Things I wish they had told me about triathlon training…

Well, it happened. I signed up for my first sprint triathlon this past December, with a race date of June 25th. I had been curious about the sport and thought it would be a great way to ring in my 41st birthday (the same weekend of the race).  Little did I know how much I was going to learn about the sport, and about myself, in the process.   Full disclosure:  the most swimming I’ve done in my life included a lake, some floating chairs and a cold adult beverage.  I mean, I could stay afloat or swim casually to the other side of the banks, but I was in no means trying to break any records.  I had never, ever, set foot in a lap lane before I started triathlon training.  As for biking, well I had owned a few bikes in my lifetime, but never anything that was going to carry me through a road race (think banana seats and mountain bikes up to this point).  I say these things because I never, ever though in a million years I would do a triathlon. Never say never.

Here are a few things I wish other people had warned me about before I started training. I am passing them on to you in case you are thinking about training for a triathlon (because if you have the yearning and will to do it, you will):

Swim with the big dogs. (And I don’t mean doggie paddle).

  • It is intimidating to go to the pool and start your training.  At first, I tried to find the times when the pool was the least crowded. I didn’t want to have to share a lane at all.  Guess what? You need to get over that.  Whether you are doing an open water swim or a pool swim for your race, you need to try to recreate the elements as best you can. This means crowded, choppy waters in a less than best case scenario.  So, go to the pool when it is crowded. Jump in the lane with the chick who has the Ironman swim cap on or when the swim team is practicing (or both!).  Find swim/tri groups in your community that have open water swim practice for added safety.  You need to be able to swim in water that mirrors race day conditions, so seek it out and go for it. It will build your confidence and make you best prepared for race day.19055350_10212933734956664_1888282938666851018_o

Don’t worry about how you look in  your race attire.

  • Great news – You don’t have to spend a fortune on race attire if you don’t want to, especially if you are starting out with a sprint or olympic tri. At this level of racing, you will see everything from swimsuits to skinsuits to sports bras & capris to tri kits.  Pick what works for your budget.  Practice in it often.
  • Even better news — NOONE cares what you are wearing or what you look like in it on race day.  Do you know why? Because you trained just like they did and you showed up to do an amazing race very few will ever attempt to do.  You have arrived.  And you are going to rock whatever you are wearing, regardless of your shape and size.  

Don’t underestimate the bike portion of your training. That old saying, “It is just like riding a bike” is misleading.  It is NOT just like riding a bike. Unless you are actually riding a tricycle or a bike with no gears and a basket on the front, it is MUCH HARDER than JUST riding a bike. It is riding a bike at what feels like breakneck speed, knowing when to gear up/down, sometimes in traffic, with Ironman contenders flying past you.  Don’t underestimate it. Find a group to ride with on your training rides; learn the rules of the road, even if that means finding a safety course, and respect the bike portion of the tri.

You may feel out of your league when you arrive on site for race day.  My friend and I showed up for our first triathlon and looked like wide-eyed children at Disneyland for the first time. Keep in mind, between the two of us, we had run our fair share of foot races up to marathon distance.  We had been training for many months.  The race atmosphere is magical, but also overwhelming. There were so many people there with expensive gear. There was transition set up at 2 separate sites at our race.  There were many classified as elite racers using this race as Ironman training.  My friend turned to me and said “All of the sudden I don’t feel like I belong here.” I turned to her and said, “Not yet. But you will soon.” Don’t let that feeling shake you on race day. Remind yourself you have put in the training time and you belong there like everyone else!


Remember nothing is impossible!  A good friend of many in the local running community, herself an Ironman, reminded us in the days surrounding this first triathlon:

“Don’t surround yourself with limits, but be realistic about your weaknesses to improve them. If you want to do one {Ironman/triathlon} (or any other scary goal)- put in the training, learn from others, be optimistic….” ~Jeanette Dunlap


This is some of the best advice I’ve received from another athlete, and it really applies to any goal in life.  Happy Running my friends. Here is to the next goal!

Endnote: My triathlon on the 25th was changed to a duathlon due to high waters and flooding. You can read the full race review here.  At the time of publication, I am signing up for my second triathlon, with hopes to finally get that open water swim under my belt as part of the race.