I like to think that I am clever enough to figure what is needed, required, or expected of me in a long course or ultra-distance triathlon. I don’t, however, like to ask for help, read manuals, or attend athlete briefings if I can avoid it. Well, Dear Racer...let me save you time, misery and perhaps utter shock by sharing my experiences and knowledge with you before the race. The following may be pure common sense. All that I can state now, is that I’ve either had to withdraw from a race or I lost a lot of time because I didn’t do certain things.
Assumption has been a punishment due to my folly.
Before the race:
- Read the Athlete Guide and attend the mandatory racers meetings beforehand. Don’t be a dingus and think “I already know everything there is to know.” Pay attention to the timing cutoffs for each leg of the race. Know where on the bike course you are to be single file or not overtake. It could save you and others from a bike crash.
- Be prepared by checking the weather forecast. Do this before you leave for a destination race. You may need to pack some extra gear and clothing.
- Understand what being nervous and excited means to your digestive system. I’m a regular in the Port-a-loo line in T1.
During the race:
- Be a minimalist with your stuff in transition. Don’t bring the balloon, water bucket, or foot stool. Everyone must share a small amount of real estate here. Others will shove your stuff over if you are a space hog and there is not much room.
- Check the air pressure in your bike tires and ensure the skewers that hold the wheels in place are as they should be just before you exit T1. Nothing blows chunks more than coming in from the swim and finding that the bike tire is flat. Or even more frightening seeing a bike skewer bolt fly off your back wheel at 32 miles per hour in a descent. Need some help learning how to take care of your bike? Check out Eight Things Female Cyclists Should Know How to Do.
- Volunteers are not meant to serve you. They most likely will not be able to answer questions about routes, race rules, or what time it is. Do not assume that any volunteer has had in-depth training or knowledge about the race. They are there to help for free. They are not obligated. Be kind and respectful. To really get the point, volunteer at a race or two yourself.
- Assistance on the bike course does not mean they do everything. Know how to change a tire. Understand what it means to use a stem extender with an ordinary bike tube. Change a tire on a deep-dish carbon wheel to see how a stem extender might be needed, and how to use one. Don’t just stand on the side of the road thinking that you are invisible to the racers going by, but a flashing light to the bike mechanics. First, move off the course. Get out of the way. Take the wheel off, make sure you have a tube, and something to put air in the tire. It’s your race, you are responsible for your bike, and the clock is ticking.
- Bring your own sunscreen. There may not be a big jug of it available at the aid stations. Don’t assume that the volunteers have some just for you. Prevent melanoma and use waterproof sun block for the swim.
- Never grab things from the aid station that are foreign to your belly. I can attest that vegemite, liquids not described in English, and some forms of green colored bars are to be avoided.
- Follow the rules. Others may not. Instead of saying something to someone, get their bib number and report it to a race official if you are so inclined. Don’t engage them, as there is no point to that. If you are slow, stay to the side so that others can pass you. Don’t ride with others side by side, it’s a race. Don’t assume that it is acceptable behavior or proper riding etiquette. You’re in the way if you're riding side by side with someone else. There will be people whom will definitely let you know this as they pass. Be safe and get to the finish line. Even more important, don’t create a situation that begs a negative encounter that will affect your mindset and focus. The mental part of racing is a big part of your race.
Hopefully, now Dear Racer, especially if you are new, you have some tips or explanations that will make your race day a joy. Cheers to a happy race day, and I will perhaps see you at a finish line.
Written by Jackie Nunes, Siren Luminary
Follow Jackie on Instagram @unixchick