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By LifeSport Athlete Mandy DiMarzo

July 7,2014(ISN) – To a newbie like me, this thing called a triathlon can be a bit overwhelming. Here’s the problem: you’ve always got a million triathlon ‘know it alls’ telling you what to do from start to finish.

It is unlike any sport I have ever participated in. Maybe that’s because it’s multi-dimensional: you’ve got the swimmers telling you how to swim, bikers telling you how to bike, and runners telling you how to pace. There’s so much advice on what to do out there that it’s pretty common to be pulled in a million different directions!

There are opinions on such things as: which races to enter, which bikes to buy, which wetsuits are most buoyant and which helmets are the most aero. And there is advice on which gels are most GI friendly, which tires to throw on which bike and which bike fitter to fit you on that bike. While on the topic of bikes there is which bike seat is most forgiving on your Hoo Haa, and which Hoo Haa gels prevent the chafing (by the way, what the heck is chafing?). And the bigger question is, why am I doing this again?? 

While you are inundated with advice on all the things you should do-all coming from great places, and most likely from fellow triathletes that hope you get bitten by the bug as they have because they love the sport so much-it can definitely be overwhelming.

I don’t know about you, but the best life lessons I have learned in my life are not “what to do,” but actually “what not to do.” 

I only realized you shouldn’t touch a hot stove when I touched one; you only have to do it once to know it’s not a good idea. I learned that speed limits aren’t just suggestions and going 10 mph over the posted 55mph in Connecticut is still considered speeding and yes, you still get a ticket. I learned these life lessons not because of what I did right, but what I did wrong. Allow me to put this life lesson spin on triathlon. This will be quite easy for me seeing that all I will be doing here is simply describing my first triathlon race! This will surely go down as an experience I will never forget (though at times, wish I could).

The day before the race, my coach simply said this: “Mandy, it’s your first race. Make some mistakes, learn from them. You won’t have a perfect race but it’s in the imperfect that we will perfect your race. Have fun and remember to smile.”

Well, as with everything related to sports, I am a bit of a perfectionist, so I’d like to think I was simply following my coaches’ orders. Little did I realize only 1 or 2 mistakes was what he was expecting, and so my idea was born for ‘A Dummies’ Guide Of What NOT To Do in a Triathlon’. Please note that I am not merely spinning a tale, but this is a true story of just a few of the mistakes I made in my first triathlon. 

  1. Make sure you know how to get to the start of the race and where there is parking if you drive yourself. Probably not the best idea to type the race venue into your Garmin when you get in your car the morning of. Imagine typing in just one word incorrectly, like “Road” instead of “Avenue” and it re-routes you to the next town over. By the time you realize you are in the wrong zip code, your heart rate is already in a zone 4. I am  talking from experience here…
  2. Make sure you don’t put your wetsuit on inside out. Let’s just pause here for a moment…Yes, this can happen, and yes this did happen. True Story. Luckily, three of my competitors helped me pull it off, turn it the right way out and stuff me back in. In most sports, your competition wouldn’t be helping you with your equipment five minutes prior to the race, but am pretty sure these three knew that an inside out wetsuit was a surefire guarantee I wouldn’t be their toughest competition.
  3. Make sure you don’t sit around before the start of the race, but run beforehand. No, it does NOT save energy by watching others run while you admire their gaits. Running beforehand gets the blood flowing and opens up your blood vessels providing more oxygen to your muscles. Not running beforehand has actually been proven to kill brain cells.
  4. Make sure the breakfast you eat the day of the race is not brand new and is one you have had before. I don’t care if the hotel you are staying at is offering an all you can eat buffet…consistency here is key. If not, the only thing consistent in your race will be trips to the port-a-potty.
  5. Make sure when you get your bike tuned up at your bike shop that you test it out weeks before the race. Okay, days before the race. Okay, hours before the race. Okay, minutes before the race. Before the freaking race! Biking an entire race with only your big chain ring working on a hilly course isn’t what you’d call ideal.
  6. Make sure you don’t talk to family members during transitions. This isn’t the time for a photo op, Tweet, Text, or Selfie. Save that for after the race. They are there to support you, not be on the receiving end of every expletive you can think of describing how you are feeling! 

And after all is said and done, I did exactly as my coach instructed: I smiled, I laughed, I lived, and yes, I signed up for another triathlon. If nothing else, this time I will be sure to be wearing my wetsuit correctly with the fast side out. 

Coach’s  Note: Despite Mandy’s adventures in her first triathlon, she did a great job in learning from her mistakes and managed to qualify for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in her 2nd race at the Syracuse 70.3. Congratulations Mandy!

Mandy is coached by LifeSport head coach Lance Watson. Lance has coached a number of Olympians, Ironman and Age Group champions. He enjoys coaching athletes of all ages and abilities who are passionate about sport and personal excellence.  Join Lance to tackle your first triathlon or perform at a higher level.