Even though I still don’t know enough to even recognize all the ways I screwed up in my first triathlon, I thought it might be helpful or at least cathartic to start compiling a list of mistakes I won’t make next time.
Not surprisingly, most things on my list thus far have to do with the cycling portion of the race, in which I finished dead last, far behind the rest of the field.
1. Not getting my timing bracelet when we signed in.
Ben and I were on our way down to the beach, where they’d already started going over instructions, when someone asked us if we had our timing chips. Not only didn’t we have them, we didn’t even know where to get them. We wound up having to run a couple hundred yards or so back to the parking lot. Though we got back to the beach in time to start the swim, it would’ve been far less nerve wracking without this last-minute hiccup.
2. Carrying a water bottle in one hand the entire 20K cycle.
At the time I didn’t think it slowed me down that much, but after reading about all the things cyclists do to cut wind resistance, this now seems like a bad idea — especially since I think I could’ve just waited and grabbed a quick drink when I hopped off the bike.
3. Not changing out the chunky tires on my garage sale mountain bike for smooth ones.
My co-worker Ellie, a cycling veteran who’s doing the next Fox Island Triathlon on June 17, strongly advised me to do this, even if I made no other alterations to my admittedly crappy bike. I didn’t get around to investigating it soon enough, and I’m now thinking that surely played a role in my suckish cycling time.
4. Not getting in enough cycling training.
I was so distracted by swimming anxieties that I didn’t focus much on cycling. I figured if I could ride 12 miles without coasting, then I could put a check mark in that box. Cycling more often would not only have gotten those muscles in better shape, it would’ve made me more familiar with the peculiarities of my borrowed bike.
5. Eating a better pre-race meal.
One reader took me to task for “carb loading” on Ben’s pizza log, and though I joked about it at the time, it definitely would’ve been better to have stuck with the more easily digested oatmeal and peanut butter rather than adding pizza to the mix in my stomach. After reading Dr. James Johnson’s comments, I kept fretting about what might be transpiring in my “sigmoid colon.” (Nothing too weird, as it turned out, but it sucked being distracted by that as I was trying to get some sleep.)
Two things I did right:
1. Not panicking when the other swimmers pulled away and attempting to do a crawl stroke I wasn’t prepared to use.
Instead I stuck with my slow but sure sidestroke* and got back to the beach — eventually — without having wasted a bunch of unnecessary energy flailing about in a panic.
2. Practicing the cycle-run combo “brick.”
With less than a month total training time, I only did a few of these. But that was at least enough to help me realize that the weird feeling in my thighs wasn’t unbearable but merely a disorienting transition that would work itself out a mile or so into the run.
*Clearly if I’m going to improve I need to learn to do the crawl well enough to use it for more than one or two pool lengths. But the sidestroke was what gave me the confidence to try a triathlon in the first place, and I’m glad I did, even if it did take me nearly 2 hours to complete.