1. Safety always comes first.
With record setting temps all weekend and a heat index of 112 on Saturday it was hardly a good idea to be out doing strenuous activity. Around 50 people didn't finish the race because of the heat and three people were even taken to the hospital. Nine people in the state of Maryland died due to heat related illness. Yes, I would have loved to race my heart out on Saturday. No, it was not a smart idea when my body is nowhere near acclimated to that kind of heat. There will always be other races.
2. It is okay to walk.
Along those same lines, it is perfectly okay to walk when you need to. I was embarrassed when I first started walking because I thought it meant I was a quitter. Then I looked around and saw that nearly every athlete in sight was also walking. I absolutely hated walking but given the circumstances it was the right thing to do and I am no longer embarrassed by it. I'm just proud that I finished.
3. Don't be intimidated by all the people with fancy gear.
When my dad and I first pulled into the parking lot all I saw were athletes with really nice tri bikes. I instantly felt inadequate, like I didn't belong there. Not only do I not have a tri bike, but I don't even have a road bike;I have a hybrid. I am saving up to get a nicer bike but besides the bikes the majority of the people there had fancy, expensive gear. As the day went on I realized that I am as much of an athlete as everyone else despite my lack of a couple thousand dollar bike.
So many nice bikes!
4. Make a small rip in nutrition so it is easier to open while riding.
My hands were wet from the swim and then sweaty from the heat, which made ripping open my honey stinger waffles nearly impossible. I tried using my teeth but had no luck. Note: this only works for more solid nutrition options. Don't do this with a gel or you will have a sticky mess everywhere.
5. Start at the beginning of the swim pack.
I tried to start middle to front of the pack but ended up having to pass a lot of people. I am a strong swimmer and need to take advantage of my swimming background. This is the one place in a triathlon where I am one of the fastest. Time to own it.
6. Wear a tri top or a bike jersey without a sports bra built in.
I swam in a two-piece training bikini top and then put on my bike jersey during transition. The problem was that since I was wet the shirt rolled up and took forever to put on. The built-in sports bra only made things worse. I ordered a tri top a few days ago so hopefully I can just swim in my tri top and shorts and not worry about clothes during transition.
7. I suck at transitions.
Speaking of transitions, mine are awful. Like slowest ever. I set my transition up well but there are still things I can do to cut down on my times, like putting my hair into a ponytail before the swim, wearing a tri top, skipping socks, and speed laces.
8. Bricks are an absolute must in triathlon training.
I only did a handful of bricks during training and had I not been forced to walk a lot of the run due to the heat I probably would have struggled on the run regardless. Running with fresh legs and running after biking are two completely different things. Practice accordingly.
9. Always expect more hills.
I thought the bike and run courses were supposed to be flat. Nope. There were quite a few hills during the beginning of the bike and the run was mostly hills. I can handle hills on the run but the hills on the bike really took a lot out of my legs. Hills are no joke and need to be practiced if I ever want to get better.
10. Put sunscreen even in the places you don't expect to need it.
I sprayed my chest, arms, and legs with sunscreen before the swim and that was it. During the run when I felt like I was baking out in the sun I wanted to take my jersey off and just run in my bathing suit but I hadn't sprayed my stomach or back. I am the type of person who burns extremely easily so that was not an option. A quick two minute spray would have probably helped keep me cool on the run.