A reminder: We were all beginners at one point in our triathlon journeys.
I think some triathletes forget that they were ever beginners. I can be on a race course and experience such bad behavior sometimes that I have to stop and think: “Did that guy ever have a first race?” I mean, the impatience, intolerance and attitude of “get out of my way” is so crazy, so inhuman sometimes. All triathletes, at some point, were beginners—a fact that is often lost on seasoned athletes. True, some of us are much faster, much more talented than other races from the outset. But the reality? We were all, once upon a time, beginners.
“Newbie Right Here!” Sometimes newbies need to have a sign on their back. Most of the time newbies don’t need a sign, though. We all know who the newbies are. BUT, here’s the thing. Again—we were ALL newbies at one point. As a newbie triathlete, the first step in getting to triathlon is embracing that you will do stupid things and don’t worry about how you look. You might wear your helmet backwards (get that straight, ASAP, though!) You will swim in the wrong direction. You will feel naked the first time your run in that tri suit. You will fall off your bike at intersections, trying to unwind yourself from your clipless pedals. Then you will fall off your bike approximately sixteen thousand more times. Embrace the embarrassing moments. You will get better. Don’t give up. Just accept that everyone else knows you are new, and remind them, if it gets hairy—that they too were new once.
Study Triathlon. Like it’s your job. Okay, not really. BUT learn the rules and the etiquette of the three sports. You will still make dumb moves and do embarrassing things, but you can certainly semi-save yourself with some reading, some dedication and some research. Take advantage of the endless triathlon resources in books, magazines and online media. Before your race, absorb the race packet, read every single word the race director sends you, and follow the rules on race day. Be prepared mentally, and it will translate to fewer embarrassing (not to mention, dangerous) mistakes.
Swim. Bike. Run. Repeat. You must do these things, and semi-often. Then you must put them together in a row in a race—that’s called triathlon. If you only swim twice a year, bike never and run occasionally, you are asking for the race to be a series of embarrassing moments. You will fall down on the race course and you might stay there. Swim, bike and run often—you will thank yourself on race day—and enjoy the process much more.
Be a Mental Giant. Be aware that, as a beginner, you will get your feelings hurt. Someone will inevitably make a comment that stings. For me, it was someone inadvertently stating, “Oh em gee, I am so slow!” Then I saw they crushed my race time by hours. Remember to keep a strong heart and an even stronger determination. You have no reason to be embarrassed when you are putting forth your best effort.
Enjoy the Process. One day you will look back and laugh at your newbie chronicles. Yes, you really will. Don’t forget in your quest to whatever triathlon things you dream, to take a breath and appreciate the journey.
Meredith Atwood (@SwimBikeMom) is a recovering attorney, motivational speaker and author of Triathlon for the Every Woman. She is the host of the new podcast, “The Same 24 Hours,” a show which interviews interesting people who make the best of the 24 hours in each day. Meredith and Deb Cheslow have a new online series called “Your Brave Mind,” that is turning heads and changing lives. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children, and writes about all things at MeredithAtwood.com.