Finishing a triathlon can seem like an unattainable goal, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I have completed four triathlons, and am registered to do a fifth. Follow my tips on how to prepare yourself for your first triathlon.
Find Your Race
The first step for completing a triathlon is signing up for one. I highly recommend registering for a “sprint” triathlon. Sprint triathlons are short compared to others, so they are perfect for beginners. The distance is typically a 750 meter swim, 20 kilometer mile bike ride, and 5 kilometer run (FitDay). Swimming, biking, and running back-to-back can seem daunting, which is why it’s best to try a sprint triathlon first so as not to get overwhelmed.
What to Wear
I have seen triathletes competing in everything from string bikinis to full-on triathlon suits. The bottom line is that you should wear something that will be comfortable for all three phases of the triathlon.
The obvious choice is to buy a triathlon suit (or triathlon separates). They are made of swimsuit-like fabric and are designed specifically for what you’ll be doing. The downside is that they can be pricey. Try eBay or consignment shops for a deal on triathlon suits.
If you do not want to purchase a triathlon suit, I would recommend wearing athletic shorts and a sports bra (for the ladies, obviously).
Transitions (the times between the swim/bike and bike/run) are a very important and often overlooked part of triathlon training. You should practice your transition multiple times. A swift transition can shave precious minutes off of your finish time.
Strategy is everything when setting up your transition area. Have a small towel on the ground beside your bike at your designated transition location. Your shoes should go on your towel, and your socks should be turned partially inside-out inside your shoes. Have your helmet sitting on your bike seat so that you don’t forget to put it on — biking without a helmet will get you disqualified from the race. Your race number should be already attached to your race belt, sitting right next to your shoes.
Do a Practice Run
I highly recommend doing a “mock triathlon” sometime in the months before the actual race. Swim the appropriate distance in a local lake or pool. Have your bike and run routes mapped out prior to starting. Set up your transition area in the same way that you’ll have it on race day.
The mock triathlon will help you identify any areas of weakness that you need to work on before race day approaches.