Apr 152010

Question: I plan to do my first triathlon this summer. Can you give me some tips/ideas on how I should go about preparing for this challenge?

In my part 1 of 2 post we went over some of the basics in helping you prepare for your first triathlon. We touched on what your focus for your first triathlon should be (fun and safety), race distances appropriate for novice athletes (give-it-a-try to sprint), and some general training tips for the 3 disciplines to build your fitness and confidence for race day.

I would like to elaborate a bit further on some of the other factors that go into a successful race.

Essential equipment

You will need a swimsuit and goggles to get you through the swim, a bike and helmet to get you through the bike – sun glasses are a good idea to protect your eyes, and a pair of running shoes to get you through the run. The bike does not need to be anything fancy. Remember, today is all about fun and getting the job done successfully. Of course there are many other pieces of equipment that will help you shave off those precious seconds on race day, and it is not as uncommon these days to find fellow athletes who spend more on their bikes and equipment than on cars these days, but lets not get ahead of ourselves. There is plenty of time for that later. I would highly recommend you get your bike tuned up at your local bike shop for safety purposes. They will pump up the tires, grease the chain, and make sure your brakes and gears are all in proper working order. A basic tune up should cost around 50 bucks and is well worth the cost.

Race day strategy

This is more important than you might have initially considered. Here are a few pointers to consider and have planned before race day morning.


You will need to know the rules of transition (ask any OAT official or contact MSC) – helmet and bike rule is most important
Are you going to be wearing a wetsuit? Do you know how to put it on? If it is your first time with a wetsuit then give yourself 20-30 minutes to put it on and check online for tips.
Figure out which are the ways in and out of transition so you don’t get lost (yes this happens a lot)

Swim Start

If you aren’t a strong swimmer and you are entering a race with a “mass” start where everyone starts together, it is a very good idea to start off to the back and side of the pack. It might cost you an extra 1-2 minutes in the water, but given the anxiety of getting run over by other swimmers, it is definitely well worth the cost. There is no mandatory stroke, you can do breast, back, front, whatever you prefer. Back stroke is not recommended as you cannot see where you are going and run the risk of going the wrong way or hitting something with your head. It is a good idea to try and stick to front stroke alternating to breast if you start to fatigue. If ever necessary you can swim your way over to one of the kayaks and grab on to catch your breath. You will not be disqualified for grabbing onto a kayak so don’t stress over needing the help.


This is very important and most people learn this the hard way. If the race distance will really be challenging your current level of fitness then try not to be a hero during the first 10 minutes. Allow your body the time it needs to reach steady state and then pick up the pace if you are feeling good. It is a very common mistake for beginners to go out way too hard and force their body to utilize the anaerobic energy system to accomplish the work. After a few hard short minutes, you slow right down and pay it back for the rest of the race.

Keeping these pointers in mind should really help you get through the day successfully and most importantly, safely and having lots of fun. Don’t be afraid to ask people around you for help but keep in mind that they might be really busy getting ready themselves.

Try to be as friendly as possible and enjoy the experience. Smile when you see Mike Cheliak out there snapping your picture and stick around at the end of the day for draw prizes and awards and some well earned post race eats…my favorite part of the day!

Chris Pickering
Triatlhon Coaching – Transiton Myself Training
Progressive Cycling Program – Indoor Rider