Fewer activities test fortitude like a triathlon - a race consisting of swimming, biking, and running, typically done in that order, successively. The Iron Man, the most famous triathlon, features a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile full marathon. This world-famous endurance race, done in one go, may seem out of reach for beginners. However, not all beginners need to jump into such an intense race to experience a triathlon.
Which type of triathlon is right for you?
Triathlons have spread worldwide, so finding the right one for your endurance and skill levels will give you a head start on completing one as a beginner. Thankfully, runners can find a triathlon length that fits varying stages of athleticism using tools such as TriFind.
The most common triathlon lengths are:
- Super Sprint Distance - 400m/6.2 mile/1.55 mile
- Sprint Distance - 750m/12.4 mile/3.1 mile
- Olympic/Standard Distance - 0.9 mile/25 mile/6.2 mile
- Middle Distance - 1.55 mile/56 mile/13.1 mile
- Long Distance (aka 'Ironman') - 2.4 mile/112 mile/ 26.2 mile
Beginners will want to look into much shorter triathlons called sprint races (or super sprint races) which generally take no more than two hours. Shorter races are a great way to build endurance and confidence for the longer races. However, if sprint races seem too easy, consider starting with the Olympic or Middle distance triathlons.
Once you have picked the type of race, next comes preparation.
How should a beginner prepare for a triathlon?
The amount of time you want to give to triathlon training will be related to the type of race you choose. Experts recommend 10 - 12 weeks of training for the shorter triathlons. (This sample training plan provides a daily and weekly guide for a sprint triathlon.)
A good training plan includes rest days and divides the training by sport, alternating the days. Also, distances increase incrementally.
Of course, if you are better in one sport than the other, you will want to focus training on the sports in which you have less experience. For example, as a runner, you may want to train harder for the biking and swimming portions of the race.
Also, remember to practice transitions during training, especially the bike to run one. And, when training for the swim, consider the type of swim (open area versus a pool).
In addition to training, proper equipment is essential. Take inventory of equipment and begin shopping for the items you need as early as possible.
First, break up the equipment needs by the sport. For example, with swimming, you are going to want:
- a swim cap,
- swim goggles,
- and a wetsuit, depending on the temperature of the water.
Note that a tri suit is great for swimming and can be worn the whole race.
For the bicycling part of the race, you will want some padding (included in tri suits); also, you will need:
- a safe bike and
- a safety helmet.
The running portion of the race will require a good pair of running shoes and a race belt to showcase the race number. Also, be sure to verify (each race differs) because most triathlons do not allow cell phones, so no need to worry about carrying one on race day.
What should you do on race day?
You will want to familiarize yourself with the course before the race begins. Get a feel for the inclines and turns. Look over course maps, descriptions, directions, or even race reports to help prepare come the big day.
Finally, do not forget to enjoy yourself. Happy Triathlon!