Just keep smiling and don’t do it again says Phil Mosley…

Even pro triathletes make race mistakes

Image: Corbis

In issue 81 of Triathlon Plus, I’ve written a sprint triathlon training plan (available here), designed to help you complete your first ever tri. It’ll get you ready for the physical demands of the swim, bike and run, but I can’t guarantee it’ll prepare you for everything else. That’s because first races never quite go 100 per cent to plan.

Whenever I coach someone for their first triathlon I warn them to expect a few race day mistakes, which are all part of an essential learning curve. Over the last 20 years I’ve heard some brilliant stories about the stupid things people have done in races. I could write a book about them. Common ones I see include putting your cycling helmet on backwards and then riding the entire course with the straps over your face.

Or accidentally leaving safety pins in your shoes and then wondering why they feel so uncomfortable during the run. I’ve made my fair share of schoolboy errors too. At my first ever triathlon I rigged up a DIY drinking system so I didn’t have to take my hands off the handlebars. It was made from a 1970s wine making kit and involved several metres of clear tubing and cable ties. The problem was that I was so breathless from pedalling I didn’t have enough suck to get the Ribena up the tubing. I spent about five minutes sucking for all my worth while I watched the purple liquid creeping along at a snail’s pace. In the end I had to abandon my drink and I was completely dehydrated by the time I had finished the race.

The key to avoiding mistakes is not to get too flustered. Simply keep calm and carry on. By getting things wrong, you learn how to get them right next time. So if you decide to follow our sprint plan follow it with commitment but don’t set yourself too many big targets for race day. Keep things simple, take the pressure off yourself and enjoy the opportunity to dip your toe in the water. Have some fun, expect a few mistakes and celebrate with friends afterwards. And whatever you do, get your helmet on the right way around and don’t leave any safety pins in your trainers.

Phil MosleyPhil Mosley, Coaching Editor

The brains behind Training Zone is Phil Mosley, an elite triathlete, former national duathlon champion and coach with a degree in sports science. He also trains individuals at myprocoach.net

Head to our blogs section for more helpful training advice (to avoid more race mistakes) or to our triathlon training plans collection to help you with your race prep.