Completing My First Triathlon & 5 Tips for Success
Have you ever said to yourself, “I want to complete a triathlon” or some other lofty fitness goal and then immediately second guessed yourself? In college, I (half jokingly) said I wanted to do a triathlon someday. I’m not sure how I settled on that goal, but it stuck with me ever since I said those words out loud. I had no experience on a competitive level with biking, swimming, or running. I actually wasn’t even mildly good at any of those activities.
In 2011, I decided to sign up for an MS150 bike ride on a whim with a friend. Even though the ride pushed my limits, I found I really enjoyed biking long distance. It was not only exercise, but also a reason to get outside, explore Minnesota’s many trails, and be social. I liked the MS150 ride so much, I ended up doing the bike ride again in 2012. It’s for a good cause, and I highly recommend it!
In 2013, I decided to sign up for my first 5k. It was an untimed, fun run, but I completed it! Running was always somewhat of a challenge for me, but I enjoyed pushing myself to accomplish new goals. I also proved to myself that I could set a fitness goal, train for it, and complete it.
I started to believe I could complete a triathlon, so I signed up for the YWCA Women’s Sprint Triathlon in 2014. Now it was real! My main goal was to complete the triathlon, and I was less focused on my overall time. I was very fortunate to sign up with friends. Having a friend to train with and cheer one another on made a huge difference in keeping me accountable to my goal. Throughout the summer, we went to the lake once a week for their open swim. Swimming in open waters with other people around me was the last activity I felt I needed more practice in. I highly recommend getting that experience before competing if you can. Swimming in a lake was much different than swimming laps in a pool.
After months of training, I was so proud to cross the finish line! The YWCA Women’s Triathlon was a great first triathlon to participate in, because there were so many volunteers and people on the sidelines cheering everyone on. The race had a very supportive atmosphere, and the race management company was well organized and reputable. I highly recommend doing a little research in order to pick the race that best suits you.
Training for a triathlon doesn’t have to be a slow progression like it was for me. Prior to completing my first triathlon, I never did all three activities consecutively. I specifically worked on strengthening each individual activity, and I incorporated in some brick workouts (bike to run) to grasp the transitions. There are so many free training resources and schedules available online, and many of the races provide some of these materials when you sign up. Don’t hesitate, give yourself that extra push by signing up today.
I went on to complete 2 1/2 more triathlons since (1/2 because I participated in a group and completed the swimming portion of a triathlon), and I’m hoping to return to the sport this summer.
- 2014 YWCA Women’s Triathlon
- 2015 YWCA Women’s Triathlon
- 2015 One Last Tri
- 2016 Lifetime Fitness Minneapolis Triathlon (swimming portion)
At the risk of sounding corny, dream big and set big goals. If you work towards it, you can achieve it!
5 Triathlon Tips for Success:
- Classes – strengthen your run/swim/bike by taking classes or joining a group for training. I participated in some spin classes, I joined the master swim class twice a week at my gym, and I participated in open swims at the lake weekly.
- Accountability – tell someone! If you can, sign up with a friend. For accountability, specifically with running, I openly shared my run times with friends on the mapmyrun app.
- Research – Look into the race management company/organization hosting the race. Ask around to see if there are any races people have competed in or would recommend. Picking a supportive racing environment made a big difference for me. (If you’re in Minnesota, I highly recommend the YWCA Women’s Triathlon at lake Nokomis!)
- Gear – Invest in basic triathlon gear or borrow from a friend and practice with it. You do not need all of the top of the line items to complete a triathlon. My first triathlon I made sure to, at the very least, have the following items:
- A comfortable activewear swimsuit (preferably one piece) and triathlon shorts OR a triathlon suit (a wet suit may be needed or required depending on race rules and water temperature)
- Running shoes and socks (preferably wicking)
- A lightweight bike (does not have to be brand new or fancy – check local marketplace postings for used or borrow from a friend) and a helmet
- Body Glide anti-chafe moisturizing balm (your skin will thank you)
- Support – ask a friend/partner/family member to come watch on race day and cheer you on.