De Soto – TriSports University The place to learn about triathlon. Mon, 18 Jan 2016 17:34:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 De Soto – TriSports University 32 32 TYR Hurricane Freak of Nature Wetsuit. Fri, 13 Jan 2012 22:47:16 +0000 $1200 for a wetsuit? Really? Swim innovators TYR break new ground on price point with their sensational Freak of Nature wetsuit. The $1200 question is, does the freakish price deliver freakish performance?'s Seton Claggett hits the water in the TYR Freak of Nature here to find out. ]]>
By Tom Demerly.
The TYR Freak of Nature has generated a sensation with a long list of features in an ultra high end wetsuit.

 $1200 for a triathlon wetsuit? Really? Really.

The TYR Hurricane Freak of Nature grabs more attention for its MSRP than any other feature.  At $1200, significantly more than any other wetsuit, the suit suggests a lot. Is it worth the price? Does it deliver on the $1200 promise?

Wetsuit prices have been on an upward spiral since their invention. Dan Empfield’s first triathlon full suits were $199 in 1988. Since the TYR Hurricane Freak of Nature is six times the price of Empfield’s original Quintana Roo Full Suit from 1988 the question has to be: Is a $1200 wetsuit six times better than a $200 wetsuit?

2XU has a $799 wetsuit with their Project X while $650 seems to be the price ceiling for most other brands. That puts the TYR Freak of Nature at almost double the price of most of the other high end competitors. But the discussion of the TYR Freak of Nature goes beyond price, although it always comes back to it.

TYR swimwear started about the same time as other early triathlon brands, 1985. Born in the surf capital of Huntington Beach, California and founded by 1976 Olympic Swim Team Captain Steve Furniss and Joe DiLorenzo the company was built around the specialty swim market. They leveraged a significant part of that market away from legacy brands like Speedo while also entering the multisport market with wetsuits and apparel. TYR’s mantra is “Made for swimmers by swimmers”. TYR developed ultra-lightweight carbon infused fabrics for use in their TYR Carbon line of triathlon apparel worn by Chrissie Wellington. The fabric weight is unusually light and thin but completely opaque with full stretch. Each of TYR’s triathlon specific product introductions have been innovative and novel.

A look at TYR's new Freak of Nature wetsuit coming off the blocks.

The TYR Hurricane Freak of Nature is TYR’s flagship wetsuit. The suit is made entirely of Yamamoto Smoothskin #40 neoprene.Yamamoto #40 has more stretch than any other commonly used neoprene. Yamamoto brand neoprene is used in more wetsuit brands than any other neoprene. Yamamoto started in 1961 making neoprene wetsuits for Japan’s elite underwater demolition teams and traditional Japanese fishing women who dive for oysters.  Yamamoto claims a “90% market share” of the high end dive and swim wetsuit neoprene market.

A more flexible suit made from Yamamoto #40 accomplishes a few things:

  • It is easier to put on and take off, especially aiding removal at race speed in transition.
  • It has better “curb appeal”, allowing retailers to sell more wetsuits from a better dry land try on experience by the consumer. Because they’re easier to try on in the fitting room, they’re easier to get out the door.
  • It fits more body types. Because of increased stretch the suit’s fit becomes more flexible.
  • It is more flexible in the water, allowing swimmers to complete the stroke more easily.

Wetsuit flexibility is not the entire story of performance though. More flexible isn’t always faster. There is suggestion that high wetsuit flexibility may contribute to water absorption into the fabric lining over a long swim. This may result in gradual loss of bouyancy, especially if the suit is loose and/or poorly donned. The suit becomes “water logged”. As the suit’s liner soaks up water it begins to sink. In an odd paradox a more flexible suit may accelerate the process by permitting water inside the suit. In response to this several suits are designed with a non-absorbent linersuch as Aquaman and Profile Design’s “Metal Cell”. This smooth laminate on the inside of the suit prevents water-logging.

Weighing, then immersing, then re-weighing a section of nylon backed wetsuit neoprene to measure the weight of the water absorbed during 1:15:00 of submersion at 8" depth.

