The sport of triathlon have grown rapidly in popularity in the last couple of years, what does this mean for you? It means that there are plenty of beginners in the same spot as you. The first thing you have to realize about the sport is that the majority of the people who show up are not racing to win (though, of course, they will be there too), they are merely racing for one of two things, (1) For the pure joy of the sport, and the camaraderie of the participants, people tend to be very friendly at these events, or (2) for a personal challenge, to push their limits and see what they can do (often the goal is just to finish, I know that was my first goal). And who’s to say that they aren’t there for both reasons?
Now some things you should know about the race itself so you don’t get in too far over your head… The standard “sprint” triathlon consists of a 750 meter swim, 20 kilometer (about 12.4 mile) bike, and a 5 kilometer (about 3.1 mile) run. Each triathlon will be a little different, some are longer and some are shorter. The swims can range anywhere from 250 meters (usually in a pool) to 800 meters (usually in a lake or some other body of water). The bikes will range from 9 miles to 17.5 miles (I don’t know the metric conversions for those, sorry). And the run is almost always a 5k, I haven’t seen anyone vary on that yet.
Now you’re next question might be “how far in advance should I start training for my triathlon?” The answer to this question varies from person to person depending on what kind of shape you’re in. Most plans will suggest you start 8-12 weeks prior, but if you really want to make sure you are prepared you can find 20 week training plans. And don’t think you need to shell out hundreds of dollars on a personal trainer, you can save that for when you get really good. This is just your first triathlon, you can simply Google a training plan and find a free guide (they’ll do just fine).
What you should bring to the race. Here’s a simple list of what you should bring to your first race.
Your bike (road bike, triathlon bike, mountain bike – any of these will do),
A water bottle (for your bike),
A pair of biking gloves (not necessary, I don’t use these),
Your suit (a wetsuit if you’re race is in a cold lake) or a pair of triathlon specific shorts (recommended)
A pair of goggles
A pair of sandals (for before the race, waiting for the swim)
A pair of sunglasses you can race with (if it’s sunny that day)
Your running shoes (biking shoes are optional, a pair of tennis shoes will do just fine)
Now for what to expect when you get there, you’re first triathlon will more than likely be a little hectic, so be sure to plan ahead and arrive early. An hour before the start time should be plenty early enough. Most of the time traffic is redirected around the course, so be prepared for a little walk (maybe a block or two). It’s a good idea to pack everything in a small bag, throw it over your shoulder and ride your bike over to the race area (just for convenience). The first thing I would do when I arrive is go over to the packet pick-up area and get your racing number and chip. If you went to the packet pick-up the day before you will still need to get your chip from that area.