So, You Want to do a Triathlon

I recently blogged about registering for the 14th Annual JCC Triathlon by the Sea. What I didn’t mention in that post is that I opted to share this information on Facebook.


Yay…know all of my friends and family know I am doing yet another triathlon! I got a few “likes” and a few comments on this but my favorite was from my grandmother (my mom’s mom).

Grandmother comment

(I think she meant she changed her mind…not mine).

I chuckled at this but then realized that anyone, even my grandmother, could probably compete in this race. Maybe she isn’t really considering tri-ing but many others might be, hence this post.

So, you want to do a triathlon?

Can I even do this…

Triathlons come in all shapes and sizes – Sprint, Olympic, Half Ironman (aka 70.3) and Ironman (crazy long). I am going to focus on Sprint and Olympic distances because if you are planning to make a Half or full Ironman your first endeavor into the sport, you need a lot more information than I can give you!

Sprint triathlons consist of a (short) 500 yard – 0.5 mile swim, a 10 – 15 mile bike and a 3 – 3.5 mile run. All races are different but most sprint distance races will fall within these parameters.

Olympic distances races consist of a roughly mile swim, a 20 – 25 mile bike (varies by race) and a 10k (6.2 miles). These are usually about double the distance of the Sprint distance races.

Now I have to find a race…

Once you have decided what length race you are going to rock, find one that is within driving distance. Most races start super early in the morning so to avoid excessive hotel cost, choose a tri you can easily get to at the crack of dawn. I have had great luck on the TriFind site. You can sort races by state, length, and gender (I would love to do an all-female race at some point). Try to shoot for a race that is about 3 – 6 months away. Plenty of time to talk yourself out if it mentally prepare.

Oh wait, I can’t swim…

If you choose a sprint distance race 500 yards is just 20 lengths (10 laps) of a standard 25 yard pool. That’s nothing! If you truly CAN’T swim, take a lesson. You should learn to swim (in my biased opinion). If you are really weary of open water swims, make sure your race consists of a pool swim.

I haven’t ridden a bike since…

Since when? Elementary school? You know what they say about riding a bike don’t you? In my first race I rode my mom’s circa 1980 10-speed bike. Not ideal, but it did the trick.

I hate running…

The run part of the triathlon is nothing like your typical run. Just tell yourself that once you finish this 3 mile run, you will be a triathlete. That’s some serious motivation to put on foot in front of the other and just run. One of my fastest 3 mile times came at the tail end of the Brickman Triathlon a few years ago. It was freezing and I was looking forward to eating a hot Panera breakfast sandwich when I finished so kicked in into gear! Fast run times during triathlon are not the norm – I usually run at a much slower pace.

I heard triathlon is an expensive sport …

It can be for sure. But it does not have to be. Don’t be fooled into thinking you need to have top of the line gear for a Sprint distance race. Here are your must haves:

  • Registration fee (this might be the priciest item)
  • Swimsuit and goggles (most races provide swim caps)
  • A bike that fits you. This can be a mountain bike, a road bike, a hybrid, a touring bike, your litter sister’s old orange Huffy…it doesn’t matter as long as it is in good working condition and adjusted to your height.  I would also recommend getting your bike tuned up. I had an unfortunate flat tire incident at last year’s Triathlon by the Sea because I did not do this. If you do not have a bike, check out local bike shops for rentals.
  • A helmet. Yup, you will look super hot in your race pictures with our helmet on!
  • Good running shoes. Not your nasty yard work sneaks or your cute new neon errand running sneaks. By this time you will be tired, wear sneaks that give you the right support.

I should probably train for this…

Yes, you should. But you do not have to quit your day job and dedicate your life to swimming, biking and running. Sprint tris are named that for a reason (I think). They are fast. If you can dedicate 3 – 5 hours a week to training you will be able to finish a sprint triathlon. Don’t want to do it on your own? Look into local triathlon clubs. Many will have scheduled weekly workouts either early morning (before work) or in the evenings. There are also a PLETHORA or training schedules online. Just Google “sprint triathlon training” and browse. I followed the Tri Newbies plan for my first race and I loved it.

Do you still want to do a triathlon? I hope so! They are fun races and I think triathletes are the most fun, supportive and encouraging athletes out there!


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