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Rookie Triathlete: Part 8: Rookie Nerves

My Rookie nerves finally kicked in at packet pickup

I knew Rookie nerves would kick in, I just didn’t know when. There’s something about a new endeavor that riles up your insides. Throw in the fact that my coach, Paul “Barny” Matthews, is a world-class triathlete and the nerves become amplified. Don’t forget that I might be the only swimmer with a nose plug! Top that off with a friendly wager with my triathlon arch nemesis, Paras Shah, and the butterflies grow larger.

Rookie nerves can come from anywhere, including competition.

My triathlon arch nemesis, Paras Shah.

What if I forget something that I need for Sunday? Can I apply the required stickers incorrectly? How do I keep from checking my checking list 16 times? What do I need to do to not leave too early and stand around, but not leave too late and miss a good spot in transition? How do I kill time between when the race starts and when my wave begins? Whatifmynoseplugcomesoffduringtheswim?! All of these thoughts are racing through my head on a continuous loop. It’s how my brain is wired. I need to have every possible angle covered and all boxes on my list checked, highlighted, marked through, and initialed. Then reviewed by a quality control supervisor.

BUT… Nerves are just that, nerves. There are tactics you can use to manage and even eliminate them. I have months of training and advice from Barny. He even helped make this video that’s useful for Rookie and Veterans. I have years of experience in other races that I can transfer to this Sunday’s Rookie Triathlon. While they can’t help me on race day, I’ve tapped into the never-ending triathlon knowledge bank that my co-workers at High Five Events have offered. I strongly recommend reading this Pre-Race Tips post on the Rookie Tri blog.

What I’m doing

Below are some specific things I’m doing to reduce my overall Rookie nerves:

  • visit Decker Lake today (Saturday) for a quick, easy swim to get accustomed to the water
  • scope out the run course, perhaps go for a relaxed run on the course
  • HYDRATE
  • layout everything I’ll need for race day on my bed
  • go through the race in my head and think about what I’ll need
  • layout and practice transition
  • HYDRATE
  • as I go through the race in my head, place all those items in my bag
  • watch the Kentucky Derby and attend Schrader 1600 (aka do something to take your mind off your race)
  • HYDRATE
  • trust my training
  • load everything by the front door
  • check my bike, especially tire pressure
  • HYDRATE
  • get up earlier than normal to ensure nature won’t call during the race
  • eat/drink my normal breakfast (Clif Bar + nuun performance)
  • support and cheer for Barny (and all athletes) in the Open and Veteran waves
  • HAVE FUN! (Barny has a few tricks up his sleeve to make this happen)

How to Make Your Rookie Tri Swim Start a Breeze

Everything you need to know about the swim start

2018 Rookie Triathlon swim start details.

2018 Rookie Tri starts at 8:00 a.m. with the Open wave.

As you all know, swimming is the first discipline of a triathlon. The Rookie Tri swim start is arranged to be more manageable and less stressful for first- or second-time triathletes. Race morning is as relaxed as you make it. One way to keep it relaxed is to know your wave, your age group, and when you’ll enter the water. Before we dive in, you also need to know when transition opens and closes.

Rookie Triathlon transition opens at 6:00 a.m. at Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park in northeast Austin (parking opens at 5:45 a.m. and carpooling is encouraged). If you’re the type who worries about time, traffic, and parking, then arriving earlier than normal will benefit you tremendously. Make sure you know transition rules, body marking, and how to wear your timing chip. Keep in mind that transition closes at 7:30 a.m. It’s time to head to Decker Lake for the Rookie Tri swim start!

Swim start

Rookie Tri Open wave swim start is at 8:00 a.m.

Pass the time before your swim start and cheer on the pros in the Open Wave.

The Rookie Tri utilizes a time trial swim start (except for the Open wave). Depending on course density and the flow of the event, at least one person at a time will enter the water (at approximately two-second intervals). Participants will start with their assigned wave (eg. Rookie, Men 40 & over), but the order within each wave is unimportant. The time for each person will start when they cross the swim start timing mat at the water’s edge.

The Open wave will begin at 8:00 a.m. They will be followed by Veteran Men, Veteran Women, Aquabike and Relays, Rookie Men, and Rookie Women. It is imperative you have everything you need for the swim when you transition closes at 7:30 a.m. Each wave will start approximately four minutes after the one before it. Each wave will also have their own swim cap color. To see the entire schedule and approximate times, check out the Rookie Tri Event Schedule.

The waiting game

The first Rookie wave begins around 8:40 a.m. The final Rookie wave will take off around 9:08 a.m. As a first-timer, you’re probably wondering, what do I do until my wave begins? We’ve got a few ideas for you.

  • find a quiet place to relax, gather yourself, and briefly escape from the moment, this could help calm race-day nerves

    Relax with family and friends before your swim start

    Relax with friends and family before your swim start!

  • talk to some friends and family to pass the time, especially if your tri club/group is out in full force
  • step to the side of the action for some last-minute stretching, this is another way to reduce race-day jitters
  • watch the Open wave and cheer on the other triathletes, remember, they all started right where you are

Rookie Triathlete: Part 7: The Open Water

The open water swim is a game-changer

Up until Tuesday, April 24th, none of my Rookie Triathlon training swims were in open water. They were all in a pool. The pool was daunting at first, but over time I became more accustomed. Clear waters allowed me to see the guiding, black line below. Lane dividers kept me from going all over the place and running into others. Protocol taught me how to share a lane with someone else and not crash head first. For good reason (whether I liked it or not), all of that was about to change.

open water

Sunrises at Barton Springs never get old.