To test the theory we weighed a dry sample of 5 mm neoprene with a nylon lining cut from a wetsuit chest. After dry weighing we submerged it to 8 inches depth for 60 seconds and re-weighed it. Then we submerged it for 1:15:00, a middle of the pack Ironman swim duration, and weighed it again. It gained 18 grams when wet and a further 2 grams after 1:15:00 of submersion at 8″ depth. Spread over the entire surface of the suit the fabric does appear to gain some weight from being in the water. This does not account for water potentially taken on between the suit and the skin due to an ill fitting or poorly donned suit. While far from scientific this is an interesting idea. The edges of the neoprene sample are not finished in the test though. A complete wetsuit doesn’t have exposed fabric edges. It can’t soak up water through the unfinished edges, only the inner surface of the fabric. While that likely changes the rate of absorption in our sample, it may still suggest a trend in water absorption of nylon backed suits.

As with any swimming wetsuit, donning it correctly by pulling it up is critical. Because of the flexible Yamamoto #40 on the TYR Freak of Nature getting the suit adjusted correctly on your body is easy.

The suits with the smooth, non-textile liners such as Profile Design and Aquaman’s Metal Cell feel less flexible but may swim faster. Some results of swim tests performed in an open water lagoon in Curacao in the Dutch Antilles during the early 2000’s suggested these stiffer feeling suits were faster- despite them feeling stiffer. The suits do not provide as easy a try-on experience for consumers and have a tough time leaving the sales floor compared to ultra-flexible suits that pull on very easy for a dry land fit.

An interesting feature of the TYR Hurricane Freak of Nature is how it positions your body in the water. Since “waterline” of the swimmer is a key stroke component a wetsuit that helps float the swimmer’s legs and helps the swimmer rotate may offer an advantage. The TYR Hurricane Freak of Nature has extra floatation and rotation features in the legs and hips. TYR claims these features help the swimmer’s body position. Our observations may confrim this. Seton Claggett, who did substantial swimming in the TYR Freak of Nature for this test, reported enhanced body position while swimming. This extra floatation in the legs was “…something I really like…” according to Claggett. Top swim coaches often speak of “swimming downhill” and not letting the legs sink. The TYR Hurricane Freak of Nature is designed around that concept.

Floatation in the legs is optimized to correct the waterline of the swimmer allowing them to maintain good body posture. This photo was from a sequence right after push off from the wall as the stroke begins. You can see how the legs have floated to the surface.

Another noticeable feature of the TYR Hurricane Freak of Nature are the V-GCP “pull panels” on the forearm section. A number of wetsuit manufacturers have built some type of grip device onto the forearm in the hope of increasing forearm “traction” and surface area in the water. The idea is to “hold onto” water better as you pull yourself forward. The V-GCP section also increases the surface area of the forearm. Our tester, Seton Claggett, said “The arm grippers on the Freak of Nature are like nothing I have ever swam in before, I am actually surprised they are legal because they do increase the surface area of the forearm resulting in the ability to hold more water, and hence go faster.” My experience with arm grippers also suggests better “grip” on the water, if for no other reason than greater shoulder fatigue in suits equipped with grippers. Another benefit may be increased awareness of stroke, compelling the swimmer to maintain better form during the “catch” phase.

The V-GCP panels on the forearm are designed to increase surface area and traction.

TYR has built a series of textured panels into the suit. These “Elevation Panels” concentrate buoyancy and may influence hydrodynamics. The panels are most obvious from the inside of the suit. On the outside of the suit they look like dimples on a golf ball. The most significant panels may be the ones located on the outside of the upper thigh. These Elevation Panels help facilitate roll during the stroke cycle, improving form.

The elevation panels of the TYR Freak of Nature are most apparent when viewed with the suit inside out.

The other potential benefit to these textured panels is based loosely on the idea of “supercavitation”, a theory that a rough surface texture traps bubbles against the suit and these bubbles slide more easily through the water. The theory is proven. Underwater projectiles have been developed with supercavitation “bubble generators” to help them slip through the water easier. The dimpled surface of the TYR Hurricane Freak of Nature performs a similar function. This reduced friction supercavitation is visible when you watch a swimmer rotate their hips underwater wearing the suit, effectively sliding along on a small layer of bubbles.

Supercavitation is the idea that an object slides through water easier on a layer of bubbles (green circle) than it does on water itself. The prinicple was developed on the Soviet VA-111 Shkval underwater projectile (right) from its bubble generating nose. At lower speeds the TYR Freak of Nature traps existing bubbles on its skin to reduce friction, increasing speed and floatation.

