As I grew older, this trait continued until I had kids, when it blossomed into ridiculousness. Now, I am like a neurotic Boy Scout – always over-prepared. I seem to, at all times, have at least one backpack full of stuff, and when the question “dad can I have?” inevitably comes up, the answer is always “yeah, I got that.” Bottled water, band-aids, fruit snacks, electronic devices, extra clothes, porcupine, Windex, somehow I manage to always have it all.
Strangely, I am utterly unprepared for my races. I cannot figure out why. Maybe because the race is not quite real life, maybe all of my preparation and planning time gets replaced by work and family requirements, maybe it is a subconscious plot to give me an excuse for my poor times? Who knows? But boy am I a mess on race day.
Why am I telling you this? Because you should not make the same mistakes as I have. My lack of preparation is pathetic. And, the results, some of which I will share with you, may encourage you to do a little better job than I have.
My first triathlon was somewhat unexpected. Well, that is not entirely true. I signed up for it months ahead of time. But, I did not expect to actually be doing it. And when it got close, I was just going to do it on my mountain bike. Everyone said I would be frustrated as people whizzed by me, so I ended up borrowing a road bike from a neighbor (thanks ED!). Since my previous road bike was a Schwinn 10 speed from 1978, the two whole rides I took before the race probably weren’t quite enough to completely get used to the bike. And boy they were right! Everyone said I needed a wet suit, so I borrowed one of those too. The whole recommendation about figuring out where it might rub and using Body Glide, yeah, that’s legitimate. I don’t know how many layers of skin you can go through before actually exposing your skeleton, but I am pretty sure I was close by the end of the swim.
Bottom line: Get something other than a scuba suit, and figure out where it rubs BEFORE the race!
The tri transition is not as easy as those videos make them out to be. For my first race, I actually intended to practice. I got my bike out in the front lawn, got a bucket full of transition stuff, was ready for the kids to spray me down with the hose so that I could simulate being in a wet-wet suit, but then there was a motorcycle ride and it sounded like a lot of fun. So, I went on the “Friday Fun Run” with my motorcycle buddies and got home way too late to practice the transition. So, what happened? Out of approximately 600 people in the triathlon, my T1 and T2 times were approximately 600th.
Bottom line: Do a practice transition BEFORE the race!
Simply assuming you will remember where you your put bike will not cut it. My first triathlon, I had a plan: I parked the bike and assumed that I would be so much slower than everyone else that when I got out of the water, there would be one bike left: mine. Unfortunately I hadn’t yet learned anything about conserving energy, (now I understand but ignore that idea) and I swam my butt off, and came out of the water in front of some people. Elated to have beaten someone, I dashed over to the sea of bicycles only to realize that I had absolutely no idea where mine was.
Bottom line: figure out where your bike is BEFORE coming out of the water!
I found out in my first triathlon that I get a little dizzy after swimming. So, to my second triathlon I brought a bucket to sit on while I put on my biking shoes. Did I practice or prepare? No. What was the result? I used a bucket that was not nearly strong enough to hold me so when I sat down to put on my shoes, the bucket slowly collapsed under my weight, sending me tumbling to the concrete transition area. Embarrassed, I jumped up and immediately began to put on my shoe while hopping around on one foot, which does not work when you are dizzy, and fell over the other way.
Bottom line: if you use ANY kind of equipment, test is BEFORE the race!
My philosophy on learning the course, I figure I am not going to be first, so there will always be people ahead of me that must know the course and I can simply follow them. But, I learned that is not enough. The CAZ Olympic Triathlon starts with a swim from shore back to shore. That much I knew. So, I simply went out with my wave, followed some, lead some, but was very comfortable that I knew exactly where I was going. I mean, you can see the shore the entire time. So, when we rounded the last buoy and headed back towards our bikes, I kicked it, and hard. I was passing people left and right. As we got closer to the shore, I popped up and looked around and realized that I was alone. Why? The CAZ Olympic Triathlon swim portion is TWO loops. Everyone else took a right turn for the second loop, and I was going straight to the shore, at full speed, now really, really tired.
Bottom line: actually learn the course BEFORE the race!
High tech racing clothes, they work!! And, I’ve always had them right or so I thought, until my wife told me how stupid I looked at the Skinny Man last year wearing orange, red, black, green, and blue.
Bottom line: make sure your clothes don’t clash!
I could go on and on, but then I would just be confirming that I did not prepare enough to say what I needed to say on one page or less. So I’ll just stop here!
PS: The answer, as always, is DUCT TAPE!!!
Ben Rabin, aka “The Bike Lawyer” is a personal injury lawyer representing primarily injured athletes and motorcyclists hurt from accidents caused by others. Coming from a varied athletic background, he found triathlon in 2010 and is hooked!