The Rookie Mistakes This Non-rookie Triathlete Made In The Swim

December 30, 2019 5 min read 2 Comments

The Rookie Mistakes This Non-rookie Triathlete Made In The Swim

Location: Noosa Triathlon Multisport Festival, Queensland, Australia

You would think that having done in excess of say 20 triathlon races since 2011, and countless ‘practice’ tris, that I would have race day all sorted by now. Nup. Nope. Yep, itcame as a surprise to me too. Surprises during the race aren’t nice, and I got really annoyed with myself for not being better prepared. I should have known better, I should have taken the proper time out to visualise the race, and stick to what has worked for me in the past. But Noosa Tri kind of came out of nowhere.

Now that sounds really silly, because Noosa Tri had been on my training radar for several months. But Noosa Tri is always epic, we exhibit our brand FOHER Co over two full days, and there is always weeks of planning, and the days leading into the expo and the tidy up afterward are massive and long. Add to that mix training and racing!! So two days out from race day, I was on my feet at the expo all day, having a ball, chatting, rolling out, catching up with our FoherFam, and not thinking about the race at all. Same thing for the day before. I racked my bike on race-eve with about an hour to spare, and again, didn’t take my time and sit down and visualise what I needed to do, as I had to rush back to the expo. When I got home that night, it was the first time I had a chance to read the Athlete Guide, confirm my wave start, and get my gear in order. I realised I had left my aero water bottle on my bike in transition, so had to prepare an biggie but annoying all the same. I went to bed at around 11pm.

The alarm went off at 4.45am on race morning. Tatted and kitted up we jumped in the car so we could drive a little closer to transition, but the roads were already closed. I thought I was early enough to make it. Oops, Mistake Number 1. Now on foot and a bit stressed, we hightailed it (with hundreds of others which calmed me a little) to transition. Five minutes into our walk, I realised I had left my hydration in the fridge. Cue a short run back to get it. Oh man, Mistake Number 2! Made it to transition at 5.45am, with 15 minutes to check my gear. I was feeling the pressure but calmed down and took a few deep breaths as I set my kit out. I checked my hydration and nutrition, took a few minutes to visualise my T1 and T2 whilst laying out my gear, and was happy as @MultisportMC booted us out. I then had a very long 2.75hr wait until my wave start. We took up residence in a nearby cafe, and chilled out. Coffee, second breakfast, chats, braids, good lucks, insta-updates then time to head down. I did a quick warm-up swim, then headed over to the start. 30 second warning, the siren goes and 170 of us are off.

rookie error

I got a great start and got away quickly. Then my goggles started to fog. Fark NOOOOOO! So many times in the prior 2 days, I had meant to do what I always do and buy new goggles at the expo. New goggles don’t fog! But I guess I kept getting distracted and didn’t buy the new goggles. Mistake Number 3. And this was the biggest. I refused to stop and defog. The swim is my strongest leg, I was off to a good start, and I wanted to maintain my rhythm and post a fast time, but my stubbornness got the better of me and taught me valuable lessons this time around. The fogging quickly got so bad that I couldn’t even sight properly.

Then, a girl swam up beside me so in the moment I decided to draft off her, sticking as close by her hip as I could. Now, I usually ALWAYS swim my own race. I generally don’t draft as I find it more of a hindrance being bumped along and mentally it screws with me as I try to ‘keep up’. Normally, I constantly sight, every four or so strokes, or even more frequently if it’s rough or if there is a strong current. But drafting can be very beneficial if you position yourself well, and can save your energy output by up to 38%! Drafting was a really bad move for me here, and I didn’t swim my own race. Mistake Number 4. Drafting like I did and trusting someone else to sight for me, I will never do again. I am sure we swam all over the place as she abruptly changed direction a few times, and we kept bumping into each other, and other people! After a bit, I couldn’t take it anymore, my goggles were so stuffed and I was starting to feel really disoriented as we were now really in the thick of other swimmers. So I bit the bullet and stopped to defog. OMG! What an instant relief and I was kicking myself I didn’t defog earlier, or better yet, at least prepare my goggles properly before my race started. I usually spit in my goggles (gross but it works!!) at training, especially if I’ve had a pair for a while (the defog never lasts long) which helps keep them defogged, or even better, bloody well buy new goggles like I always do!

rookie triathlon swim mistake
rookie triathlon swim mistake

I spent a lot of hours as a kid following the black line in swim training. 11 sessions a week. I competed at State Championships a few times, and held a few National rankings. I like swimming and as I mentioned, it’s my best triathlon leg. With so many swim hours under my belt, I like things a certain way and am used to my particular brand of goggles which I use during all my training and racing. I find they give me plenty of room to sight with. But this time around, I didn’t follow my own rules and it messed with me. I still did a great time, but nobody needs additional stress while racing, so I will not make the above mistakes again.

In summary, my 4 rookie mistake fixes:

1. Read the athlete guide thoroughly and familiarise yourself with dates/times/closures that are important to your particular circumstances.

2. Visualise your race. Picture in your mind what you need for every leg and transitions. Do this when you rack your bike. As you set out your flatlay the night before. In transition on race day.

3. Make sure you buy your gear, nutrition, hydration in advance (saves running around like a headless chook!).

4. Race your own race. Swim, bike, run as per your race plan and stick to it. 

And for the swim. I know that a lot of my fellow triathletes really struggle with the swim. A good friend of mine came from having panic attacks and not being able to swim 5m unassisted, to completing 3.9km in an Ironman in rough seas. Another amazing friend had a near-drowning as a child and has only just completed her first open water swim at the young age of 45. These achievements blow my mind, and firm up my belief that anybody can achieve great things if they have a strong support network, determination and focus, which triathletes have in droves! At the end of the day, we are all doing our absolute best, and I hope my sharing my experience has helped, even a little. We all have our favourite tri-leg, so please, if anyone has any good ‘do not’s’ for my run, then do let me know!

XX Kylie

2 Responses


March 07, 2024

Loved reading this! I was on the stressful journey with you but it all worked out in the end. Nice to know I’m not the only one late and panicking on race day amd that everyone is going going through the same thing. Great writing!

Jo fahey
Jo fahey

August 28, 2020

Great story… great advice… made me laugh as I remember some of my own lessons learnt!

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