Other basic construction features on the TYR Hurricane Freak of Nature are good design at the neck, leg and arm opening for comfort, no neck chafing, speed of exit from the suit and durability. The neck is low and has neoprene smoothskin on its inner surface for a good seal. Because it is low it likely won’t chafe most users. Leg and arms are seam tapped and speed cut for faster removal and good durability, a thoughtful feature in a high end racing wetsuit. Seam ends inside the suit are taped with a fabric dot for added durability.

Nice construction details: low, double sided smoothskin neck seals out water. The gold rear panel improves zipper performance and fit. The leg and arm openings are made for fast removal and feature durable interior seam tape.

Overall attention to detail on inner seams and outer gluing of the suit panels is very good. Even minor features like the the loose running ends of stitching are glued down. This is no small feat since sewing the hyper-flexible Yamamoto #40 neoprene is like stitching thick skin. Seams also have to be arranged and sewn knowing how much the neoprene will stretch during donning and high speed removal in transition. It is difficult to make a Yamamoto #40 wetsuit very durable but TYR may have accomplished that with good attention to detail on the Freak of Nature. This meticulous level of construction accounts for a large part of the price on the suit.

Minor details most consumers miss, but appreciate over time: The seam ends on the TYR Freak of Nature are securely finished with adhesive to prevent unravelling.

The gold lining of the suit picks up body marking from ink used to number your body during the race. It doesn’t change the wetsuit’s performance but it is worth knowing. When storing the suit follow TYR’s storage instructions, the same for all high quality wetsuits. I used a piece of Velcro pile to the hook closure at the neck when transporting the suit to prevent the Velcro hook closure patch from fraying the gold fabric suit lining. Since the suit comes with a nice carrying case you can just throw the little piece of Velcro pile in the case when you’re using the suit, then press it on when packing the suit for transport.

I added a scrap of Velcro pile when transporting the suit to keep the Velcro hook from grabbing the gold fabric.

In the water Seton Clagget remarked about how the flexible Yamamoto #40 made breathing easier, “Two of my other favorite suits are the Blue Seventy Helix and the TYR Hurricane 5.  All of these suits have the legs riding high in the water, something I really like, are incredibly flexible and comfortable in the arms/chest.  Because the FoN has Yamamoto 40 throughout the suit it is a little easier to breath in than the Helix and the Cat 5.”

Claggett sized himself based on his previous experience with Yamamoto #40 wetsuits. “Getting the fit right on an all Yamamoto 40 suits is extremely difficult because the material is so flexible.  TYR was able to accomplish great fit due to their development of a great jersey material that backs onto the neoprene.  The fit of this suit is just like the Blue Seventy Helix and the Cat 5 – in my opinion, all of these suits fit the general population extremely well.”

The TYR Hurricane Freak of Nature is sold in 8 men’s sizes and 7 female specific patterned sizes. The suit comes with a carrying case and a swim cap.

Is the TYR Hurricane Freak of Nature worth its $1200 price tag? Seton Claggett put it this way:

“When you get into the upper end of technology the price begins to skyrocket compared to the small gains.  If you are looking for that extra little bit, like all technology, it is going to cost you. So, if you are new to the sport then I would never consider this suit.  If you are a veteran who enjoys the lifestyle then I wouldn’t get this suit.  If you are on the bleeding edge and you are here to kick ass and take names (and have the money) then I would get this suit.”

There is no denying this is a very, very nice suit. TYR build a comfortable, swimmable high performance racing wetsuit with added durability features and every current performance design feature. The suit is also flashy looking. Whether that represents good value to a given customer is more a function of their discretionary income and willingness to part with it than anything else. It’s an individual decision. For those who do make the leap to TYR’s flagship $1200 Hurricane Freak of Nature they will get a well designed, beautifully made suit that swims great. It may be tough to put a price on that.

The new TYR Hurricane Freak of Nature wetsuit.
2XU Compression: The “Cankle” Killer… Tue, 16 Aug 2011 23:49:37 +0000 Does compression really work? The studies are published. Everybody is wearing it. We challenge 2XU to prove it – and grow some ugly “cankles” doing it.]]>

By Tom Demerly.

Compression is a strong trend in multisport- but what does it really do? We do a street level test to see the benefits.

