Musings of a First-Time Triathlete

Today’s guest blogger is TriForcer Daniel “Monzy” Aminzade.  When I started coaching Monzy our first big goal was for him to qualify for the Boston Marathon at the NYC Marathon (which he did!).  Having conquered that goal, he set his sights on doing his first triathlon.  Rather than signing up for the local sprint tri, the indomitable Monzy signed up for one of the toughest HIM races around– Wildflower Long Course.  Here he provides his entertaining perspective on race day.

Triathlons are complicated.

I had so many tiny details to fret over, like how to properly arrange my transition area: sunglasses oriented lens-down inside aero helmet, helmet balanced delicately on aerobars with straps hanging open, shoes facing outward on towel with visor and number-bib on top, elastic shoelaces trimmed and tightened to a comfortable tension, bicycle shoes clipped to pedals with velcro straps open, secured in place with rubber bands… an overwhelming profusion of minutiae occupied my brain.

Surely I was forgetting something. Perhaps one of the many substances I was supposed to spray or lather on my body to keep it burn- and chafe-free. Sunscreen and lip balm on face? Band-Aids on nipples? Body glide on shoes, to keep my toes blister-free? TriSlide lubricant on ankles and wrists, for rapid wetsuit removal? Chamois butter on undercarriage, to prevent saddle sores? Electrode gel on the contacts of my heartrate monitor, to ensure a reliable reading? Check, check, check, check, check, and check.

What about my nutrition? Unwrapped Powerbars precut into bite-size pieces in my fuel bag? Roctane packs in my running belt? Water in my Aerodrink? Concentrated custom cocktail of Accelerade and Zym Catapult in my down-tube bottle?

And then there were the electronics! Was my Powertap hub paired with my Edge 800? Was my cadence sensor aligned with the spoke magnet? Had my 910XT discovered my heartrate monitor, or was I looking at someone else’s heart rate? Did I clip the footpod onto my running shoes in the correct orientation? When would my wristwatch finish acquiring GPS satellites? Had I set auto-lap to one mile, and turned off alerts? And was this timing chip supposed to strap around my left or right ankle?

Triathlons are complicated.

What was I supposed to do with all of these stickers they gave me at registraion? I peered at the people around me who exuded an “experienced triathlete” air. Hmm… looks like two small stickers on the helmet and a big one on the bike. But wait, wouldn’t this big flapping sticker interfere with the streamlined aerodynamic bicycle profile with which triathletes seem so obsessed? I can’t have this sticker costing me precious seconds! Let’s find the most expensive-looking bike on the rack and see how its sticker is attached. It appears the sticker is wrapped around the seat tube, but my seat tube is too narrow for this giant sticker. Guess I’ll rip off the excess parts of the sticker to make it fit. Oh crap, this stupid sticker is plasticy and difficult to rip, and now there are plastic strands trailing out from its jagged torn edges. Mental note: add scissors and electrical tape to my two-page gear checklist for next time.

Pow! The bottle on my down-tube explodes open, showering the asphalt with blue liquid. “Oops,” I mutter sheepishly to the competitors around me, “I didn’t realize those Zym tablets were effervescent.” Quick, dump in another scoop of powdered mix, but this time leave the bottle spout open. Second mental reminder: close the bottle spout in T1, and use a non-carbonated source of caffeine next time.

Did I mention that triathlons are complicated?

With my gear in order, I recite all of the little tips I tried to absorb over the past few months, while hanging out with people who seemed to live and breathe triathlon. Put your bike in low gear before racking it. Check the brake clearance and tire pressure. Goggle straps under the swim cap so the goggles don’t get kicked off. Don’t be intimidated by the other swimmers, don’t panic, and don’t go anaerobic. Sight using the most distant buoys. Walk up the ramp at the end of the swim. Remove your swim gear in the proper order (goggles and cap first, so they lodge inside the sleeve of your wetsuit as your strip it off). Lock your Garmin (Mode + Up) when removing aforementioned wetsuit, so as not to accidentally trigger a button press. Real triathletes don’t wear bicycling gloves. Flying mount. Restrain yourself on the first bike climb. Stay aero. Watch your power. High cadence, engage the glutes, don’t trash the quads before the run. Relax and stretch on the downhills, nutrition on the uphills. Port-o-potties are for losers; winners pee their Spandex shorts. Feet out of shoes early for the flying dismount. Socks are a waste of time. Quick stride rate. Acute elbow bend. Midfoot strike. Watch your heart rate and stay hydrated. Gatorade is shit, but you may have to drink it anyway.

When you tell your friends that you have brazenly decided to tackle a notoriously hilly half-IM-distance course for your first-ever triathlon, they don’t typically ask you about any of these niggling little details. Nobody asked me what brand of tri top I would be be wearing, how many CO2 cartidges I would stash under my saddle, or whether I planned to install plastic covers on my rear wheel. Nobody inquired about my planned calorie intake, my wattage caps, or my heart rate zones. Instead, people would focus on the big picture. “That sounds really hard,” they’d say. “Are you actually physically prepared for an ordeal like that?”

That question I could answer with a confident and unequivocal “yes.”

Why? Because I’m a TriForcer. I had been following Coach Coady’s training plan for nearly a year, and if Coach Coady said I was ready, then I was ready.

Monzy demonstrating how to double the efficiency of your post race hydration.

There are plenty of things to worry about on race day. But despite the cavalcade of nagging anxieties enumerated above, not once was I concerned about my level of fitness or my ability to finish the race in a time I could be proud of. Maybe I would get kicked in the face a few times, swim off course, get a flat tire, disengage my bike chain, drop my water bottle, or trip on a tree branch. But I knew that whatever happened, I would swim, bike, and run like a champ.

Triathlons are complicated. Get a good coach, so you have the luxury of sweating the small stuff.

Monzy finished Wildflower Long Course in 5:25, overcoming the perils of exploding drinks and oversized bike stickers.  Not too shabby for a first time triathlete!

About Coady

Lucky to be coaching some really awesome & fun people!
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