My first sprint triathlon was on May 6, 2007, in Key Biscayne, Florida. I have been training for it since January 8, 2007. That was a Monday, and it was the day after I saw my wife run the Disney Marathon (also her first). I never thought I'd find motivation from watching a marathon. I was 275 lbs (at 5'8"), and had seriously let my health and fitness slide over the years. After watching my wife get up to run day after day leading up to finishing her first marathon within her goal time, I decided it was time. I couldn't believe how impressed I was with what she accomplished. I chose triathlon because I have usually focused on one sport in the past, and when that grew stale, I'd stop training. My thinking was that with three events, I could vary my training enough that it wouldn't grow stale prior to seeing positive results and finding the additional motivation I needed to continue training. That has proven to be exactly the case. Today, I am 213 lbs. and a triathlete. The Tri-Miami race taught me so many things about triathletes:
Early packet pickup is crucial. Get it early and get it over with.
Attach you numbers to your helmet, bike and running belt.
Also, if you forget anything, a lot of times the packet pickup is at a triathlon, running, or cycling store, so you can buy anything you may have forgotten to pack.
When it comes to diet, carb loading doesn't have to be a focus for a sprint triathlon. Stick with your diet and increase carbs some, but not too much. You'll be nervous enough at the race—the last thing you need is to feel bloated from overeating.
Fluids must be monitored, even in a race of this distance.
I went to the venue the day before. I helped with the setup, met the race director and learned the course. That was huge. Then I walked through the transition areas, learned the entry/exit points, and found my bike rack. I looked at where I wanted my bike and how I would set up for transitions. I learned so much by going to the race location the day before, I will do this at every race.
On the day of the race, I put my bike in the rack first and setup for my transitions. Then, I went to body marking. BIG MISTAKE! After being marked, I went to get my timing chip only to find that mine was lost. I had to stand in the registration line, have a new number issued, and change my race numbers. Then I went back to body marking to have the old numbers scratched out and new numbers applied. I looked like a baseball box score by the time it was done. That was a headache I hadn't prepared for.
When the race started, I watched the elites and age groups go out. I watched what line I thought would serve me the best without getting beaten up in the swim. I walked up to the announcer and stood there listening to the race officials talk about events, concerns, and issues. I learned a lot about what to avoid. When my division was called, I was ready, and reminded myself to stay calm and swim my own race. I tested my goggles, got into the water, and swam before getting on the starting line.
When the swim started, it was chaos in the water. I tried to swim my line, but I wasn't spotting the buoys well and didn't swim a straight line. I came out of the water and ran to the transition. In transition, I found someone was nice enough to put their gym bag and shoes on my towel and gear. My transition time was very slow.
I got out on the bike and started off. I was far too cautious early on the bike. I didn't attack the course. Riding etiquette didn't seem to apply. Bikes were passing on the right and drafting everywhere, and some road construction didn't help. It was out and back, and the return leg was far more efficient and fast.
I read somewhere about pedaling backwards two or three rotations just prior to transition as a way to prepare your legs for the change. I tried it. I don't know if it helped, but the transition went smoothly. I got out on the run, having little difficulty with my legs adjusting from cycling to running. At about the 1 mile mark, I realized how hot it was. Shortly thereafter, I also realized that I was not sweating. Yikes, I screwed up my fluid intake, and mile two seemed like 10 miles. I walked through the water station and focused on pushing some fluids (Accelerade). That helped a lot, and the last mile went smoothly.
Well, that was my first sprint triathlon. My second is in three weeks, and I can't believe how much I’ve learned. I'm sure I share the sentiment of many others when I say that if I can do it, anyone can. It doesn’t matter what shape you're in when you start working out, it only matters that you continue to get out there and work a little harder tomorrow than you did today. Everything else will work itself out.