My first triathlon is just around the corner now. I had an unfortunate run in with some sort of GI illness that left me with 3 rest days in a row. That wasn't much fun to come back from. I've learned more things since getting back into my training routine though:
Don't be afraid to swim with other people. I have some social anxiety and basically really dread talking to new people. Especially in unfamiliar territory where I'm already trying to figure out what I should be doing. You aren't the only person in a triathlon though, so whether it's open water or in a pool, you can be sure you will be in close quarters with other people. I had put off sharing a lane with anyone at the pool because if I asked, they might beat me over the head with a kick board. Or, you know, just say no (the horror!). Luckily, fate intervened. I found myself halfway through my workout and the pool filling up and before I knew it, someone was asking me if they could share my lane. Well, actually, the first time, someone just jumped in. Bad etiquette, don't do that. Since then, people have asked, and I've said yes. I've found it's really good practice and not nearly as nerve wracking as I'd imagined. There are a few basic "rules" to follow if you want to share a lane: pick one with a swimmer that seems to be a good match for what you plan to do (about the same speed, preferably doing the same swim stroke), sit on the side and wait to ask them if you can share their lane, ask them if they want to split the lane (you each get one side) or circle swim (always stay to the right). Once you know that bit, just be honest that you're new and any person worth your time will politely let you know if you're doing anything wrong.
Practice transitions. I'm not going to be fast enough for transition to make all that much of a difference on my overall time, but some basic practice just to feel more confident and comfortable is helpful. I found this video useful in explaining the whole bike shoes on or off part, in particular. I thought I had the basic idea down until I tried to do it, the video filled in the details I needed. I've figured out I need to go ahead and put my bike shoes on during transition, but I can get out of them just fine at the end of the bike portion so I can walk through transition two without my shoes. While it wasn't on my training schedule, I did a mini tri on my own one day. I did the full 400m swim, then a 4 mile bike and 1.5 mile run. This was a great way to get a better feel for how race day will be and helped me zero in on my preferences for how to handle transition.
Hydration. I know, I learned this lesson already, but it's like working out on the surface of the sun out there. Maybe not quite that bad, but it's 105 today......and I need to go run for an hour. That kind of heat drains you really fast. While it's obvious on the run, it's important to remember you're still sweating a lot even when it's disappearing into the pool or evaporating off of you on a bike. I've also figured out that I can put a water bottle in the freezer until it's completely solid and it will still thaw and warm up before I finish a 15 mile bike ride. I wish I had a solution to prevent that so I still had something cold on the run, but I haven't figured anything out yet.
This is way better than running. I've never been known for my patience and long attention span. I get bored quickly with running and because I'm not fast, it often seems like a slog to get through a workout. I have some running goals but they don't involve significant improvement, winning or repeating long distances. Mostly, I want to do it just to have done it and then I'm ready to move on to the next thing. Training for a triathlon has been much more entertaining and easier to stick with. I really enjoy doing something different every day.
I think I've pretty much dialed in what I need to know for this first go at a sprint tri. I definitely have room to improve on my technique and speed with everything, but I'm feeling ready for the race and looking forward to it (and more in the future)!