Giving a Tri a Try
So you’ve thought about doing a triathlon…..what’s the next step? What exactly is it? How do you train for a triathlon? Can you do it? First things first, yes you can do it!
Traditionally a triathlon is made up of three disciplines; swim, bike and run, in this order, but some races may mix up the order, involve a different discipline other than swimming and not to mention the off-road triathlons like Xterra (these are my personal favourites). There are different triathlon lengths; Sprint distance triathlon: 750m/20km/5km. Standard distance triathlon: 1500m/40km/10km. Middle distance triathlon: 2.5km/80km/20k. Long distance triathlon: 4km/120km/30km. Ironman distance triathlon: 3.8km/180km/42km, and you will even find some like the Generation Homes Women’s Tri that offers very manageable distances of 400m swim, 10k bike and 4k run/walk. These events are all about getting stuck in, giving it a go and achieving realistic goals! You have the option to enter as an individual or a team too just to give you a taste.
How do you find the right triathlon for you?
There are a few triathlon calendars you can find online that will give you plenty of options in your area. Here are a couple of different links you can have a look at:
It’s a good idea to start with a sprint distance tri (don’t worry, you don’t have to ‘sprint’) and get a feel for it then work your way up to the longer distances (if that’s what you want to do). This way you can build up the endurance and strength and keep injuries at bay.
Another way you can find out more, and start training under guidance, is to join a Triathlon Club. Triathlon clubs typically have training sessions during the week that you can get involved in and also have lots of information regarding races in your area and people that are more than willing to give you advice and help you in the right direction.
We are very lucky in Tauranga to have the Tauranga Tri Club. They are an extremely dedicated club who provide all sorts of support to the community and welcome beginner triathletes with open arms. If you are reading this and think I want to get involved in a tri this summer then Tauranga Tri Club have the season ‘Opening Night’ on the 4th October at 6pm at Avanti Plus Mt Maunganui. This is a get-together for current members, non-members and people new to town to kick start of the Triathlon season. No bikes, shoes or lycra involved just a good opportunity to get amongst it, meet some like-minded people and find out what triathlon in Tauranga is all about. Check it out on their Facebook group or website.
I am no expert in triathlon, and in all honesty doing my first triathlon four years ago scared me to death (especially that swim) however I met and trained with an awesome bunch of ladies who gave me confidence and the desire to persist and now I am hooked. Here are a few things I have learnt along the way that will hopefully help you in some way…
Training for a Tri
If you can join a tri club, this is a great way to get your fitness up with a group of like-minded people and learn along the way. But if you would like to give it a go by yourself then I would advise you talk to someone with a bit of knowledge who can point you in the right direction.
One of the most important things when training is to practice your transitioning from swim to bike and bike to run. Even if you are not going out to break records, knowing what you are doing in the transition area is important. Knowing where all your gear is and having it all visible so you don’t freak out thinking you’ve forgotten something. Things as simple as forgetting your sunglasses when you get on your bike or start your run or leaving your drink bottle behind, these sound like small things, but they may be the difference to you enjoying the event or making it an uncomfortable experience.
What do you need?
The basics required are:
- Running Shoes
Don’t think you have to go out and buy all this fancy new equipment for your first tri. The idea of ‘try a tri’ is just getting out there and doing it. The first tri I did I used my mountain bike and the second year I borrowed my neighbours road bike (beg, borrow, steal (no maybe don’t steal)). You can get by with the minimum and just enjoy the experience of being a part of it. This way you can decide if it’s your cup of tea without spending a fortune.
Another good tip is to train the way you plan to do the event. That is, train with the gear you plan to wear and use, eat and drink the same way you will on the day. There would be nothing worse than eating something the morning of your event that upsets your tummy or wearing a new pair of socks or sports bra that rubs or irritates you. By practising everything before the event you will avoid any nasty surprises!
Get to know the course before the day. You’ll feel more comfortable knowing which way you’re going and any hills won’t seem quite so daunting if you are prepared and have trained for them. When you know the course it also gives you a good idea of how much you need to pace yourself. The race websites will normally have a map and course description.
For a lot of people this could be the most daunting part of the triathlon (it was for me). Try and develop a sense of relaxation and comfort in the water. Any stroke is normally permitted in the swim i.e. you don’t have to do freestyle (front crawl), although this is the fastest and most efficient stroke. My first time I did all types; freestyle, backstroke, sidestroke, anything that kept me moving. The triathlon start can be quite overwhelming when you are surrounded by a huge group of people with arms and legs going everywhere. Position yourself to your comfort level and speed. I would suggest to keep out of the middle bunch, keep at your own pace, keep calm and don’t go out too fast!
Your first transition is going from swim to bike. It may feel a little strange to start riding from swimming (you’ll be surprised how quickly you dry off). Start out in a low gear (so your legs are moving quickly and easily) and you’re off! Remember there is still one more leg to complete so enjoy it but save some energy for the run!
The last stage…..rack your bike, take your helmet off, shoes on and you’re off again! The heavy feeling in your legs is expected, you should have experienced this in your training sessions. Have fun, just keep putting one foot in front of the next and picture that finish line.
If you still have any questions, concerns, worries or need advice on training, I’d be more than happy to help in any way I can. Please flick me and email Coralie@beyondfitness.co.nz.