There’s No “I” in Relay Team
Everybody’s seen the small group of people hanging out in the corner of transition, lounging against the fence and watching the racers struggle by while they have not a care in the world. What are they doing and why are they there? Those people are enjoying the experience of a relay triathlon. Relay triathlon teams have either two or three people. In a two person team, one person takes two legs and the second person takes the third, in any combination. In a three person team, all racers get one leg. Being part of a relay triathlon team is the most fun you can have at a triathlon. You get to be part of the spectacle for a quarter of the stress and hang out with your friends at the same time. You get a built in cheer crew and people to celebrate with after the race. Why would you NOT do a relay?? To have the best experience possible, here are a few things to keep in mind when planning a triathlon relay team.
Pick people with the same goals, abilities and mindset. This cannot be emphasized enough. A runner driven to win should look for fast swimmers and bikers and bypass friends, relatives and casual racers. A first-time triathlete just trying to get into the sport should look for supportive, helpful teammates. Casual athletes just looking to have fun need to seek out other casual athletes. 🙂
Alternatively, pick people because you like them – and know their limitations. Some families can race together with great success. At a race I relayed in years ago, the grandfather swam, the son rode the bike leg, and the grandson ran. Everybody had a good time, it was a fun bonding experience, and everybody knew that the grandfather was going to be a long time in the water and needed the grandson standing at swim out with his shoes. As long as the needs and expectations are set in advance, everybody should be happy. Sometimes teams can inspire the solo racers, too. The grandfather got an ovation from waiting racers after his successful swim!
A third team building option is to pick people you want to introduce to the sport of triathlon and coax, coerce or blackmail them into doing a race with you. I’ve heard of a few lost bets that resulted in very successful relay teams! In this case, it’s up to you to adapt your needs to the newbie racer(s) so that they have a positive experience. This means directing your teammates to coaches (like the awesome ET coaches), attending training 101 sessions with them, helping them with gear, and generally being whatever your teammate needs. Motivational coaxing and bribery also work with people who want to participate but who are injured, scared or just not trained enough yet to do a full triathlon of any length.
Be prepared for your leg(s) of the race. You’ve got your team, so now you have to hold up your end of the bargain. Train appropriately, show up on time with the correct gear, and be fueled and hydrated. Because there is no “I” in RELAY TEAM, there’s also no “Well, I only had a few drinks last night,” or “Oops, I only brought one bike shoe!”
Be friendly in transition. In addition to the three generation team discussed above, at the same race was a relay team with a rather load and brash cyclist. He most certainly did not leave a good impression with the other relay teams that day. 🙁
Have fun with it! Come up with a cool team name, design a t-shirt, wear matching costumes. Yes, it’s a race. But so what? That doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun along the way. Racing really just means that you don’t sit down in transition and you always look focused during a race while your coach is watching. Beyond that, it’s wide open! Like to sing to your fellow racers? Have at it. Complement people on their sharp tri uniforms. Thank the volunteers. Blow kisses to the cops directing traffic (this can be done while in aero, by the way). Tell jokes. As long as you’re not violating USAT rules or impeding other racers, have some fun!
Most of us have done dozens of races and it’s impossible to PR or get on the podium at all of them. So do something else to make your races memorable, like sharing the triathlon relay experience with your friends. It’s a great time!