Wednesday, January 28, 2009

10 Do's and Don't's for Your First Road Triathlon

Sidelined from running due to continuous hambutt rage, I had the pleasure of cheering for some friends at the Hermosa Beach triathlon yesterday. The race, proclaimed the announcer, had 40% beginner participants--and it showed. But it didn't have to!

Hermosa Beach TriHermosa Beach Tri

While it's true a baggy outfit and a mountain bike might give your newbie status away, these are not egregious errors. In fact, at a race like the Hermosa Beach triathlon, athletes wearing tri suits and aero helmets who are riding carbon fiber beasts with disc wheels are the minority, and look fairly ridiculous.

These guys, however, rarely make the following mistakes that would embarrass them--or even get them disqualified, a fate more embarrassing than the error committed in the first place.

1. DO NOT deck change. There is no need to wrap a towel around your waist and get butt naked in front of thousands of people to change out of your bathing suit and into your underwear. Slap some nylon pants over your suit if you don't want your thighs on display and get to it! (A lot more might be on display if that towel drops!)

Deck change (Do NOT do this!)

2. DO NOT wear tighty whities under your spandex shorts. You may think its strange not to wear underwear, but everyone else thinks its stranger to see your Hanes waistband bunched up cotton sticking out of your wet tri shorts. That can't be comfortable, or sanitary.

Tighty Whitites(Do NOT wear these!)

3. DO wear your helmet. You must have it buckled before you leave transition. If you do not, someone like coachubby might yell at you as you make your way out of transition, and you will have to take the ride of shame back to transition to get it (or get automatically DQed in a non-newbie friendly race...the Hermosa Beach tri is a bit scatterbrained organizationally, so your error might go unpenalized.)

4. DO NOT wear your helmet backwards. I wish I had a camera to take a picture of the girl with the adjustable part of her helmet slapped across her forehead. At least she remembered to put her helmet on!

Helmet on backwards (Do NOT do this!)

5. DO NOT run with your helmet. The man who crossed the finish line with his helmet in hand either was paranoid it would be stolen out of transition, or was so used to running with an iPod in his hand that he needed something to replace it. (iPods are illegal in triathlons!) Or he forgot to take it off of his head. So don't forget to take your helmet off before you run, unless you're tremendously accident prone.

6. DO ride to the right. Unless you're passing. If you don't, a spectacular collision with that show-off who's riding a carbon fiber, disc-wheeled rig awaits you. Especially at the Hermosa tri, where athletes are constantly siphoning onto the very narrow bike course, and crossing to exit all at the same intersection. Pay attention!

7. DO NOT be afraid to weld your own aerobars. One creative participant fashioned some spectacularly enormous aerobars that had him sitting straight up while keeping his arms in the aero position. Whatever's going to work for you and motivate you to do the race, do it! Unconventional? Yes. Ingenuity points? Definitely.

8. DO shout "On your left!" when passing. Its true that many newbie cyclists will then look left to see you and subsequently steer their bike that way. But it's courteous to let them know you're going to bomb by so they can brace themselves for the powerful gust of wind you'll surely create.

9. DO sprint to the finish. Especially if an opponent is running along side you. It's fun for spectators, and you never know if that other athlete is all that's separating you from a podium finish!

Triathlon Sprint finish

10. DO NOT knock anyone over in your sprint finish. Instead of making an exciting finish, you'll just look like a turd. If you two can't squeeze down the chute side by side, surge ahead, or make a flying leap for the finish line. A jazzy finish will make the crowd go wild.

Chrissie Wellington (DO be like Chrissie Wellington!)

Have fun and don't worry too much! If you keep your wits about you and don't let race day jitters take over, you'll surely have a great first race!

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