You want do a triathlon in 2018? Maybe you watched Ironman Kona on ABC this past fall and it inspired you? Or you have a friend who has talked you into doing one with you. I want to share some “things” I have learned during my journey. I thought about calling this Triathlon Mistakes however I realized they weren’t really mistakes merely things that I had learned, and they could make your journey starting out a lot easier.
Hire a Coach
I was a self coached athlete for many many years, and honestly it did suit me just fine. However, I believe that it suited me due to the background I had in competitive racing throughout college, my human biology background, and my time spent in the physical therapy world. A coach is someone who can look at your training and progress from a higher level. They can help guide you in the right direction, calm you down when maybe you are being a little to intense (I have this problem often – sorry coach), and take the stress of figuring out how to train for a triathlon.
While training for a triathlon is relatively simple; you swm, you bike, and you run. However, most of us also work full time jobs, have a family, and friends that require our attention as well. Trying to schedule all of that can be exhausting, in fact so exhausting that by the time you get it all scheduled you don’t want to do it anymore. A coach takes that stress out, and they tell you when to swim, bike, run, and for how long.
Lastly, it gives you that accountability partner. Knowing that someone out there is working hard for you to create your plan perfect for you and that if you do skip they will know is a great way to stay on top of it.
Go Short Before Going Long
You watched Ironman Kona on ABC and now you want to do an Ironman. That is all fine however an Ironman requires a lot time, effort, and commitment. In triathlon there are four distances that you can participate in; sprint, olympic, 70.3 and full 140.6. Both the sprint and olympic distances are great distances to get your feet wet in the triathlon world, they take a lot less time and energy to train for.
Get the Gear
The first couple triathlons I raced in I did not have the gear, I was totally broke at the time and didn’t know any better. While you do not need to go out and buy the most expensive gear you do need the gear. Here are the pieces I recommend you ensuring you have:
Bike: this does not have to be a tri specific bike, it can be a road bike, nor the most expensive bike just make sure it fits you.
Wet suit: don’t hate the wet suit it will become your best friend. The first two triathlons I did I did not own a wet suit, I was the only one on the start line without one during a September race in Portland, OR; lets just say I was so cold when I got out of the water I could barely function. Plus they help with buoyancy which in turn makes swimming easier.
Running shoes – this is one of the most important pieces of your gear collection and if you are going to spend some extra money on something it would be this. There is a huge difference between 80 dollar running shoes and 140 dollar running shoes; you’ll never know it until you try them. Good running shoes can help prevent injury which none of us wants.
Watch – In order to improve you need to be able to keep track of your pace, this is the best way to do it.
Helmet – For safety reasons.
Sunglasses – When you are biking you will find you love these
Tri Shorts or Tri Suit – one you want the padding for riding the bike but there is a difference between tri shorts and cycling shorts. Tri shorts have less padding in them which allows you to run comfortably in them, making transitions smoother and faster. If you are used to only ever riding in cycling shorts I recommend getting some rides in with the lesser padding of the tri shorts.
Goggles – trust me you can’t swim without them
This is the fourth discipline of triathlon and also one of the toughest to master. Take the time to figure it out on and off the race course. Practice your nutrition and never try something new on race day, I’ve done this and it is a mistake. Nailing your nutrition can make any day a good day.
Get out of your head
More often than not the piece that we all struggle with is our confidence in ourselves. Our fear of the water, that we will come in last, that we will look like a newbie, and people will make fun of us. Triathlon and running are two of the most inclusive and welcoming sports I have ever been a part of. I showed up to my first triathlon without a wet suit, my mom’s old touring bike from before I was born, I was wearing a helmet that had dog chew marks in it, and used a blender bottle for a water bottle; you wanna talk out of place I was it. But I had no money at the time, was living off about 50 dollars a week, and hell I just wanted to race. Not a single person said a word out of place to me, I was greeted with smiles, my questions answered, and in the middle of the bike as I was passing someone on an expensive tri bike they looked at me with a smile (maybe out of pity) and said “you go girl you rock”.
Don’t worry what people think about you cause I can guarantee you they won’t think anything other than heck ya way to go for being there.
Give yourself plenty of time
This is true in training and on race day. If you are new to triathlon don’t start training for your A race a couple week’s prior; being prepared for all three disciplines takes time and so does life. It is guaranteed that something will come up that takes you away from your training and you need the time to be flexible for it.
Race day can be stressful. There is so much going on, you’re nervous, and no matter how much you’ve prepped for it there always seems to be something that goes wrong. So give yourself the time to manage the ups and downs of race morning. Give yourself time to do things slowly and take that pressure off yourself.
Be prepared to be hooked
You never just do one triathlon. I can almost give you a 100% guarantee that you’ll be hooked after one. There is something about triathlon that is unbelievably addicting and what creates that addiction is different for everyone. For me it is the strength you feel from pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone and the amazing people that I have met through it.
Triathlon is a wonderful sport. It is so empowering and full of amazingly supportive people that even when they want to kick your butt on the course will at least do so with a high five, a genuine smile, and maybe a slap on the butt if they know you well enough. Do not let the logistics of triathlon scare you away, and if you have any more questions or maybe need a coach please let me know! I would love to help you find your passion for it too!