How to Prepare Yourself for a Triathlon: What You May Not Think About!

Picture this: you are at your triathlon.

That favorite race. The one you’ve trained hard for; the one you’ve prepared for. The one you have dreamt about for months, and now, it’s here. You’re excited. You’re nervous, but you feel ready.

That is exactly how I felt as I entered transition of this particular race. It looked like all other races, with the buoys lined up in the water, and all the bikes neatly lined up waiting for their respective athletes. My closest friends were going to be volunteering during the event, and I was excited. I loved knowing they were there helping other athletes and cheering me on.

This particular event was designed around a local carnival, which I thought was a neat spin. It wasn’t just a race anymore. It was now an event designed around athletes and families alike.

The swim went off without a hitch and it went by like a blur. I felt good and fast.

How rare is that??

As I entered transition, I was hustling through the motions. My wetsuit is off and my helmet is on. With sunglasses sliding into place, it’s now time to unhook the bike from the bar and rolllll… wait a sec, where is the exit?! Did I make a wrong turn? I swear it was this way. Just roll out to the left and a quick right and the exit should be right here, but it wasn’t! It was just more and more gates. The voice in my head said "Relax buddy, just turn back around and go back the other way."

So I start heading back the other way and as I go, I look for a volunteer to help me out of this maze. I don’t see a volunteer right away and I’m almost to the other side of the transition area and THERE IS NO EXIT??!!! How can this be? I’m starting to get upset. My head is thinking a mile a minute. This hasn’t happened to me before! How the heck is this possible? Why can’t I find my way out and why can’t I find someone to help me? I know I’m off course at this point because now I find myself in an enclosure near the carnival rides. At this point, I’m freaking out. I ask a person who looks like a volunteer and he tells me to keep going the way I’m heading and it’ll be okay. I’m thinking this can’t be right, but I have to try it. As I reach the end of the enclosure, I realize it’s a dead end and now I’m seething. What is wrong with this place?!?! How do I get out of here?!?!

Just then I find my friends… "THANK GOD YOU’RE HERE!!” I yell out to them. “I’m freaking out and don’t know how to get out of this place.” “Tell me which way to go!”

They look at me blankly. Then they look at each other and then back at me. “Uh well we’re going to have to check cause we’re not sure," they said.

My signature eye roll escapes me as they pull a radio from their back pocket and attempt to reach a race official over all the noise of the rides, the crowd, and the static off the radio… No answer. There is no composure at this point. I’m like an overtired child I’m stomping up and down in my bike shoes screaming. “How can this be happening to me?!?!” “How is this race so disorganized?” “How on earth does no one no how to get out of here including me???”

Just then something brushes up against my side and it’s fuzzy. I whip a look to my right and that’s when I realize I’m looking through my eyelids. My eyes creak open to see my cat.

I realize now this is all a dream. I’m dreaming. I had a triathlete nightmare. One that is making me clench my jaw and my hands so tightly I’m surprised I don’t have a headache. A nightmare so real that I truly felt confused and frustrated and compelled to tell you about it today. It’s not because this dream is so remarkable, in fact, you may have had a similar one yourself. I think it’s important because of the lessons it can provide us when it comes to our real race day!

Below are 3 key points to be mindful of so that your transitions are much less stressful.


1. Get a lay of the land

Simply put, make sure you know the entrance and exit of transition. I know that sounds easy, but think about it. You have an entry into a transition area in the morning that allows you to bring in your bike and gear before the start of the race, but is that going to be the same way you exit to start your bike? The swim in and out are going to be in separate areas and run in and out may be different, too. In some races, it is the same and in others it isn’t, so make sure you take note of your location within transition and how it is relative to the ins and outs of transition. 


2. Get your bearings

Walk the transition area before lining up for the swim. Count off what row your bike is in both coming and going because they are seldom the same. Look for landmarks to clue you into which row to turn down, etc. Many races have started to mark each row with a range of athlete numbers which eliminates most of the guesswork. 


3. Meet the crew that’s there for you!

Transitions are getting better organized and are usually well marked. But if you do have any questions, don’t forget that you have volunteers and race officials nearby to help you make it through. So say "HI" and don’t forget to thank them for supporting you throughout your special day!

With those points in mind, you'll surely be prepared for whatever the race throws at you! 

Know the course, know the transitions and meet the crew. 

Good luck out there, and don't let your nightmares scare you! 

By: Jim Heller

After entering my first sprint triathlon in 2008, I was hooked and haven’t looked back. There have been many adventures since that day; including 8 half and 3 full Ironman distances. With so much training and racing, one tends to have a few stories to tell. Though far from an expert, I do get to mentor newbies from time to time which I really enjoy. Maybe one day I will make it all official and become a coach. In the meantime, you’re stuck with a triathlon age grouper that’s fueled by Coca-Cola. I hope that my experiences can provide some insights and entertainment for you!