With the upcoming 31st running of the RiverCities Triathlon, here are a few tips and trades that I have learned over the years in running triathlons.  Some are serious and some are not so serious (see #7, #20).  There are scheduled to be over 1200 triathletes competing in this year's race.  If you have never seen a triathlon, come on out to Cypress and cheer on the triathletes!

***These are the most important two that I was ever taught and they are especially true for first-time triathletes***
1. If this is your first triathlon, just finish the race.  Once you run another, then look at the time that you want, but for the first one, just finish!
2. You will get kicked on the swim.  This is especially so when it comes to open water swim.  "In the face!!!", stomach, arm, shoulder.  You will get kicked, just deal with it and continue going!
3. Pre-race nutrition is key.  The morning of the race, eat what you normally eat.  My routine is always the same: One FRS Healthy Energy drink, two packets of Quaker Oats Lower Sugar Maple & Brown Sugar Oatmeal, a banana.  I eat a Clif Bar 45 minutes before the start of the race with a GU energy gel and then a GU energy gel 15 minutes before the start.
4. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!!!  Make sure that you are keeping your body hydrated before the race, days before.  Take in enough fluids so you are ready for the race, but not too much that you are bloated or water logged.
5. Pack your bag the night before.  Lay out everything that you will be taking with you on your bed or the floor and have everything ready to go in the morning.
6. I personally like to air up my tires the night before the race.  I put the tires to 100 psi if it is dry, 85 if it is a wet road course.
7. HAVE FUN!  You have spent hours, days, weeks, months training for this.  Your friends think you're crazy and your loved ones are proud of you.  Enjoy the race!

8. Go hard for the first 100 meters or closest turn buoy.  This way you break away or stay with the pack and can continue drafting.
9. Relax your body and legs on the swim.  You will not win the race in the water, but you can lose it there.
10. On open water swims, if you swallow a gallon of water, keep going.  It's going to happen, but at least you are hydrated.
11. If you are in open water, hug the buoys!  The closer you are to the buoys, the faster you will swim.  Remember 10th grade geometry, "The fastest way between two points is a straight line."
12. If you are in a pool swim, line up how you think you will swim.  Most triathlons have a start by how fast your swim time will be.  If you are an 8 minute/400 meter swimmer, line up in the 8 minute.  
13. For pool swim, if you feel someone hit your heel in the water, let them pass at the end of the pool, it is a courtesy. 
14. Once you are finished with the swim, take your goggles and swim cap off first and then your wetsuit (if you are wearing one)

15. Make sure your gears are in the proper setting.  For Buffalo Springs Lake 70.3, right out of transition you have an 8.2 degree hill to climb.  If you are in the big ring, you will have a devil of a time getting started!
16. Don't go "guns a blazin'" out of the chute.  Find a good pace and cadence and stick with it.  You have anywhere between very short (5-18 miles) to very long (112 miles) to go.
17. At check points, if they have water or Gatorade, take advantage of it.  Even if you don't think you'll need it, get it anyway.  Being thirsty on the bike with 5 miles to go is a horrible feeling.  (See Mile 70-75.5 of Katy Flatlands play-by-play)
18. Make sure that you know the rules for drafting.  If it is not allowed, don't do it.  Allowed, find a good pace line.
19. If you pass someone, let them know, but don't startle them.  Most of the time you hear, "On your left..."
20. Never underestimate the power of someone on a mountain bike!  In my first triathlon, I was passed by a 50 year old man on a Huffy towards the middle of the race.  It is not the bike, but the power of the legs.

21. Much like #16, find a good pace.  You know how fast you can keep pace from your training.  Don't spend it all on the first mile-plus.
22. If you use energy supplements on the run (ex. GU, Hammer, etc...) make sure that they are secure on your race belt, pockets, hands.  If you rely on a small boost at the end of a race and don't have it because they fell out, not good.
23. Find a pacer.  When doing triathlons, I always find someone who is right about my speed, or maybe a little faster.  They can push you to go harder, plus as an added bonus, you can race them to the finish.
24. Take water at aid stations.  Grab the cups, fold the lid in half and enjoy.  If you have to walk and drink, walk and drink.
25. Enjoy the run.  It is the final leg of the triathlon and it will be over soon.
26. Once you get to the finish, put your butt in gear!  Give a sprint, put it out there, don't leave anything left in the tank because you get to enjoy what you did for the rest of the day.

27. Enjoy the festivities after the race!  I have made many friends during the race that I have gotten to know and enjoyed. 
28. If there is food, eat it.  If there is drink, drink it.  You payed for it, enjoy it! 

29. I personally am a fan of ice bathes.  If the race is a long one or particularly hard, I sit in a bathtub full of anywhere between 60 to 120 pounds of ice for 10 minutes.  It is called cryotherapy and for me it works.  We will get into that later down the road.
30. Finally, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.  Replenish the fluids that you lost during the race.  And rest "hard." As in, take a load off your feet and chill out for the rest of the day or couple of days.  You worked and raced hard, now enjoy it!

For those of you racing this weekend, good luck.  If you see a bald guy with a red top and black bottoms, don't snicker when you pass him!


Before starting any exercise, diet or health routine, first consult your physician to make sure that your body is healthy enough for physical activity.
Shirley Chatham
8/4/2011 12:09:13

A very inspiring story that James wrote.


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