We all hope to be up on the podium at the end of the race, smiling for pictures while holding a heavy trophy. There is winning, and then there is being victorious. Luckily, all triathletes have the opportunity to celebrate the real victories—like remembering all your gear, fast transitions, and getting one good race photo.
1. Remembering all the “stuff”: With over 20 pieces of equipment ranging from a bike to anti-fog wipes, forgetting something is an easy task. To check this off at the end of the day, make a list of all the items you need and set them out the night before.
2. Surviving the swim: Elbows are flying, feet are fluttering, and finding personal space to swim is like finding $20 in a pair of jeans—exciting, but rare. My goal is just to get out of the water with my goggles and dignity in place.
3. Taking it all off: Just as you have to remember to put everything on, you have to remember to take it off. I have biked 11 miles with my goggles around my neck and seen others take off for the run with their helmet on. Just take what you need for each event unless you literally plan to aquabike.
4. No GI issues: For shorter races, making it to the finish line without a pit stop is probable, but for longer distances, it is unavoidable. The longer the race, the higher the chances for GI issues—from stomach sloshing to gut cramps. Practice your nutrition, just as you practice everything else.
5. Flat free: If there is one thing that can ruin a good race day, it is getting a flat. Watch for debris on the road, carry your bike to transition to avoid sticker burrs, and inflate your tires to the appropriate pressure for the race conditions. If you make it to the bike dismount without a flat, you should thank the bike gods.
6. Avoiding the draft: USAT rules state that you have to keep three bike lengths between cyclists. Easier said than done, especially if the course is crowded or you had a late swim start. The integrity of the sport is left up to the athletes following the rules—so, keep your distance, but enjoy the ride.
7. Saying “on your left”: I have heard this more times than I can count, but the moment I get to say “on your left”, I smile a little. Enough said.
8. Nailing a flying dismount: The dismount line is coming up quickly, and you have been practicing your flying dismount for weeks. All you have to do is take your feet out of your cleats and swing your leg over to one side, while maintaining balance and runoff. Landing a plane might be easier, but if you nail this move without falling or hitting anyone else, you should celebrate this triumph.
9. Finding your shoes: Once you dismount and hobble into transition, a wave of panic hits—you have no idea where you racked. I have spent valuable time looking for what I thought was a “unique” towel to find my shoes. To avoid this, count the racks from the swim in and the bike in, and walk it a few times to create a mental map.
10. Fast transition time: They say that triathlon is really four sports: swim, bike, run, and transitions. Just like a dance, there are steps to follow—make sure you know your steps. If you get it right, you might even have time to do a victory dance.
11. Finishers photos you want to buy: You are sweating, your legs are heavy, your heart rate is high, and the last thing you are thinking about is sucking in your gut and putting on a smile. Most of my finisher’s photos look like something out of “The Walking Dead.”
12. Walking away injury free: All races do their best to keep us safe from crashes, heat exhaustion, and other injuries—but, sometimes it is unavoidable. When you finish a race feeling good, celebrate your health, and give back to others by cheering them on as they finish.