Monday, August 21, 2006

First anniversary, and lessons learned

On September 16th, I'm going to do the Cotton country sprint, again. It was my first triathlon. I'm hoping the weather will be similar, so I that I can compare my time this year to my time last year.

It's been a wild year. In the past twelve months, I've finished (I think) about 14 triathlons, 4 duathlons, two half marathons, two 10K's and an 8K run; and two 25-mile bike races. I was dead last on a few, but I finished them. The only race I didn't finish was the dreaded Darwinian debacle in Farmington.

Along the way, I've picked a few tips. Nobody told me about

(or, if they did, I wasn't paying attention)

They may or may not be useful to you.

  • You'll reach a point when - joy! - you suddenly feel very comfortable and in the zone, but only time in the water will do that.
  • Practice open-water swims before your first open-water swim. On the day of the swim, see if you can get in the water and stick your head underwater before the gun goes off.
  • At your first open water swim, you may freak out. You may forget how to swim. It happens to the best of us.
  • Total Immersion is a great freestyle program for working on stroke.
  • Don't wear aqua-tinted goggles in an open-water swim. It cancels out the orange in the buoys, and they'll be nearly impossible to see.
  • If the water is really choppy, or has lots of people in it, site on some easy-to-see landmark or item above the next buoy; it will be easier to see it when you site than something in the water.
  • Loreal waterproof mascara is terrific. Along the same subject, permanant eyeliner is a bitch to have applied, but it's totally worth it.
  • If you've got short stubby legs like mine, go ahead and cut the bottom couple inches off your wetsuit. Most of them have sealed seams, so it won't affect them.
  • I'ts not a good idea to jump in the water with your hearing assistive device in. In a reverse triathlon, if you HAVE to wear it, a good way to remember to take it out is to snap its case closed around the strap of your goggles.
  • Don't ball your fists up when you run, or swing your arms too much. It wastes energy.
  • The best way to run well is to, well, run. There are no short cuts.
  • Cold water is great on tired legs, and helps with recovery. If they have ice at aid stations, you can even run ice up and down your legs, which may not have any medical benefit, but it feels awesome.
  • If you love running to music, get an MP3 player, and buy a computer program you can pay for and download called, "Repacer." It will speed up and slow down songs digitally to match your cadence. You can use this as "trainer" to work on higher leg turnover.
  • Focus on leg turnover instead of stride length.
  • Read up on proper running form. You can use energy more efficiently that way.
  • If you have trouble getting up early to do a run, get your running stuff ready and folded up right next to the bed so you can slip it right on. Then tell yourself you'll only go out for 15 minutes. You've got 15 minutes, don't you? Chances are, 15 minutes into your run, you'll feel so good you'll just keep going.
  • Running skirts are cute, and they hide pasty white thighs.
  • A good running bra top is a wonder, a joy. Spend whatever you have to to get one.
  • Ditto for good running shoes.
  • Make sure you stretch well after every run.
  • Make friends with your saddle. Only time in the saddle does that.
  • Don't carry anything but water in your aero bottle, unless you want to showered with sticky stuff and gum up your cyclometer.
  • Hard Case (aka "Armadillo") tires are hard to change by hand, but they are virtually puncture proof.
  • Studio cycling, when done right, is a great alternative for training when the weather (or automobile drivers) is terrible.
  • If somebody starts to pass you, let them. If you jump up on your pedals, you're "Blocking" and you will piss them off and maybe get a penalty.
  • Avoid the bike paths on the weekends. They are dangerous, unpredictable places.
  • Stay on the right, and pass on the left.
  • Skin suits make me look fat, and for women, they make going to the bathroom difficult. But, you might like them.
  • Find out where the race photographers hang out, so you can be ready for a good picture.
  • If you're a back-of-the-packer, they may run out of finisher's medals, but, you'll always have company in the form of the chase vehicle that follows the last runner in.
  • Who cares if you're the only Athena that showed up that day, or any day? You got off your ample Athena butt and DID it, baby! Grab that damned medal.
  • Body glide is your best friend, but it can interfere with your heartrate monitor, so be judicious about where you put it.
  • Give me enough time, and I can finish anything.
  • Anytime you feel kinda bad about yourself, mention casually to a nearby non-athlete that you do triathlons. Or manipulate the conversation until you can slide it in. It's a real moral booster..."You do WHAT?"
  • 4% Hydroquinone will get rid of those icky dark patches on your face if you get them. Make your doctor prescribe you some. Then, get yourself a good, water-proof sunscreen.
  • "Heart Zone" training is the best thing for raising your aerobic threshold.
  • Avoid altogether a hearing assistive device during a race, unless you absolutely have to use it to hear the tiniest of sounds. If you can hear, "ON YOUR LEFT!" said about twenty feet behind you in a quiet room in a normal voice when you're not wearing it, just leave it at home.
  • If you're a beginner, you really will be happiest if you just try to do your best, and beat yourself. If you're always concerned about winning, you'll get bummed out. There will always be people who are faster. It's inevitable. Get over it, and just have a good time.
  • RoadID is a great product - it's kind of a like a medic alert anklet for athletes, and it holds a timing chip comfortably, too.
  • Tune in to advice from others about eating, drinking before a race, but in the end, try things out (BEFORE a race) to see what works best for you. People are individuals, and while there are some general rules and guidelines, you'll find, if you experiment, that you have something unique that works best for you.
So, there. Perhaps somebody out there can benefit from my mistakes, er, wisdom.


  1. Great list! Thanks for posting this for us.

  2. You know what, I needed this list like 6 months ago. But I probably wouldn't have clocked to any of it then (I guess I'm a kinesthetic learner).

    Nonetheless, it's really good to have the reminders - thanks!

  3. These are great tips. They would have saved me a ton of head aches when I started. Good luck in the half. I love your attitude!!! You make it sound fun and that's the way it should be.

  4. You tips are terrific and very much appreciated. I will definitely incorporate a number of them.


  5. ok, I especially like the info about the 4% Hydroquinone. How come my doctor never told me I could do anything about the dark patches on my face? grrr

  6. Hey there! I've been WONDERING if I could cut a couple inches off the legs and sleeves of my wetsuit. And I'm always looking for a tri-proof mascara. Let me know if L'Oreal lasts through your Redman 1/2. I've been eyeing that race for another year so I'll be all ears (uh, eyes) for what you think of it.

    I did the Lost Dutchman 1/2 mary, also.

  7. Great tips! The only one I can't use is the one about dropping your triathalon experience into casaul conversation. I live near Boulder, CO and as far as I can tell, there are no non-athletes. If you try this method of self-esteem boost here, it tends to backfire. Me: "Just ran a tri." Coworker: "Cool. I just ran an Ironman, and Bob here just finished the Pikes Peak Climb." Me: (slither off).

  8. Congrats on an AMAZING year! Best of luck as you get ready for your A race -- I can't wait to read about it!

  9. Great list, and what a public service!!

    And while my point of view is different, I agree that few things on earth can compare to the aesthetic perfection of the good running bra. In a non-creepy sort of way. Really.


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