I've always been an active and competitive person. I've had the opportunity to practice just about every sport, from waterskiing and taekwondo to basketball and tennis, and to be honest, I'm good at almost every single one of them —except soccer... I'm pretty bad at it— so, a few months ago when I was convinced by some friends to do my first triathlon I was really self-confident.
I used to go to the gym 5 times a week but no cardio was involved whatsoever. So with 7 weeks to prepare, I started to add some running, swimming and biking sessions to my gym routines. I'd run for 40 minutes two times a week, swim 1.5 km two times a week, and bike about 30 km two times a week.
I started studying everything there is to know about triathlons, from the very basics to the details. I'd spend hours watching videos about tips and tricks, and people recording they're own first triathlons. I thought I was completely prepared! Turns out, there are some things my research never showed.
These are the 4 things NO-ONE tells you about when doing your first triathlon:
1) It's not a competition, not even with yourself
It's your first triathlon! Even though you feel like it, you are not prepared for the feeling of 50 people swimming around you and probably kicking you in the face! Now, I'm not trying to scare you... but it is a possibility. You'll be "competing" against people who do this for a living and if you're as competitive as I am —believe me— you'll feel the pressure. DO NOT fall into this trap, you'll burn yourself out pretty quickly and you won't be able to enjoy the experience!
You've never done a triathlon before, so competing with yourself shouldn't even be an option! Focus on your technique, breathing, and rhythm, not on your times.
2) It's expensive!
There are quite a few things you need for a triathlon, and most of them are considerably expensive. If you're lucky, you'll find some friend who can lend you some of the necessary gear. I really recommend this for your first triathlon as you don't know if you'll actually like the sport. So you should avoid any unnecessary expenses. Nevertheless, you'll probably need to buy some of the gear like a tri suit, goggles and a good pair of running shoes to make sure you're completely comfortable with them on every sport.
3) Go easy on energy gels!
"You should definitely carry some energy gels." —Most People
You'll probably hear lots of different things about the legendary energy gels. If you're like me and you have never had any energy gels during your races before, then listen. Energy gels are a great way to get some carbs into your body after some time of non-stopping physical activity, still, they're not completely necessary (I didn't need any on my first triathlon).
Of course, through training, you'll start to have an idea about how your body reacts to a certain amount of exercise and you'll be able to better decide if you need gels for your first triathlon or not. Either way, keep this in mind: Energy gels can be tough on your stomach so make sure to try different brands and even flavors during your training sessions and see how your body reacts to them before you go on and take them during your triathlon and feel sick for what's left!
4) Triathlon atmosphere is the absolute BEST!
Competitions can be pretty intimidating, especially when you've never done it before. But rest assured that you'll have a great time before, during and after the race just by feeling the good vibes everyone's got on race day! And I'm not just talking about other racers, but spectators are a great asset to the fun and motivation you'll get!