Buy This Product Now on

Compression garments: Do they “work”? What does “work” really mean? Is it a triathlon fashion fad?

I love equipment but I’m a cynic. I need proof that something like tight-fitting clothes provides a significant performance/recovery benefit. I’ve seen the studies and sat through the tech clinics. I wanted to experience the benefits of compression first hand- if they are real.

The brands that sell technical compression garments provide university medical studies that “prove” compression speeds recovery, improves circulation, reduces fatigue and improves proprioception (your sense of where your body is in space). What I set out to discover was: Does compression provide me- personally- the guy on the street, with any tangible benefit?

“Does compression provide me- personally- the guy on the street, with any benefit?”

2XU or “Two Times You” was founded in the sports mad city of Melbourne, Australia. The company and its name reflect their mission to advance human performance through their equipment- to literally give you “Two Times You(r)” capabilities.

2XU compression socks are tuned for activity, activity/recovery and for recovery using different graduated levels of compression.

Last year Chris Sinkovich and Richard Verney of 2XU sensed my cynicism about compression. I dismissed the compression category as a great money maker, but a fad. The two bristled. An exchange of e-mails, visits and phone calls took place over the next few months until I finally told the guys from 2XU: “Guys, it’s a nicely made product- but I would need to experience any benefits for myself. “ I was finally off the hook. I thought.

Two days later a box and an e-mail showed up. Sinkovich and Verney of 2XU challenged me to disprove the university findings about the benefit of compression. It was on.

The claims about compression benefits are lofty:

  • Increased circulation.
  • Faster Recovery.
  • Reduced fatigue
  • Increased muscle compression reducing unwanted muscle oscillation
  • Improved Proprioception.
  • Temperature and moisture management.

For the 2012 season 2XU has introduced three levels of compression performance:

  1. 2XU PERFORM: The active/movement line. Compression for exercise to control muscle damage and provide full range of motion and proprioception in action/endurance sports and manage moisture and heat.
  1. 2XU XFORM: For active recovery. These garments use graduated compression to further enhance recovery while retaining the benefits of the Perform line.
  1. 2XU REFRESH: For recovery. Powerful and graduated compression to reduce inflammation and facilitate recovery through fluid return.

For my test I used the 2XU Men’s Recovery Compression Tights, the 2XU Compression Recovery Sock, the 2XU Swim Recovery Compression Top and the 2XU Compression Race Sock.

Testing physiological response to recovery garments is a slippery slope that delves into constants and trials, protocols and other rigmarole. That’s in the university studies published on 2XU’s website. My test would be a trial to see if I could find/feel/see a benefit. It’s not science, it’s anecdotal.

“I wanted to see if wearing compression made me feel any better”

In the short term I wanted to see if wearing compression made me feel any better and if there was a tangible difference using compression. The recovery claims were of particular interest. I decided to take two weeks off running after a hard two months, then resume running and use the compression to manage the residual soreness.

It’s hot in Tucson. A requirement of exercising here is constant hydration. I drink at least 3-4 liters of water per day, much more on days with a bike commute and a longer run. The water produces edema, or inflammation of the lower extremities. I’ve had this in deserts around the world, from the Sahara to the Wadi Rum in Jordan. Edema is a function of acclimating to exercise in the heat. It is a particular concern for athletes travelling to a race in a different climate, especially after a long flight. Here in Tucson it wasn’t difficult for me to induce some wicked edema and grow some epic cankles.

“…it wasn’t difficult to induce some wicked edema and grow some epic cankles.”

For my first run I banged out 5.5 miles on the River Trail behind my house, a perfect desert proving ground. Temperature was high 90’s with the monsoon season humidity building. That night, my legs ached. Experience told me in the morning they would be worse. I put one 2XU Compression Recovery Sock on my right foot. I put my normal shoes and boots on my left foot. The following afternoon this is what I got:

Edema from training in heat after time off. I wore a 2XU compression sock on the right foot, and regular running socks on the left foot.

There was substantial inflammation in my left lower leg. The leg was larger in circumference and felt inflamed and “heavy”: The right leg below the knee, where the 2XU Compression Recovery Sock was, had less inflammation and was visibly smaller. I’ve had surgeries on both legs going back decades ago. The 2XU Compression Recovery Sock on the right leg prevented the edema and inflammation I had on the left leg.

