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Your first triathlon - The swim and T1...what to expect!

As you get closer to your first race day, you may be feeling nervous and apprehensive about what is ahead. Being well prepared, in addition to having done the training required, should allow you to feel more confident and excited.

You can watch our video with our top swim tips here -

Depending on the race you have entered, your swim could be in a pool, or in open water - a lake, a river or the sea.

If you have entered a pool-based triathlon, here are a few pointers -

Often there will be more than one person in your lane. The people you are swimming with will have put down a similar estimated swim time as you. It is therefore worthwhile trying to be as accurate as possible with the information you give when you enter. It is far more stressful to be swimming with much faster swimmers who are trying to overtake, and frustrating to swim with slower swimmers who are holding you up!

You will be expected to count the number of lengths and to get out when you have completed the required distance. Sometimes a marshal will hold a kickboard in at the end of the pool to let you know when you have two lengths remaining (but not always, so be ready to count!)

There are strict rules around running on pool side, so as you move from your swim to transition one, be sure to walk until you are outside the pool building. After that you are free to move as quickly as you like to your bike!

Moving on to an open-water based swim…

You will almost certainly be racing in a wetsuit if you are in the UK (only occasionally do our waters get balmy enough for a non-wetsuit race!) You don’t need to pull your wetsuit up and over your shoulders until the race is almost going to begin. If you fully zip into it too early, you may begin to overheat. Ensure you have it pulled up properly at the groin, so that when you are fully zipped into it you are comfortable and your arms, and particularly shoulders, can move freely. If you are struggling to fasten the zip or Velcro on your own, ask a friendly fellow-participant to lend a hand!

If there is an opportunity, it is recommended to acclimatise to the water temperature. One way to do this is to ‘flush your suit’ by scooping up water in the neck of your suit and allowing it to run down the inside of the wetsuit. The water trapped will begin to warm up to body temperature. A sneaky wee at this point will also warm you up!

If you are not used to swimming in a group, place yourself towards the back of the pack, allowing yourself room to relax and settle into your stroke.

Towards the end of the swim you could begin to kick your legs a little harder – waking them up ready to stand.

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Once you arrive at transition from your pool or open-water swim, you can give your feet a bit of a dry by standing on a towel and wiping them as if on a door mat. At the same time you can be putting on your cycle helmet – ALWAYS put on your helmet and fasten it before touching your bike.

Ensure you have your race number on and that it is visible on your back for the bike leg. Once you have everything you need for the bike leg (perhaps water and an energy gel) you can begin pushing your bike to the bike exit. Only get on your bike once you have crossed the mount line. Ok! You are off… enjoy the next part of your race!

Here are our top Pretty Gritty tips for the swim and T1!

If you are doing an open water swim and wearing a wetsuit, buy some specific lube for aiding the easy removal of the wetsuit. This can be applied around your ankles, up your calves, around your wrists and your shoulders. This will save you a lot of energy, wrestling to get it off! You can also put some on the back of your neck to stop the wetsuit causing any chaffing.

For an open water swim, it can be more comfortable to wear two swim caps, which will keep you warmer. You can try putting your goggles on before the second cap, which can help reduce the chances of having your goggles knocked off during the swim.

For both a pool and open-water swim, use the time moving to T1 to do a couple of jobs. Firstly, walk until you are sure you don’t feel dizzy (sometimes moving from horizontal to vertical can make your head spin a bit!) secondly, remove your swim cap and goggles whilst on the move, as well as beginning to unzip and remove your arms from the wetsuit, if you are wearing one.

When you set up your transition, always place your helmet on the handlebars of your bike (if you are worried it might fall off, just hook it over one handle with the strap) This will ensure that you always remember to put your helmet on before touching your bike, instead of forgetting about it on the floor!

As we mentioned in our first video, take talc in your transition bag and sprinkle it liberally in your trainers and/or cycle shoes. It will soak up moisture and they will go on much more easily! You can watch that video here!

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