5 Things I Wish I Knew Before My First Triathlon

Five of the most important things to know before tackling your first triathlon.

Thinking of trying a tri? Triathlons are a fun way to mix up your running routine in the heat of summer. I did not know anything about the sport when I did my first tri more than 10 years ago, and there a few things I wish I had known:

1. Swimming in a pool is not the same as swimming in open water.

Pool swimming is fantastic training for your triathlon and a great compliment to running. However, if your race is in open water, it is quite a different experience. Having at least a few swims in an open water venue can be very helpful and can reduce race-day anxiety.

2. Running after biking and swimming is not easy.

Many triathletes come to the sport as strong runners, which definitely helps you finish strong. But if you have never run after biking, you are in for a surprise. After almost an hour (give or take) of biking, getting your legs to cooperate in their usual manner takes practice. Don’t expect to keep your regular run pace. Scheduling a few run/bike “bricks” into your training is key.

3. Dress the part.

While there is no need to rush out and get an expensive tri suit for your first tri, it is important to make sure you are prepared for each leg of the race. Since you will be swimming, biking and running in the same clothes, making sure that you have practiced that beforehand is crucial. Tri shorts are designed to get wet and dry quickly so that you avoid chafing on the bike and run. If you invest in one piece of clothing for your training and racing, tri shorts should be it.

4. Spend more time on the bike.

The bike leg is the longest part of a triathlon—so the more time you can spend on the bike, the better. Feeling comfortable with your gears and your handling of your bike in good and not-so-great weather (e.g., rain) will pay off in dividends.

5. Check out the course beforehand.

If you are able to bike and/or run your tri course in advance, do it! Knowing where the hills and flat segments are will help you be aware of where to push it and where to conserve energy on race day.