles “Sara” rides her bike day in and day out or how many years it took her to race at a competitive level. It’s easy to see the end result without knowing how much training it took to get there. Focus on yourself and enjoy the process.

 

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