So, you want to try a triathlon?!
Has the triathlon bug bitten you ?! Are you ready to give it a "tri"? I got the bug a couple of years ago, when I turned 40. Since then, I have had a BLAST with it, and completed about 10 triathlons.
Since then, I have been a real student of the sport, and prepared this list of 6 keys that I wish I knew before I completed my first race. I hope this hub helps you do the best you can in your first race!
Enjoy! Dave Sherwin
At the finish line! What a great feeling!
1. Be a student
Triathlon can be deceiving because swimming, biking and running are three skills that many children have. What's the big deal, right?! Wrong!
World class swimmers, cyclists and swimmers all have coaches, they spend many hours training, and are CONSTANTLY working on their technique. Of course, we aren't world class athletes, but we still need to be humble and realize that there is a lot to learn about each discipline.
Also realize that most triathletes aren't going to make a good study of the sport, so you have a competitive advantage if you are learning tips, tricks, and techniques that they aren't!
The best all around resource book I have found is Joe Friel's "The Triathletes Training Bible". It covers everything, and is triathlon specific.
Some other great books I have found:
For running expertise consider "Jack Daniels Running Formula". Jack Daniels (not the liquor, but the coach!) is considered by many to be the greatest running coach ever, and you'll believe it after reading his book!
For swimming, try the "Swim Smooth" training series, or a book called "Total Immersion" by Terry Laughlin
For cycling, try Joe Friel's "The Cyclists Training Bible" is best selling cycling book.
By studying the sport you will pick up SOOOO many things your competitors won't know, and be miles ahead and more confident when you stand on the beach getting ready for the gun to go off at your first race!
2. Start Small!
Many people think that a triathlon has to be a full "Ironman" distance: swim 2.4 miles, bike 56, and run a full 26.2 mile marathon. Well, luckily, that's just not the case. There are 4 popular distances of triathlon:
2. 1/2 Ironman (just what it sounds like, half the distance of a full Ironman)
3. Olympic distance (1500 Meter (just shy of a mile) swim, 40K bike (24.8 miles) 10K run (6.2 miles)
4. Sprint distance (1/2 of Olympic distance: 750 M swim, 20K bike, 5K run)
If you have never done a race before, why not start with the shortest, easiest distance? On the way you will learn a lot about swimming, biking and running, and have the "race day" experience of completing each leg and the two transitions. And you know you can complete those distances without having a heart attack or drowning! (Both of those options would be bad)
Perry W at the finish line
3. Don't just work out, TRAIN!
Many people preparing for their first tri just go out there and do some swimming, biking, and running. And that's a great start, but if you really want to do your best, learn the difference between TRAINING and just working out.
Training means working out with a purpose. It means understanding how much to work out, how fast, how to do different types of training such as Intervals, Repetitions, and Long Slow Distance.
Don't know how to set up a training regimen? Consider finding a local triathlon coach, or review key number one in this hub, and become a good student!
4. Eat right and hydrate!
While working out is absolutely critical, fueling your body with the right nutrients is just as important. Eliminate junk foods from your diet as much as possible, and only consume healthy carbs, proteins and fats. Increase how much "live" food you eat, as in fruits and vegetables, and cut down on sugar.
Hydration is one of the most overlooked areas of training. As a matter of fact, MOST athletes are not well hydrated. It's amazing how much money people spend on supplements, but then don't drink enough water! After air, water is the very most important thing our bodies need. You also need to replenish electrolytes when you work out.
Other supplements I recommend are Hammer nutritions gels, and Clif makes a really cool workout supplement called a "Shot Block". Check them out at a local health food store or running shop.
5. Get the best equipment you can
Equipment DOES make a difference! Does that mean you have to get an $8,000 bike to do your first tri? No, but you should still get the best equipment you can afford.
Swimming: Check if wet-suits are allowed in your local races. If they are, get one! Wet-suits not only keep you warmer and more comfortable while you swim, but they make you more buoyant, and that means more speed!
Also make sure and get a good pair of goggles from a swim shop, and not the cheesy kid kind from a box store. A good pair is only about $20, and they are so much more comfortable and leak proof than cheap ones.
Running: A good pair of training shoes will run you between $80-120, and they are well worth it! If you have never bought running shoes from a running store, now's the time! You will probably pay a little bit more, but to have them fitted properly is worth every penny you'll pay. Running is the hardest of the three disciplines on your body, and a good pair of shoes will minimize the impact, and help prevent injuries.
Bike: Decent bikes start at around $1,000, but if you can't afford to pay that much consider buying a good bike second hand. Also, make sure and stop by a bike shop to have them determine exactly what frame size you need. Having the right size bike, with the lowest weight and the best components you can afford, makes a big difference on race day!
My dad in Ironman Hawaii 1985
6. Be consistent
This one may seem obvious, but it's amazing how many people flake on themselves! Don't be that person! Of course there will be days you don't feel well, or family commitments that may bump the occassional workout, but generally speaking you need to commit to your training program and train regularly.
One great way to do this is to get a workout partner. Find somebody else that will do a race with you, and work out with them. If you can find an experienced triathlete that will take you under their wing, even better! Any chance you get to work out with somebody better and faster than you will help a lot.
Also consider joining a local Triathlon Club. Don't be intimidated, many people are newbies to triathlon, you will find others that are also preparing for their first race. Clubs provide meetings, parties, training, and comeraderie that make the whole experience more fun.
My first race had about 700 people. Standing by the water getting ready to swim I was excited, nervous, scared... then the gun went off and I started to swim. I had lousy swim skills, and by the first buoy I was DONE! I then completed the ugliest medley of side stroke, doggy paddle, and back stroke you have ever seen, but finally made it out of the water.
When I got on my bike, there was a LOT of people in front of me, and I was mad at myself for having such a lousy swim, and the competitive juices started to flow. All I wanted to do was pass people, and that's what I did! I gave it everything I had, then got off the bike and ran the best I could to the finish line.
Crossing that finish line felt so good! I ended up in 90th place, and was hooked on the sport. Since then I have studied and trained, and constantly tried to improve, and I have just enjoyed it more and more.
I am now, at age 42, in the best shape of my life. Not only that, I am enjoying competing at this age more than I ever enjoyed competing as a youth. I don't know why that is, but I've heard other athletes say the same thing.
So if you've been tempted to give it a shot, just do it! Sign up for a local race a few months down the road, and start training! I guarantee it will be a great life experience!
To your success!