Triathletes of the class of 2016. Wear sunscreen. If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. Long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience.
Enjoy the pedal power and foot speed of your youth. You will not understand this beauty until it has faded. Oh, never mind, you can always age-up and start again. You are not as fat as you imagine. Trust me. It’s the unflattering Lycra tri-suit. Don’t worry about the Ironman swim. Or worry, but know that it pales in comparison to the bike ride and run that follow. Rather, accept that life’s real troubles will blindside you at 4pm on some idling weekend coffee-stop ride. Go anaerobic every day. Volunteer. Floss. You have eaten way too many energy gels. So please floss.
Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long – and those in front probably started in an earlier wave anyway. Remember to thank marshals, forget the draft cheats. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how. Keep your old race results, but throw away bank statements that show how much you’ve spent on equipment you already had. Stretch. Don’t worry about the age you find triathlon. Not all the best endurance athletes sprinted from the womb and some of today’s 50 year olds who have no notion of aerobars will become world champions.
Get plenty of calcium. Don’t neglect strength and conditioning. Maybe you’ll win, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll DNF, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll do one race and quit, maybe you’ll conquer Norseman at 75 because you’re so fit. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, but make sure you milk that finish chute. Every time. And remember – it’s triathlon. There will be mechanicals.
Enjoy your body, use it every way you can. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own – and that includes your carbon frame TT bike. Read the race instructions. Listen to the briefing. Do NOT look at other bikes in transition. They will only make you feel inferior.
Get to know your support crew, you never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your first coach, they will quietly watch out for you forever. Understand that friends come and go, but a precious few, you must hold on to.
Work hard to bridge the gaps… in geography and lifestyle, but on the bike, observe the legal distance. Have fun with sprints and off-road and relays. Race Ironman, but retire before you’re pulverised. Accept certain inalienable truths: Race entry costs will rise. You will always need one more bike. You will get slower and when you do, you’ll fantasise that you were far faster than you really were. Have respect for officials. Don’t shave your legs too much. And professionals, don’t expect to make a living just because you’re fast. Especially in Ironman races.
Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past and recycling it for more than it’s worth. So make your own mistakes and forget the ruminations of a washed-up old hack. But trust me on the sunscreen.