Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Advice to future triathlon Team USA members

I've happily settled back into home, the family schedule, and work and even the time change thing has not been too bad. Before the whole experience gets pushed aside completely by regular life, I thought I'd put together a list of advice for future Team USA members based on my two experiences to date. (Oh and I got the professional pics...with ZERO on the bike which is a bummer but I think due to the fact that without body markings and with our numbers behind us, it was nearly impossible to know who was who)

Pack mainly USA Triathlon and Team USA clothing for race week. I pretty much lived in that stuff, and it's expected and perfectly acceptable to wear it for everything! It makes packing simple and those "plastic" type clothes are easy to rinse out and hang to dry.

Try the team uniform before it is customized. If you can verify sizing before your name is put on the suit, do!! Our suits ran so small this year it was a fiasco. I could have used a size larger.

Bring warm clothes including arm warmers, gloves, and a hat. Triathletes hate to be cold and these races always seem to be in coldish places.

Read everything thoroughly and multiple times. Read the Team USA handbook and ITU Competitor Guide cover-to-cover when you get them, again closer to race week, and then again during the week. There are always rules unique to each race/venue, such as the lack of body marking and need to wear our race belt on the bike.

Load relevant and important contact info into your phone - hotel number, airport transfer, Team staff. My transport was not at the airport waiting and it required a quick call.

Pre-arrange transport from the airport because it can be difficult to find taxis that can handle a bike box.

Be sure your passport is current and remember to take it! Make a copy and/or take a photo of it with your phone just in case.

Bring some local currency to get started - it can be ordered through the bank or obtained at the airport before you leave the US.

Alert your credit card company you will be traveling abroad so they don't suspect fraud and freeze the card.

It's worth it to pay extra for lodging that is convenient to the race site. I probably walked to and from the race venue ten times and it took 25 minutes each way -- that's 8 hours of walking -- and I was in a close hotel.

You don't need to stay at the Team hotel but in some cases it makes sense. It can be more expensive and is not always in the best location relative to the venue, but if the race is in a non-English speaking country or if all lodging is fairly far from the venue, it could be well worth it.

Make hotel reservations EARLY to get the best choice.

Find a nearby market for your basic drink and snack supplies. It gets expensive to eat everything in a restaurant.

Book a hotel with an in-room refrigerator and microwave if possible, or request one. This gives you more meal options.

Figure out what you are doing for coffee and breakfast race morning since you may need those before restaurants open!

Pack your Team suit in your carry-on in case all your luggage is delayed or lost.

Pack your wetsuit and running shoes in your suitcase in case your bike box is delayed. My bike was delayed three days for the New Zealand race but because I had packed my wetsuit and running shoes in my suitcase, I could still run and swim.

Activate Global Data services abroad. I'm not sure how I would have functioned without my iPhone maps and Skype!

Pay very close attention to the schedule and well in advance of the trip add all the relevant events, swim start times, parties, swim familiarizations, group training, and Team meetings to whatever calendar system you use. Don't miss the Team USA meeting or the Team USA party. Plan to be busier than you even think!!

Allow plenty of time to get places. City travel logistics can be tricky and I, along with quite a few others, missed the Team photo. Getting to the race venue can take longer when races are in progress and you have to wait to cross the course.

Take a string-bag/backpack and keep money, extra nutrition, water, and an umbrella or raincoat with you at all times. The forecast for the opening ceremony was a 0% chance of rain and most of us got soaked through.

Be flexible. Okay, so there is no swim warm-up, and no-one is allowed to have a towel in transition, and the transition area is muddy so you might not want to run in bike shoes. Deal with it!

Put the bike together ASAP because the team and race mechanics get busy and it could take a while to get the maintenance you need. Double check that everything is tight. Take the bike for a test ride. Don't walk through the hotel in bike shoes; carry them till you get outside.

Arrive early for all check-ins. Lines can get very long and organizers do not always have the best systems or enough volunteers. The morning of the Aquathalon a giant line formed to enter transition after I'd already set up and left.

Double-check what is needed for check-ins. It varies. You often need to take your uniform and bike helmet to bike check-in but sometimes they want to see your race number or wetsuit as well. When in doubt, take it.

Take a Sharpie. Last year we waited in pouring rain to get body marked with a Sharpie, something that could have been done on our own. Label everything with it (wetsuit, goggles, etc) since things get really jumbled in transition.

Be prepared to wait in lines. We assembled for our swim wave half an hour before go time. Take water and a gel if needed. Port-o-john lines can get crazy. Plan accordingly.

If it's a long time between transition setup and your swim wave, go back to the hotel between. You'll stay warmer and calmer.

Know the flow through transition and know where your bike is. Find landmarks and be ready!

Plan your race-day checked bag. Take warm/dry clothes and cash. You never know if you may need to pay for a last-minute bike repair on race morning. This event oddly had no post-race food so if you were hungry, you needed money.

Enjoy the experience! Very few will podium at these events so be sure to "check-in" with yourself and take the time to appreciate where you are swimming, biking, and running!

Other Team folks, let me know what you would add!