A couple weeks ago I wrote about graduating to open water and becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable. Yeah, so I put off that graduation swim for a couple weeks. I found every excuse I could to not visit Barton Springs. I’d hit the snooze button, go for a bike ride, or return to the pool. Everyone I talked to about their first triathlon said they’re glad they did an open water swim beforehand. Others wish they had completed at least one non-pool swim before their first triathlon. I knew I needed to get out of the pool. I just needed to clear that mental hurdle.

Mental hurdle cleared

I jumped in Barton Springs (how else do you get in?!) this past Tuesday morning (4/24). I made sure I had my buoy (and noseplug!) for my first open water swim. This would be the longest continuous swim for me since my mock Rookie Tri championship. My breathing and form have improved tremendously. I didn’t want to lose all of that on my first non-pool swim. I wore running tights, no board shorts this time! The water felt good and I knew standing around wouldn’t help matters. So I took off.

open water

Can’t help but have a great day after that swim!

I tried to remember everything from the pool, plus sighting. My first long swim in Barton Springs would not result in running into someone. Everything started feeling good until about the halfway mark. That’s when the rocks disappear. Your energy starts shrinking. The form and breathing you’ve practiced goes out the window. But this is where Barny, my coach, kicks in. Just like anything else, it’s all friggin’ mental. I can’t control the rocks disappearing, but I can control my form and my breathing. Both of those impact my energy levels and my ability to remain calm.

Open water swim: Take Two

I needed to go back to the Springs. Barny had it built into my training plan. Rookie Tri is less than two weeks away. I need to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Barny wanted to stretch out a new wetsuit in the Springs. He and I planned to return the next day, Wednesday (4/25). This time, he challenged me to do the swim with no buoy. After all, I can’t use the buoy on race day.

This swim was harder, not because of the missing buoy. I had a hard running workout with RAW Running the night before. Add to that, I biked to the Springs from our office (~4 miles one way). So my body wasn’t in peak shape. But in the end, this is all preparing me for Sunday, May 6th, at Decker Lake. As I mentioned, the swim was harder, I needed to breaststroke a few times to get me breathing back down. I paused at the end of the Springs to rest and catch my breath. BUT I DID IT. I feel my upper body getting stronger. Plus, I didn’t run into anyone!

If you’re a Rookie and have been in the pool 100%, I strongly encourage you to swim in the open water at least once before Rookie Tri. You need to experience something similar to what you’ll experience on race day. I promise you’ll be better off for completing at least one open water swim. I know I’m planning at least one or two more. Check out our next blog post to watch a video from Barny where he talks about the importance of an open water swim before your first triathlon.

Best Places in Austin for Introductory Bike Rides

Introductory bike rides will help you become one with your bike

Introductory bike rides can help if you’re experiencing one or two of the following. The sport of triathlon is brand new to you. Running is pounding your knees and you’ve begun cycling to cross-train. Triathlon injuries took their toll years ago and you’re returning to the sport, slowly but surely. Your friends tricked you into a weekly bike ride with the promise of beer, chips, and queso after.

Whatever your reasoning, you need to become familiar with your new bike. If operating gears is new to you, using them can be tricky on your first few rides. Your bike presents a new feel, leaning into the curves, becoming comfortable with the handling, drinking your hydration, eating your nutrition.

Master these concepts on introductory bikes rides at the following Austin locations

introductory bike rides

The Veloway.

Veloway

This 3-mile looped, one-way roadway is ideal for your introductory bikes rides. The Veloway is located in southwest Austin off LaCrosse Ave. and is closed to traffic. Parking is ample. Most noteworthy, this route is strictly for cyclists and rollerbladers, no runners or walkers (watch out for the wildlife!). The roadway is bisected with a continuous white line (slower cyclists keep to the right) and everyone moves in the same clockwise manner. You can relax a little knowing you don’t have to keep an eye out for non-wheeled individuals or riders coming in your direction. There are gorgeous views, a few tight turns, and some nice straightaways. Make sure you get into the right gear for a nice climb around Mile 2! Porta-potties are available.

introductory bike rides

Southern Walnut Creek Trail.

Southern Walnut Creek Trail

The Southern Walnut Creek Trail begins at Govalle Neighborhood Park off Bolm Rd. in east Austin. It features nearly 7.5 miles of 10-foot wide concrete paths and splendid views. Like the Veloway, there is plenty of parking. Be advised, runners and walkers are allowed on the trail and traffic flows both ways. On your introductory rides, ensure the other lane is clear and yell out “on your left” if you plan to pass others. There are a few road crossings along the trail to be aware of as well. Add 11 miles and some nice climbs to your bike ride when you preview the Rookie Tri bike course! The trail rides alongside Daffan Ln. and eventually hits Decker Ln.

introductory bike rides

Brushy Creek Regional Trail.

Brushy Creek Regional Trail

Representing north Austin, the Brushy Creek Regional Trail reaches Round Rock to the east and Cedar Park to the west. Check out Stone Canyon Pool if you park to the east. Park to the west at Twin Lakes Family YMCA if you use this route for your introductory bike rides. Be aware of runners and walkers on this 6.75-mile multi-use trail that connects neighborhoods and existing parks. Traffic flows in both directions and there are multiple restrooms along the trail. Make sure the other lane is clear and yell out “on your left” if you plan to pass others.