fitness, Life Experiences

My First Triathlon + What You Need to Know for Yours

I scrambled out of the pool and headed straight for the bike rack. After drying off, I slipped on my biking shorts and shoved on my socks and shoes. With that, I put on my helmet, hopped on my bike, and headed off for the second part of the race.

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned that this summer I planned to participate in a triathlon for the first time in my life (check that post out here). Despite a few hiccups during signups, everything worked out in the end, and I got to do the triathlon with a friend.

And it was amazing.

a few seconds after the race 😋

What I Liked

  • Change of Movements I really liked changing activities during the race. It kept my mind busy and worked different parts of my body. Even if you do a duathlon, aquabike, or splash-and-dash, even a little bit of change keeps things interesting.
  • Fun People Everyone was super positive and supportive (especially since my friend and I were the youngest people there), my friend was so fun to race beside (we were almost exactly the same speed), and my mom and sister were great sports to get up at 5 to watch me race. 😳 In general, I’ve found that most people who work hard at their sports tend to be really positive, encouraging people, and the athletes I raced with were no exception.
  • Race Vibes Almost an hour of adrenaline and racing? Why wouldn’t I like that?! XD
  • Racing with a Friend Like I said, I had a friend doing this with me, pushing me and pacing me the entire way. I don’t think I could’ve done it without her. If you can’t find a friend to race with you, try to find a racing buddy when you arrive. It really helps!
  • Good Weather Since the race started at 7:30 a.m., the weather stayed cool for the majority of the time. It only got hot at the very end, and I was so thankful that I didn’t have to deal with any blistering heat or numbing cold:) If you ever do a long race like this, try to find one early in the morning so you get good weather too!
  • Smaller Distances The swim was 250 meters, the bike was 8 miles, and the run was about 1.5 miles (it came out to more like 1.65). Those distances are actually much shorter than the average triathlon. In fact, this triathlon is part of a series to train for the real, full triathlon (750m swim, 20k bike, 10k run 😳). If there’s any way you can ease into triathlons with shorter distance “sprint triathlons”, I definitely recommend doing so.
  • Mostly Cardio This is kind of a positive, kind of a negative. 😋 Overall, the most strength I needed was quad strength for the biking portion. Of course, biking is also the weakest part of the triathlon for me, so I might be a bit biased. I wasn’t sore the next day (just a bit tight), so it was definitely more challenging cardio-wise, not strength-wise. (but that kinda sounded like gibberish, so ignore that point if you don’t understand XD)
the final sprint! (and, yes, we look dead, but everyone looks like that when they’re running😋 )

What I Didn’t Like

  • Distances Not Measured Correctly You’ll probably not run into this problem, but long story short, the bike portion was supposed to be a 10k (6.2 miles) and it ended up being 8 miles…
  • I Used a Mountain Bike You don’t have to use a $2000 bike, but get ready to work hard if you bring a mountain bike!
  • The Bike Portion Was LONG! Pace, pace, pace. I started out feeling great, but the end was really tough. Try to have some long bike rides under your belt to build up endurance and to be prepared for that pain.

Tips for Next Time (or for your first time!)

  • Be Ready for the Run The run was definitely the most mentally challenging out of all the portions. Prepare for that pain, and then embrace it when it comes. If you have trouble having the right mindset during running, check out this post.
  • Pace the Beginning of the Run When I got off my bike, my legs felt wobbly and bendy. Strange enough, this made my pace faster at the beginning of the run. Even though you’ll probably be feeling a bit bouncy, try to pace yourself a bit at the beginning of the run.
  • Wear Your GPS Watch In long distance races, it helps if you know where the finish line is. Sometimes GPS watches aren’t allowed, but if you have one, and you’re allowed to wear it, it’s a lifesaver. Being able to see my pace, time, and distance really helped me.
  • Drink Water! I got pretty thirsty during the second half of the race, and I wish I had hydrated more. If you have a morning race, hydrate a lot the day before. Thirst makes the long distances feel much longer, so avoid it as much as possible.
  • Watch Your Food Nutrition before racing is tricky. My stomach can only handle white bread (…don’t ask😋, I don’t know why XD), and I definitely cannot workout on an empty stomach. Try to eat enough to get you through the distance but not enough to make you feel sick.
  • Untie Your Shoes for the Transition Zone My friend thought about doing this right before the race, and I am so glad she did! You have to quickly switch from swimming to biking, so untying your shoelaces before the race makes the transition much faster. Also- put your socks right side out and opened up in/beside your shoes to make the process even faster.
  • Pace Yourself (and try surges) You’ll probably be going long distances so be sure to pace. If you can, find someone about your speed and stick with them. Then, every once in a while, speed up for a few seconds to a slightly faster speed to keep you working (surge).
  • Change Gears as Needed The biking portion had several hills, and I forgot to change gears until the very end. Changing my gears would have helped me a lot. Don’t make the mistake I did!
the start of the run (me setting my GPS watch XD)

Tips for Training

  • Practice Running after Biking/Swimming The feeling of running after swimming/biking is unique and much more challenging than just going for a jog. Build up enough endurance so you can run well while tired. I ran for 20 minutes after swim practice several times, and even that small amount of training was helpful.
  • Distance-based Workouts Be ready to work hard for a long time, and build up endurance. Long, slow bike rides help more than you might think!
  • Strength Know your muscle weaknesses (my quads for me), and build up strength there.
  • Mental Training Whether it’s signing up for a 5k, going on an hour-long run, or swimming a 100m butterfly, learn to push yourself mentally and get comfortable with pain.
  • Workouts from Joyful Creations:) If you need some training ideas/pointers, check out these posts:

5 Workouts to Make You Run Faster

Working Out for Beginners: Starting and Staying Consistent

A Running Start

When you want to give up…

What I Wore

During the swim, I wore my racing swimsuit, and for the bike and run, I wore these spandex biking shorts. I got the biker shorts from Sam’s Club and the swimsuit from Swim Outlet.

Conclusion

Participating in a triathlon was so. much. fun. It was challenging and new, and I had an absolute blast.

I want to do this again. And I want to do longer distances. Am I crazy? Maybe… 🤪

Let’s Talk!

Have you ever done a triathlon? If not, do you want to?

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Related: How to Stretch Post-Run

Featured: The Harder Kind of Kindness

14 thoughts on “My First Triathlon + What You Need to Know for Yours”

  1. Great job, Rachel! And this was an inspiring post! I have a couple questions pertaining running: How would you run in a situation with creepy neighbors and no nearby tracks/trails? and Can I still excel at running if I have athletic asthma? (If you don’t know the answers to these that’s totally fine, just thought I’d ask.)
    I’d like to be able to run, but my situation seems kinda impossible. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!! And those are great questions! To answer the first -in cross country, we’ll run in some less-safe areas only if we’re in a group. I also carry pepper spray. If you can’t get someone to run with you, you can also get a sibling to bike beside you. Also- if you have a YMCA or an outdoor track near you, that can be a good option as well, but I know you said you have limited options. Of course, you can also run on a treadmill, but I know not all families have one:) Plus, if you’re in a more wooded area, you might be able to find a hiking path?? (But of course, you don’t want them to be too rocky/bumpy)
      For the second question- I’m not super knowledgeable about asthma so take my advice with a grain of salt, but I have friends who run with athletic asthma (though I don’t know how severe). They just have to take their inhaler regularly.
      If you are trying to just get exercise though, I like to train with Sydney Cummings (on YouTube) when I can’t run. She has pretty complete training options:)
      Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions!!

      Like

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