First Triathlon

by / Friday, 31 July 2015 / Published in Lifestyle, sport

Are you thinking about doing your first triathlon? You’ve seen the distances (750mtr swim; 20km bike; 5km run or shorter for a tri-a-tri) and there is nothing that scares you, certainly not with a bit of training beforehand anyway. It’s just a bit daunting as you thought only real athletes did triathlons! But then you saw “so-and-so” finishing one and thought well if they can do it, i can do it… So get a lend of a bike or a wetsuit if you have to (i wore a windsurfing wetsuit for my first few races) and get signed up for your first event – nothing motivates you more than actually entering a race.

Triathlete Newbie

Triathlete Newbie

So what does it involve?  The swim is often the most daunting aspect for people.  Not only do you have to swim open water in a lake, river or the sea but you might have hundreds of people around you too. Well you have the option to do a pool swim race (there are lots of these nationwide), a tri-a-tri race with a shorter swim or just stay to the back of your race wave and let the madness go off in front as you follow behind.  Not being able to swim puts many people off ever doing a triathlon but many others (including myself) just learnt to swim properly at a late age over the course of a winter in a local pool.  A few lessons or a friend that can swim can show you the ropes and get you started, then it’s just about perseverance, put the lengths in each week and before you know it you’ll be doing 30 lengths – sprint triathlon distance. Then get out into the open water, it’s very different to a pool but many of us find it much more enjoyable.  Swimming is also one of the most beneficial sports you can do – check out the facts on swimming in our previous blog here

Cycling is the main portion of the race by time and can also be the most time consuming part of training.  But again cycling is one of the most beneficial sports to participate in and it helps if you can immerse it in your everyday life (cycling to/from work; add a baby seat and take your kid for a spin etc). You’ll pick it up quickly and start enjoying it, afterall it’s just like riding a bike J

The run distances normally look quite short but after a swim and cycle they will be tough and your legs will feel like jelly so practise running off the bike beforehand. Even if you have to walk some of it, it doesnt matter you will be so pleased to finish and you can always improve for your next race. For those of us with numerous old injuries from football etc it helps that run training is interspersed with cycling and swimming, so it lessens impact and also makes training a lot more interesting.

The 4th element to the race is transition, normally getting changed for a race is the easy part but not when you are getting timed! Check out our transition blog here for an outline and some tips but again for your first race don’t worry too much about every second just practise it beforehand and ease your way through it during the race. For a short race you don’t need to worry too much about nutrition just a good carbohydrate based meal a few hrs before the start and a few energy gels or energy drink during the race will suffice. For subsequent races you’ll start to build up a race routine and habits that work for you, for your first time just allow loads of time to organise, be well prepared and mentally walk through the race beforehand, then take whatever happens on the day in your stride

A big help can be to join a local triathlon club or a club just for one of the disciplines (swim team, cycle club, running group). It certainly helps to train as part of a team, it’s a great help for your first race and clubs can be good fun as well. There will be other people going through exactly the same stuff as you so it helps to share information and learn from others. Ive always found the variety of training to be a great help, means you don’t get bored doing one thing and can help avoid repetitive strain injuries.

The most important thing is to have confidence in yourself and put the training in beforehand.  Ive seen people doing Ironman distance races in the UK and Ireland (3.8km swim; 180km bike; 45km run) that i never thought would have been able to, indeed i did one myself in under 12hrs that previously i thought would have been impossible to finish. You mightn’t enjoy the actual race itself due to nerves but you’ll feel fantastic crossing that finish line (its feels like completing 3 races instead of 1), the buzz you get will have you hooked just like the rest of us. Then enjoy the feeling of accomplishment and start planning for your next race!

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