First Triathlon Tips
There are times in your life when you make a decision and then realise “oh, SH#T, what have I done?” Signing up for a triathlon can feel like that. No matter the distance, no matter whether you signed up yourself or a friend “volunteered you”, the realisation that you actually have to Swim, Bike, Run can be a little overwhelming. Luckily, there are a few basic tips to remember to help you through your first triathlon. These are a few things I learned after completing my first triathlon.
1. Don’t Panic
Simple to say, I know. But seriously, you’ll be fine. It might seem daunting at first (especially, if you think about it too much) but almost everyone with a basic level of fitness can get through a beginner triathlon.
Let’s assume for a moment, that you have signed up for a Try-a-Tri distance triathlon. These are designed for beginners and offer short courses, just to give it a go. Typically, they have a swim of about 200m, a bike of about 10kms and a 2km run (or there abouts). With a bit of consistent training, most people should be able to complete the course.
2. Consistency is the key
The key to getting through your first triathlon is consistency in your preparation and training. Train regularly, even if that is only a few hours a week, it will still be enough to get you through. As long as you get through a swim, a bike and a run each week you will improve.
For an event like the one mentioned above, a simple training program might consist of the following:
- 2 swims per week of around 500m per session. One session of 10 x 50m sprints and one of longer 200m swims.
- 2 sessions on the bike; 20kms over an hour each would be great.
- 1-2 runs of up to 5kms and around 30 mins.
- and maybe some strength training. Nothing complex, just needs to be 20 minutes at home of squats, lunges, sit ups and push ups.
- A day or two per week of rest (yes, no training).
The total time commitment is between 4 to 6 hours a week. The important thing isn’t the total amount of training, but the consistency. Beyond a minimum level of fitness, completing a triathlon is mostly an exercise in mental strength. If you think you can, then you can. Training consistently will help give you the confidence to get through.\
3. Know the course / know the distances
It’s kind of a no-brainer, but you should get to know the course and know how far you have to swim, bike, run. Most triathlon organisations provide course maps detailing the route, transition zones, etc. If you get the chance, inspect the course before hand.
As far as distances go, remember that you are competing in three events, one after the other. I knew going into my first tri that I could compete each of the individual distances. I’d done it plenty of time in training. What I wasn’t prepared for was coupling them all together, without any rest inbetween. Big difference between running 5 kms and running 5kms after swimming 400m and cycling 20kms!
Knowing the course helps with confidence.
4. Have Fun!
Ok. So this piece of advice usually annoys me when people tell it to me. But it’s true. Your triathlon will hurt. No matter whether your racing your first try-a-tri or trying to win Kona, it will hurt physically and it will hurt mentally. You’ll probably wish you could stop. But of course you won’t.
When you look back at the day there will be a secret smile of achievement, maybe even joy, that you completed the course.
But, But But……
Ok, so you still have objections. What are they?
I don’t have a fancy tri bike
Neither do I. Pretty much any bike will be good enough to get you through your first triathlon. As long as it work well, it will be fine. I’ve seen guys finish Ironman distance races on funny three wheel contraptions, so your mountain bike or road bike will be fine. If you don’t own a bike, borrow one (or rent it!).
I don’t have any of the gear – its all too expensive.
You actually don’t need to spend a vast sum of money to complete your first triathlon. Assuming you can beg, borrow or steal a bike (well, maybe you should ask), the following is about all you’ll need:
- swim goggles – useful for seeing in the water, maybe $20
- Runners – for running……
- Bike helmet – compulsory for the event
- Clothing – Swimmers, socks, top, hat and shorts. You can’t do a triathlon naked, but at the same time you don’t need to invest hundreds in a topline tri-suit. You normal sports clothes are fine.
You’ve probably got most of the items on the list already around the house.
I might come last!
I won’t lie. Yes, you might. But then again, you might not. With some consistent training you could very well surprise yourself at what you can achieve.
And besides, who cares?! Simply finishing is a great achievement and you will have done more than most people ever achieve.
You promise I’ll feel good at the end?
I won’t promise you’ll feel great the moment you cross the finish line (but maybe you will) and yes, it will probably hurt. But finishing will be a fantastic achievement and one that you will look back on.