I’m not a triathlete because I have a cat-like aversion to water. Really. If I dip my foot in water, I instantly pull it out and shake it just like my cat. So I haven’t ever been to USAT Nationals for Triathlon. BUT I have been to USAT Nationals for Duathlon a bunch of times. Here’s my advice to Nationals newbies out there– two secret items that all USAT veterans KNOW that they need to pick up.
One of USAT’s partner companies is TriTats, which makes the fancy body marking temporary tattoos that make your numbers clear and unmistakable. You’ll know right away if you have to use them– just look inside your race packet. If you have them in your race packet, just keep reading. I love how TriTats give a really pro look on race day. I don’t love taking them off. No one does. The first year that I raced Nationals (2011), I just about removed a layer of skin scrubbing these things off. I walked around for a few days with strange red spots on my arms and calves. Same experience at 2012 Nationals. In 2013, my friends Mary and Beth did the race with me. Someone had suggested using baby oil to remove them. One word of advice: don’t use baby oil. It doesn’t make it any easy to remove the tattoos and generally makes an ungodly mess of things.
This year, Mary and I came back to Nationals and she heard about a miracle solution– acetone-based nail polish remover. Take a paper towel and pour a generous amount of acetone on it. Then, place it over the tattoo and let it soak in for a few seconds. Then scrub. The tattoo should come peeling off like old paint peels off with a heat gun.
TriTats are pretty versatile and easy to apply if you follow the instructions carefully. I find that it helps to take your time with them and to really soak the paper backing (with water — not acetone– this time!!) when you press them up against your skin. You can put them on the night before the race (one less thing to worry about on race morning), but do be careful to let them dry completely first– they are a little delicate immediately after applying and the bed sheets can do a real number on them. I utterly destroyed my right calf number this year by not letting it dry out completely before going to sleep. They do feel a little weird when sleeping– a bit like someone put some elastic tape on your skin. Weird but not strange enough to induce any greater insomnia than one is likely to get anyways before a major race like Nationals.
If you’re photosensitive, however, you may want to wait until race morning. Mary reportedly sunburns very easily and she found that sunscreen over TriTats doesn’t work as well as applying a light layer before applying them. Yes, yes, the instructions tell you to only apply them to clean skin that’s free of sunscreen, but Mary swears it works. I have a fairly dark complexion, so I just pop them on the night before and then use sunscreen on top of them.
One other word of advice: have fun! USAT Nationals is a very special event. You’ll meet people from around the country who are just as competitive and passionate about the sport as you are. Bring your phone. Take lots of photos, Make lots of Facebook friends. Take in the pageantry. It’s amazing.