On Saturday the 16th I completed my first triathlon. It was a sprint (“Only a mini,” in the words of one ignoramus). On Sunday the 17th, I felt like a true bad @$$....
After coming off of my high I realized I learned many things. I had read the articles on BT, I'd trained, and I thought I had prepared. There were, however, a few things that I didn't internalize despite what I'd been told. I implore anyone reading this to absorb all of the first timer lessons and react accordingly.
Open water swims are HARD. I don't care how many laps you can do in the pool, freestyle, without resting. 400 meters in cold lake water in a wet suit with 45 other people thrashing, kicking, and whacking about make those 400 meters feel like infinity. I stayed near the back of the pack in order to not get in anyone's way, but we still got in each others way. There were feet, arms, heads, hands, and neoprene everywhere. The water was choppy and cold. As it turns out, doggy paddle is a perfectly acceptable form of forward momentum despite all of your highly studied official swim stroke techniques. Moral of this story: get at least one open water swim into your practice schedule before the big day.
Remember your timing device! I waited to put mine on after my wetsuit but it was buried in my bag under my cycling gloves. Thirty seconds into my swim, I was kicked by a girl wearing her ChampionChip and I had a true "D'OH" moment. I will never know how I did on my first swim. It's not the end of the world, but it does screw up knowing your full event time and I won't know if I've improved next time.
Running sucks without music. Whatever you are connected to—iPod, Rio, old school Walkman—ditch it for a couple of runs in the weeks before your event. It was hard to go from highly entertaining runs around my neighborhood to a dull run around someone else's neighborhood with nothing to occupy my mind except for my breathing, my effort, and that woman 15 years older than me passing me.
Don't worry about that woman 15 years older than you passing you. It's entirely possible she has been doing triathlons for the many years that you were sitting around eating bon bons in front of the telly. The good news is, you are out there now and in 15 years YOU will be lapping some young whipper-snapper, encouraging them to do better next time.
Female triathletes are really, really nice. I wasn't in the men's wave so I can't speak for them, but the women say "excuse me" and "I'm sorry" and "way to go!" and "you can do it!" I had a particularly difficult hill climb during the cycle and the ones sailing up the hill past me did everything they could to cheer me on. It was beautiful.
Be sure to bring a friend or loved one with you. I have never seen anything more beautiful than my S.O. at the finish line smiling and waving at me. Not to mention, we got some great photos that I don't have to pay for. It was the most proud he'd ever seemed to be of me and I'll carry that moment for a long, long time.
This is a sport and there are dangers. We had a near drowning and it woke a lot of us up to the fact that anything can happen at any time. Make sure you are as fit, healthy and prepared with clothing and safety gear as you can be. If the lake or ocean will be cold, wear a wet suit. Be sure your brakes and gearing are in good shape. Be sure to HYDRATE.
That is all of the wisdom that I can think to impart for now. I hope it helps someone as many of the BT articles helped me along the way and I look forward to many, many more.