“Nearly all of the inflammation from my left leg had gone down overnight while wearing the 2XU recovery tights.”

I found the sizing charts on the 2XU product to be very precise.

Next step was to use recovery while sleeping. I wore the 2XU Men’s Recovery Compression Tights while sleeping after verifying my fit on the packaging size chart. I found the 2XU size charts on their packaging to be accurate. Nearly all of the inflammation from my left leg had gone down overnight. My legs were sore, but it was more joint pain than muscle pain. The level of muscle discomfort compared to using no compression and coming back to running was lower.

2XU recovery tights allow active recovery even- and especially- while sleeping, speeding recovery for your next workout.

Finally, the following morning I got up, drank a liter of cold water, changed into the 2XU Compression Race Sock and did my long commute to work; 19.5 miles around Davis-Monthan AFB. I. I rode hard in rising temperatures already above 85 degrees. At work I racked my bike, took my shoes off, shot one photo in the 2XU Compression Race Sock, pulled the socks off, and stepped in front of the camera again. Less than 24 hours after the “cankle” photo this is how my legs looked:

Before and after. Not only is the edema from the left leg completely gone (right), it is easy to see that both legs appear leaner and retain less fluid. My legs felt lighter and more comfortable after wearing 2XU compression.

“…compression does provide a reduction of soreness and inflammation for me.”

My take-away is that compression does provide a tangible benefit in reduction of soreness and inflammation for me. The results feel more significant than any other recovery product I’ve used, including anti-inflammatories, aspirin and (unfortunately) even massage.

2XU compression sleeves for racing help reduce vibration, especially during the bike to run transition.

In retrospect I think Verney and Sinkovich knew they were shooting fish in a barrel with this project. I was an easy target because compression has easily verifiable benefits. In my role as a product review editor I see a lot of products that promise but don’t deliver. Three (other products) are in my cubicle right now. You never read about those because we don’t buy them, don’t publish the review. Verney and Sinkovich proved to me that 2XU Compression does provide a verifiable benefit to me, or perhaps I proved it to myself. In both cases my paradigm about compression as being trendy and fashionable among last-decade triathletes has been aptly shifted. For me, 2XU Compression provides tangible benefits

Buy This Product Now on

Heat Acclimatization Strategies Mon, 08 Aug 2011 20:55:49 +0000 Coach and former top pro Jimmy Riccitello comes on board with TriSports University with timely insights on training in the heat and learning how to (and how not to...) acclimate. See what Coach Jimmy says to do when they heat gets turned up here. ]]>

By Jimmy Riccitello

Coach, columnist and former pro Jimmy Riccitello knows about suffering in the heat- and how to cope with it.

I’ve lived and trained in Tucson since 1977.  To state the obvious – summer in Tucson is HOT.

With regard to training in the heat (or any subject, for that matter) I’m not scientifically educated – not in a school sense, anyway.  But it’s funny how trial and error (anecdotal evidence) and following your instincts based on the results of trial and error, can lead one to validate factual scientific data.

When I started triathlon in 1984, I was told that “they” said to do well in the heat, you must train in the heat.  So I used to delay the start of my workouts so that I would be doing the crux of my training at the hottest time of day.  The only positive thing I accomplished with this heat training strategy was a nice tan.  Everything else suffered.  My training gains suffered, my race results suffered, I was sick more often, unmotivated, and generally hotter than a snake’s ass in a wagon rut – constantly – even when I was inside the house sitting on the couch watching a taped rerun of The Iditarod with a cool beverage.

Riccitello confirms: Training in the heat makes you hot. Extended exposure to the heat without adequate acclimation and hydration can land you in the medical tent.

Common sense and the desire to stop sweating profusely while lying in bed at 11pm with the ceiling fan set on “hyper drive” due to massive amounts of stored body heat accumulated from a 5 hours ride at midday in June, caused me to rethink my strategy about the total amount of training I completed during the heat of the day.

I started my bike practice at 5am, which got me home at between 8 and 10am, depending on the duration of my ride.  I still had to ride when it was hot out, but not when it was super hot – and only for an hour or two (vs. the entire ride when I was starting at 9am).

I immediately noticed an improvement in the quality of my bike practice when leaving earlier.  And strangely (duh), subsequent workouts improved dramatically as well.

