10 Most Common Triathlon Mistakes

A lot can go wrong when you're training for and racing a triathlon. Some things are out of your control, but other errors are easy to avoid. Here's how

by Courtney Johnson

bike gears

Racing Mistakes

1. Ignoring your bike

You must make sure your bike is given a through checkup before race day.

“The last thing you want is your bike to fail on you mid-race from something that could have been prevented,” says Jim Blakemore from Bikeworks.

“Bikes become worn out during training and therefore need continual maintenance. The more expensive bike you buy the more expensive parts you will have to replace. Many bike shops have a waiting list for services so I think you should drop off your bike two or three weeks before a race, as you’ll then you have your bike to train on and/or become used to new parts and settings,” he says.

Picture credit: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images. 

2. Trying something new on race day

Stick to what you know on race day. Always take the time to train with what you will use on race day so that nothing is unfamiliar. Coming out of the swim with wetsuit chafe, developing blisters from new shoes or discovering your body can’t take in gels at higher heart rates are problems you don’t want on race day.

“Practising your nutrition strategies is very important for triathletes,” says Dr Kevin Currell, Performance Nutritionist, English Institute of Sport, working with British Triathlon. “You need to know how your body, and in particular your stomach, is going to react to different nutrition strategies at race intensity. Practising the strategy will also give you confidence in your plan,” he says. 

3. Unreasonable goals

Setting achievable goals can be a difficult task but can make or break your racing experience.

“I usually have my athletes set A, B and C goals,” says Mike Ricci, head coach with D3 Multisport. “The C goals are the goals they can make on their worst day. The B goals are if they have a good day, and the A goals are the ones that they need to be really firing on all cylinders to reach.

"After a race, an athlete might say, ‘I made my B goal in the swim, and my A goal in the bike and run.’ So instead of them saying, ‘I had a good race but my swim was terrible’, they can now look at the day and see that they reached two out of three goals and that’s a pretty successful day for any triathlete who is racing,” he says. 


4. Not having a plan

It is easy to become caught up in the excitement and adrenalin of race day. Instead of trying to chase every person who passes you on the bike, have a race-day plan and stick to it.

“Before every key race I ask each triathlete to send me a race plan that covers what will happen at key stages of the event,” says Ward. “This includes physiological (heart rate, power, etc), nutrition (what they will be consuming and when) and psychological (what thoughts will be going through their mind and how they prepare to deal with any problems).

"They are encouraged to create a little video in their mind and on race day they will hopefully see the video played out as they planned it. We discuss it in advance to make sure it is realistic and achievable,” he says. Tape your race day plan on your bike or write it on your hand to serve as a reminder. 

5. Poor timekeeping

Traffic jams, lines for body marking and a crowd of racers needing technical support are all common sights at a triathlon. Reaching the race venue in good time will make for a better race than sleeping in for another 15 minutes.

Much like planning your priority race, start with your wave/race start time or when the transition area closes and work backwards to work out how much time you will need. Estimate more time for each task you need to complete before the race. Allow time to thoroughly warm up, to make a mental note of where your bike is racked and to go over your race-day plan. If you have this time, you can set up an organized transition area while getting in a few last calories. 

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