The Tri Newbie Chronicles: What I Learned From My First Triathlon

Hi everyone!  Now that my very first triathlon is over, I wanted to share some things that I learned from finishing my first tri.  Doing a “first” of any type of race is hard, but my first triathlon was definitely my most challenging “first” because it had so many different parts to try to prepare for, and on race day I was shocked by how hard a full triathlon really is!  Here’s what I learned from completing my first triathlon:


You might be able to do each part of the tri just fine, but putting all 3 together is a totally different story.  I had swam 10 laps, biked 12 miles, and walked 4 miles many times before race day so I thought I was ready for it.  It turns out that those tired feelings I felt after each workout were going to be amplified on race day!  I was absolutely shocked in T1 when I realized that my legs were actually tired already from the swim.  Which clearly means I need to work on my swim stroke more, but it also meant that I was tired way faster that I thought I’d be.  And don’t even get me started on how awful walking was after that bike ride.  I only did a few brick workouts but I would recommend doing as much as possible in training!

Race weather is so unpredictable, so plan for everything!  I thought I knew this from my years of running races, but it was a shock to me to go from training in cloudy, 50 degree weather conditions to sunny and almost 80 degrees on race day.  I changed up my hydration plan to include my handheld water bottle for the run portion, and I applied sunscreen to my entire body (not my face) before the pool swim and then used a sunscreen stick on my face and ears in T1.  Both methods worked really well, but unfortunately the heat really got to me on the bike and run portions of the race.  It left me wondering how much faster (and how much better I’d have felt after the race) if it would have been normal weather conditions, but at least it didn’t snow like it did a few years ago!

img_1583All smiles while waiting on deck for my number to be called!

Checking out the scary parts of the course before race day makes the race a lot less stressful.  I was terrified about the swim portion, so I attended a first time racer clinic at the pool a few weeks before the race to get a tour of the area and learn more about the ins and outs of race day.  I was also scared of the bike course (hills and moose!) so I rode half of it a few times with friends (the other half was on a road and we did not feel comfortable trying it out without traffic being closed).  It was so helpful learning where I’d be on race day and how I’d logistically make it from start to finish.

Anything can happen on race day.  Literally.  But it leads to good stories!  I’d been a stressed out mess worrying about moose and bears on the run and bike portions of the course, and everyone kept telling me it would be fine.  As we drove up to the race location I saw a moose running down the bike trail going away from the race section!  He wasn’t on the course but clearly was way too close for my comfort.  I thought that was the only wildlife sighting of the day until I saw this video of some runners earlier in the race dealing with a momma bear and her two cubs!  #alaskaproblems

img_1619Running out of T1!

Triathlons are much more of a solo sport than running.  Right before I started the race I ran into so many people that I knew, and it made the first half of my day exciting and fun.  But once the race started I was all alone for hours.  Our bib numbers were all slightly different, which meant that while my friends were on deck for a pool swim I was still cheering them on from the bleachers.  And it’s not like you can swim in a pool or bike with a friend on race day.  I was hoping I’d find another walker on the run portion of the course, but I was all alone out there (well, except for bears apparently).  I have run races with friends before and loved it, but this was a totally different experience and it made me wish that me and my friends could have started together.

If you’re a newbie, ask lots of questions and learn from your fellow racers.  If I hadn’t joined the Gold Nugget Tri Facebook page or asked my GNT alumns for tips and tricks, I would have had a way worse experience at this race.  Seemingly “little” things like knowing where the indoor bathrooms were on race day, bringing a bucket to store my T1 gear in overnight (and to sit on while putting on shoes!), and learning how to pick a pool lane were seriously game changers on race day.  If there’s a Facebook group for your race, join it!  If there are new racer clinics or course previews, go to them!  And if you have a friend who has done the race before, use them as a resource for learning everything you can about the race.  My friends are what made this race so much better than it would have been on my own and I can’t thank them enough!

Overall, I had a great experience at my first tri even though I was a total newbie!  If you’re worried about doing your first triathlon, don’t be!  It’s such an amazing experience and with a bit of preparation you’ll be all ready for race day!  Good luck!

Tri Newbie Chronicles

What did you learn from your first triathlon?  What tips would you suggest to a tri newbie?

6 thoughts on “The Tri Newbie Chronicles: What I Learned From My First Triathlon

  1. Congrats again, and great advice! If I were that bear, I wouldn’t mess with the triathletes–that’s one intense bunch ;D But they do have snacks… so I can see the allure for the bear.

    1. Thank you! And I totally agree with all of your bear thoughts 🙂 Although why would a bear want a Gu when it could eat meat?

  2. I totally can’t wait for my first tri. This gets me so excited! Congrats on your finish! Sounds like you had a great time!

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