I also noticed that my performances in hot weather races did not suffer due to less training in the heat.  It didn’t seem obvious back then, but it turns out that ANY training outside in Tucson during the summer qualifies as heat training.  Who knew?

Once I figured out that 3-5 hours in the “cool” early Tucson summer mornings adequately prepared me for any race held in any climate cooler than the Sahara Desert – I needed only to figure out how to keep up with the massive amounts of sweat I lost during the Tucson summer.

It’s common knowledge (propagated by “they”) that we all sweat more than normal when it’s hot out and each of us has a unique sweat rate (some of us sweat more or less than others).  I happen to be a profuse sweater who sweats profusely.  The amount of sweat I excrete under normal temperatures borders on freakish.  My world-class sweating skills were first noticed after one of the famous Tuesday runs in Rancho Santa Fe (North San Diego County) in the summer of 1986.

It was my first run with the SD crew and I was hoping to leave a good impression – which I figured would be tall order considering I was perhaps the slowest running professional triathlete in the sport, at the time.  As fate would have it, on the particularly balmy day in North County, Scott Tinley, one of the patriarchs of the Rancho Santa Fe run, decided to challenge perhaps the most legendary of triathlete sweaters, Scott Molina, to a “sweat-off.”

Avoiding dehydration and heat stress isn't a matter of what works for other athletes, what matters is what works for you in the heat.

A sweat-off is a way of determining who sweats the most.  Why this was important remains to be seen – but I can only imagine that I, and others, were unknowingly participating in one of the early experiments on sweat.  To determine the winner (person who sweat the most) – runners wring out their sweaty t-shirt, post run, into a Big Gulp cup.  The runner who fills the cup the highest with their sweat, is declared the winner.  I know – we were ahead of our time.

Molina, typically nonplussed with the challenge, instructed Tinley to “Pick your three best sweaters.”  I noticed Tinley hopefully looking my (the new guy) way.  “Can you sweat,” he asked?  “I can sweat,” I responded.

After 12 hard, hilly, sweaty miles, we took Molina down.  It was big news on the scene, since three people had never before collectively out-sweat Molina.  From that day forward, I was known as a well above average sweater – pound for pound, among the best.  Another thing that became obvious to me after participating in this contest/experiment was that there is no correlation between the amount a person sweats and whether they are a fast runner or a slow runner (you can sweat a lot a do well, and you can sweat a lot and suck).

This aside, I always had trouble drinking enough during racing and training.  Because of my high sweat rate, I was always told that “they” said to drink frequently and in large quantities during training bouts and races.  Despite this advice, I quickly discovered that it’s very difficult – a downright pain in the butt – to drink frequently and in large amounts when you’re groveling for all you’re worth, simply to stay on the wheel of the person in front of you.

It’s also hard to drink when you’re running – whether racing or training.  It was extremely rare if anyone could be bothered to grab a drink – even when there were aid stations.

Swimming was never much of an issue for me, since there was always a pool’s worth of water available to drink.  I still fail to understand why athletes feel the need to put a water bottle at the end of their lane.  It seems unnecessary to me.

Anyway, I found it very difficult to stay on top of being optimally hydrated while dealing with three workouts per day during the summer months, by following hydration strategies that “they” outlined.  Eager for answers – I asked Molina how he coped.  He told me that he simply chugged a liter or two of fluids right before a workout.  Then he drank when he could during the exercise bout.  I figured if this strategy worked for the most legendary sweater in triathlon (and probably the winningest triathlete of all time), it was good enough for me.  Despite the fact that Molina’s hydration strategy was quite different to anything “they” recommended (keep in mind we’re talking about the late 1980s) – it worked very well for me, once I got used to the bloated feeling early in my workouts.

My point is that what “they” say we should do, and what the best actually do – is often very different.  If we can open our minds to alternative methods and honestly evaluate the results of our trial and error – we may learn a few tricks that put us ahead of the curve.

With this in mind, here are links to a couple articles that I wish were readily available to me back in the old days – days when hydration strategies were developed based on the amount of sweat that was wrung from a t-shirt into a Big Gulp cup.

Tips for My first Triathlon Sat, 23 Jul 2011 00:15:07 +0000 Make your first triathlon a blast with tips from athletes who know the sport. See what you need to know before your first triathlon here.]]>

By Tom Demerly with Contributors from Forum.

