This past weekend was my first race of the season, and I’m using footage from that race to put together a video that will walk you through all the things to expect for your first tri. But I had a bit of trouble during the race, and it was such a teachable moment that I knew I needed to share it first! What did I do?
I went off course. ARRGHHH!!!
Seriously. I had a great swim and an even better bike. Coming out of T2 I was hauling. And I felt so strong! I kept giving myself a mental pep talk to keep moving, keep it up, that I could hold on for 3 miles no problem. This race included a sprint and Olympic distance, so all of the runners were out on course together. I was passing a lot of Olympic racers and a few sprinters, so I felt like I was in it to win it. I checked my watch- 2 miles, and started wondering where the turn around was. I was getting close to the top of the bike path we were running on, which I knew was about 3 miles long. On an out and back course, I should have turned around half a mile ago. But ego got the better of me, and I kept running. When my watch said I was at 2.5 miles, I knew I was in trouble. So I stopped, asked the girl running behind me what race she was in, and when I told her I was in the Sprint she told me I had missed the turnaround. Way back there.
I was deflated. I could feel- and watch- my pace get slower and slower. My husband actually got so worried he walked to the medical tent to see if they had brought me in. Nope. I was just stupid. In the end, I ran an extra 2 miles. Here’s what I didn’t do- and how you can avoid my mistake!
Study the course
When you compete in a race, the course should be posted ahead of time. Study it! You should have an idea of any turns, stops, and distances you might encounter. If you have any questions, ask the race director or a referee. Volunteers aren’t the best option because they may not have accurate information about the course itself. They are often brought in on the morning of the race and may not even be familiar with the sport of triathlon. Because I’ve done this race before, I thought I had a good idea of the course. But I didn’t study it closely enough and thought I could rely on signs and volunteers to find my way. Big mistake.
Watch for signage
It can be tiny, hidden, not well marked. If you have an idea of where the turns are you should be looking for the signs marking those points. Most races will have volunteers stationed at key turn points to make sure people slow down and make the turns. In this case, the volunteer was busy texting on her phone, so I didn’t receive a verbal cue and completely missed the small sign marking the spot.
If you think you’re lost, ask!
I had a feeling that I might have run too far, but pride kept me from admitting it. It wasn’t until I stopped and asked a fellow competitor that I knew I was lost. Suck it up and ask for help. Maybe I would have only run one mile extra instead of two!!!
In the end, it is ultimately your responsibility to know the course and to follow it. I wasn’t happy that there wasn’t better signage or a volunteer vocally telling us to turn around, but it is my fault I missed the turn around, not theirs. Own it, learn from it, and find your silver lining. I ran 5 miles at the end of an 820 meter swim and 13 mile bike- I think I might be ready for an Olympic distance!!!