If you've never competed in a triathlon before, your best starting point is probably a super sprint (400m swim/10km bike/2.5km run) or sprint distance (750m/20km/5km). You might find this a breeze and then consider extending the distance to a standard distance (1500m/40km/10km) or even as far as an ironman® (3.8km/180km/42km).
No matter your experience level, some people are naturally more suited to compete over short distances whilst some people excel over longer distances. Either way you will eventually find your niche.
If you are more experienced or talented in one or two of the three disciplines, your starting point could be to identify your weaker discipline(s) and increase your training there. Approximately 3-6 months before your race (depending on your fitness) you can then embark on your training schedule which will show you how you can build up distance and speed steadily. It’s recommended to do an even number of sessions for each discipline each week, however make the length of each of the sessions proportionate to your expected time split (this will be approximately 20% swim, 50% bike, 30% run).
As well as training for the individual disciplines I also found it beneficial to do training blocks of swim/bike and bike/run so that your body gets used to the cross-discipline transition.
You'll need the following kit to get started:
• Swim - goggles, a hat, and either a wetsuit for open water swimming or a swimming costume for a pool swim. Some people wear hoods if it’s very cold.
• Bike - a bike, cycling clothing, a helmet and water bottles. To speed up transitions you can buy a tri suit which you can wear under your wetsuit. This means you don't have to waste time changing your clothing after the swim or before the run. You might also like to consider a tri belt to hold your race number and energy gels to save time in transition. Other useful bike accessories are cleats and bike shoes to improve performance, a bike computer and puncture repair kit/spare inner tube.
• Run - running shoes, running clothes and energy gels.
It's important that you train for the distance that you are competing in so that your body becomes accustomed to maintaining energy over the whole distance. It's also important that you consider the terrain and conditions of the course. Ask yourself the following questions and then train in these environments accordingly:
• SWIM: is it open water (lake or sea?) or in a pool? Is it a staggered start or does everyone start together?
• BIKE: is the course on or off road? Is the terrain undulating or flat?
• RUN: is the course on or off-road? Is the course undulating or flat?
The more that you can train in line with the race conditions, the more prepared you will be on the day. Open water swimming is very different to swimming in a pool; the wetsuit, the temperature, murky water and sighting for the route are all things you need to get used to, so do make sure you have some practice. There are lots of open water swimming lakes around the country which are open to the public.
To improve your race time, a speedy transition can make a difference. Practice getting out of your wet wetsuit and into your cycling gear, and out of your cycling gear into your running gear. You will have an allocated slot on the rack in the transition zone - on the race day memorise where this is so you don't waste time getting lost. Have a plan for how all of your transition items are laid out so you know exactly where to find things. Elastic laces are another time saving tip!
During your training work out what foods/fuel works well for you, both before, during and after the race, then make sure you don't change anything on race day. Plan your meals and what time you need to take on food and drink, so there are no surprises on the day.
And finally ... ENJOY IT!
Article written by Felicity Wood