Your first race experience will shape your entire time in triathlons. Make your first race easy and fun and you may wind up on the course in the biggest races before you know it!

First timers get anxious when they don’t know what to do at their first race. What to bring? What to leave home? Where to go? How to set up a transition area?

We surveyed contributors to the forum for tips on what to know before your first race and added a few of our own. Here are the top tips for a great first race.

Become a student of the sport by reading the training and racing literature. Volunteering at a race before your first event will give you insights that could take an entire racing season to gain.

1. Learn the Sport.

The user named “Red Corvette” on forum mentioned that volunteering at an event before your first race is an excellent way to see how a triathlon works in person. Many of your questions about what to wear, how to set up a transition and how the race flows will be answered if you work a local event as a volunteer. You’ll also get a feel for how much work goes into producing a triathlon.

Reading about the sport will also familiarize you with the technical language. The Cycling Hall of Fame Coach Mike Walden once said “Be a student of the sport”. Walden’s insight, along with great coaches like Michael R. Rabe, reinforces the need to own the knowledge and understand the language of our sport.

Inspect and maintain your equipment frequently. A dirty, worn drivetrain; rusty bolt;broken stem and worn cleats can end your race and even contribute to a crash. Take responsibility for maintaining your equipment.

2. Learn and Do Bike Maintenance.

Whether you race boats, cars, airplanes or triathlons your performance will be better if you know how to maintain your equipment and do it regularly. Racing bikes are different from the bikes we had as a kid. They require more maintenance for best performance since they are optimized for racing. Even entry level bikes benefit from basic maintenance. Bike maintenance is as simple as learning to air your tires, keep your bike clean and lubricate your drivetrain. If you own the knowledge you will be less dependent on others, more confident and self-sufficient on race day and during training. You can learn bike maintenance from classes at your local dealer and from books and cycling/triathlon clubs. Inspect your equipment regularly to insure it is safe and to optimize performance. The photos above are all from bikes headed to events. Had they not been serviced before the race there may have been race-ending technical problems.

Learn to be self sufficient on race day if you have a mechanical. Make sure your equipment is adjusted correctly and fits right. The helmet on the right is dangerously far back on the rider's head.

3. Know How to Use Your Equipment.

Take responsibility for being certain your helmet is adjusted correctly and is not damaged. Know how to be mechanically self-sufficient on the course. The most common problems are flat tires and dropped chains. Be sure you have practiced changing your own flats before race day. Know how to avoid your chain falling off and practice how to get it back on if it happens. Practice fixing these problems before race day to improve your confidence and self-reliance. If you do get into to trouble on race day, you can get yourself out. Be certain your helmet is adjusted correctly to provide protection in case of a fall. When you own the knowledge you don’t need to fear the outcome. This makes you a more relaxed, confident athlete.

Take your new gear home from the race expo and try it in training before using it in a race. Find out what nutritional products are being used on race day and use them in training to get accustomed to them.

4. No New Equipment on Race Day.

The bling at the race expo is hard to resist. If you just got a new bike after waiting for it for weeks it is nearly impossible to resist riding it on race day. Any experienced athlete they will tell you, “No new equipment on race day”. It takes time to become familiar with new equipment. New bikes need break in, fitting and adjustment. New shoes may cause blisters and goggles may leak. On race day, go with what you know. New equipment almost never provides an advantage on race day, but frequently creates problems. Remember the investment in time and entry fees you’ve made in your race. It isn’t worth risking on untried equipment, no matter how cool it is. For nutritional products be sure to try them in training before you use them on race day. It’s wise to know what products will be used in the aid station at your race and practice in training with them before race day.

Do an open water swimming dress rehearsal before race day. Some new athletes have anxiety during the swim. Practice in the open water will reduce anxiety before race day.

5. Do Some Open Water Swimming Before Race Day.

Almost every new athlete agrees the swim is the greatest source of fear. Username “Brown dog us” from’s forum recommended you “Do an open water swim before race day.” That is solid advice.

If you put on your wetsuit, goggles, a swim cap and ear plugs before race day and practice open water swimming in a safe location with a partner and/or life guard you will be less anxious on race day. This is especially important when swimming with a wetsuit for the first time. It is common for new triathletes to experience hyperventilation and anxiety during their first wetsuit swim. Some athletes report feeling their breathing constricted, even when the wetsuit fits correctly. Be certain to get in the water, even if it is only the pool, before race day to familiarize yourself with how your equipment feels before race day.

