Triathlons are no longer thought of as a crazy sport for super fit people racing Ironman distances. It is now known that there are many options for the everyday person to get involved in the sport if they desire. I began doing triathlons in August 2014. Like many others, I didn’t think of triathlons as something that was possible for me to do. Yes, I did local races, but I never thought I was fit enough to do a triathlon. Aside from that, I didn’t own a bike and I barely knew how to swim. I was comfortable with the water and could go in the deep end, but growing up in Philly, swimming laps just wasn’t something people in my neighborhood did. When running, I felt bored with no real goal to reach. Plus, I wanted to give my body some kind of rest but wanted to continue with my cardio… And that’s how triathlons were made for me. I quickly fell in love with the sport, the people, and everything that came along with being a triathlete. From that point on, triathlon wasn’t just something I did to pass time, it became a part of my life.

 

Luckily I had a few others that were just as curious about the sport as I was so we were able to learn together, but I still wish I knew a few things before jumping in head first. With that in mind, here are five things you should know before you tri:

 

  1. There are different distances to choose from.
    1. As previously mentioned, triathlons are not just the full Ironman distance, which consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and a 26.2 mile run. The most common distance options you’ll have to choose from are Sprint, Olympic/International and Half Ironman.
      1. The Sprint distance can vary from race to race, but your typical distance will be a 750 meter swim, 12 mile bike and a 3.1 mile run. This option is great for athletes that are new to the sport and want to test their limits. You’ll also find a lot of faster athletes in this distance as folks try to exert all of their energy in such a short distance.
      2. The Olympic distance is usually 1500 meter swim, 25 mile bike and a 6.2 mile run. This option is best for the athlete that is familiar with the sport and would like to do a bit more than the Sprint distance. The Olympic distance is also referred to as the International distance as it’s the most common option, regardless of country. This is also the distance that is performed by the athletes during the Olympic Games.
      3. The Half Ironman, or 70.3, distance does not change, unlike the Sprint and Olympic options. No matter the race, this distance will be a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and a 13.1 mile run. This is when folks begin to take things a bit more serious because at this distance, you’re not trying to figure out if you like the sport or not. More than likely you’ve done a few races before getting to a 70.3, spent some money on things that’ll make you a bit faster, and the sport has somewhat taken over your life!
      4. And lastly, the most commonly known triathlon event, the Ironman, consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and a 26.2 mile run. At this point you’re actually crazy. When you get to thinking of doing a 140.6 (Full Ironman) you should make an appointment with a therapist because there may be something wrong with you! If you need a recommendation just let me know, my therapist and I have discussed this more than enough times!

 

  1. Triathlons are expensive!
    1. If you’ve been participating in swimming, biking OR running events then you’re already familiar with how expensive that can be. That’s only one sport! You’ll be swimming, biking AND running at these events, so the registration prices will reflect that. With that in mind, make sure you create a race budget. Once you figure that out, multiply the amount times two. Between the races, travel, race nutrition and gear, you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared to have a successful race season. You don’t want to get to mid-season and realize you’ve spent all of the money you’ve set aside for races. Plus, if you don’t spend it all you can apply it to next year’s season because I’m sure you’ll be racing a bit more! If nothing else, you’ll just have the extra money and who doesn’t like having extra money?!

 

  1. You don’t NEED all of the cool gadgets to race!
    1. Folks get caught up in thinking they need everything that everyone else has that’s doing this sport. You don’t! Don’t go out and spend a ton of money on a bike! Use the bike that you already have, or find yourself an inexpensive bike that you can use until you find out if you actually like the sport. Having a tri-suit is great, but you don’t NEED one to race. Get a swimsuit to swim in, throw a pair of cheap bike shorts on for the ride, then slip those off (keeping on the swim suit) and put on some shorts to run in. Or just ride and run in the same shorts. It may not be the most comfortable thing but you’ll be able to get the race done without spending $100 for a tri-suit. Long story short, keep it as minimal as possible until you know for sure that you want to keep racing.

 

  1. Depending on where you live, triathlons race during a 4-5 month period but is a 12 month sport.
    1. The thing I love most about being a triathlete is that I can train all year. I don’t need to train as much during the offseason, but 12 months a year my training is geared around my season. Being up north, we have a period between June and September where we can race comfortably. That doesn’t mean that I don’t train any other month, but those are the months where my training is focused around racing. During the other months I am able to focus more on technique, or strength training, or anything else to keep my endurance up prior to “pre-season”, which for me typically starts in April at the latest. As a reference, here are some free training plans you can use if you’re looking to participate in a Sprint, Olympic, Half or Full Ironman triathlon:
      1. Sprint: 10 Week Training Plan
      2. Olympic: 10 Week Training Program
      3. Half Ironman: 18 Week Training Program
      4. Full Ironman: Six Month Training Program

 

  1. Your friendships and relationships WILL change!
    1. This is one that often gets overlooked, but is indeed the most important one of them all. As you get into triathlons you’ll quickly learn how much things change. Your body changes, your diet changes, your schedule changes and your relationships change. This is extremely difficult for most triathletes, because it’s easy to fall in love with the sport. That’s great, but there are only 24 hours in a day. As you become more involved in the sport you’ll quickly learn that most of those 24 hours are spent training or recovering. This is how you develop deeper relationships with the folks that you train with. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a team to be a part of like District Triathlon where you all may go for a swim, bike and/or run together then grab a bite to eat or have a drink. While this is all well and good, what does it mean for the friends that you have that aren’t into the sport of triathlon? That’s an individual question for every athlete and there’s no one answer.

 

Now take it a step further and think of this in terms of a marriage. It’s a very difficult thing! A great read on this topic is “Triathlete Love: You Tri, Your Spouse Doesn’t” by Susan Lacke. I can write a full post about that, but long story short, know and do what works best for you and the relationships that you care most about.

 

So while there are plenty more things that you will learn about the sport of triathlon, I hope that these few things help you as you begin your journey of becoming a triathlete!

 

Be>Yesterday