If you get to the race early the porta-johns are clean, there are no lines and you have a relaxed morning.

6. Get to the Race very Early.

Forum contributor “goosedog” from the forum said to get to the porta-johns early. Know the race schedule by looking on the event website in the week prior to the race. Get to the race as early as you can to avoid traffic jams, get a good place in transition, have a leisurely time setting up and gain access to clean bathroom facilities. Always bring extra toilet paper and wet wipes- enough to share with other competitors who may not be as well prepared. It helps remove one more layer of worry over small comforts on race day and makes you feel more prepared.

Do a careful review of the course before the race, learning the route and the way the transition area works. Attend the race meetings and ask questions.

7. Know the course, Go to the Race Meeting and Learn the Transition Area.

While every race director makes an effort to mark the race course well the USAT rule says it is “incumbent on the athlete” to know the course and follow it. That means if you go off course it is your fault– not the race director’s- even if the course is poorly marked. If you know the course you will be more confident and safer. The pre-race meeting may offer important insights on weather, course direction, rules and officiating. It may also provide an opportunity to ask questions about the race.

Use a simple transition set up and remember the transition area will be crowded. Learn the flow of athletes through the transition area to avoid being in the way of other athletes.

8. Use a Simple Transition Set-Up.

Contributor “bryancd” of’s forum said simply “K.I.S.S.” Leave the buckets and folding stools at home. Be considerate of the other athletes in the transition area and remember transitions get congested with bikes and gear. As athletes get more experienced their transition set ups tend to look more alike and have less gear in them. Learn the flow of the transition area so you move through it efficiently with other athletes and don’t create delays or bottlenecks. Forum contributor on’s forum named “Shop Cat” suggested to “Be sure your bike is in an easy gear out of transition” so pedaling is easier as you begin.

Get your wetsuit on well before your wave start and get in the water for a good warm-up swim. This helps you adjust your wetsuit fit and get accustomed to the suit.

9. Put your Wetsuit on Early and get a good Warm-Up Swim.

Wetsuits are hard to get on correctly alone and need to be “swam into place” for best performance. If you get to the race early enough you can ask for assistance from other athletes to help you zip your suit up. Then you have time to get in the water, get a layer of water between you and your wetsuit for best performance and make final adjustments so you are comfortable in your swim. Warming up by swimming in the water makes you more confident and reduces anxiety during crowded swim starts.

Learn the swim course and the wave start schedule before your wave starts.

10. Know the Swim Course. Start in the best place for your Swim Speed.

You may have heard stories of athletes who panic when they get “swam over”, bumped or lose their goggles during a crowded swim start. Finding a good location to start based on your experience level can eliminate any problems. If you know the swim course you can avoid the congested areas and save time by swimming more efficiently. This also gives you better confidence in the swim and reduces anxiety.

Know the USAT rules on drafting and understand how to interact with other athletes on the bike.

11. Understand Drafting Rules.

Know what the USAT drafting rules are from the USAT website and the USAT rule book that is mailed to every USAT member. The contributor to’s forum named “Duder5189” mentioned to “Learn the rules of the bike leg.” It’s a strong tip.

Understand what “position violations” are and how to overtake. Other athletes may draft during the race- intentionally or accidentally- but it is up to you to observe the rules on your own to have a race you can be proud of.

Your first race is a big event. Take time to appreciate it and have fun!

12. Take Time to Celebrate the Day and Have a Good Time!

You only have one first race. “Blbriley” from forum mentioned to, “Have fun, set realistic goals and be adaptive.” His advice is solid since events on race “Give yourself credit for beginning the sport and expect to learn by making minor mistakes. It is part of becoming a better triathlete.”

Remember that triathlons are swimming, cycling and running- the things we did playing when we were kids. Keep the sport in perspective and enjoy the privilege of being able to participate. Triathlon is a tough sport but it is filled with fun people, places and experiences. The contributor named “New Clydesdale” put the experience in fine perspective: “This is your first race.  It is not likely to be your last.  It will not likely be your best.  Come, race, learn, enjoy!” Make your first race a day to remember!