A Definitive Guide To Racing Your First Triathlon

Approximately 40 Minutes of Triathlon Reading(10,000 Words)



It may have been a long term goal of yours, or someone's convinced you to enter your local triathlon and you're not quite sure how to get started. This is hoping to be a complete guide to anyone wanting to take on their very first triathlon. We're going to cover a lot of information here, including some of the myths you may have heard about triathlons, the equipment you'll need to get started training and racing, then finally we'll go through the swim, bike and run legs, giving you a breakdown of what you need to know and how you need to start approaching your training for you up coming race.

WARNING: Please make sure you are being safe in all aspects of your training and racing. Please use appropriate safety equipment when needed and ensure you consult a Doctor if you are unfit or have not recently taken on a physical fitness program recently.

What Is It All About?

I came to triathlon in 2014 when I entered Challenge Melbourne after getting bitten by the endurance sports bug. I took me a while to eventually identify as both a triathlete and endurance athlete, but I fell in love with the sport. Growing up I saw triathlon, literally only for super human athletes, with thought of taking one on, even a smaller race, would never happen. So when I did, I knew one day I would want to do my best to encourage others to get into the sport. It's been an amazing way to travel the world, keep active, connect with like minded people and stay healthy. If you're still a bit cloudy on what you've signed up for, a triathlon is an athletic event consisting of three different sports, typically swimming, cycling and running. If it's your first race, I hope you are starting with a shorter race distance, but with enough time to prepare, there's no reason you can't take on some of the longer distances.

Although this guide will touch on and discuss some of the longer distance races, the training schedules and the main focus of this guide will stay with shorter distance races, specifically Sprint and Olympic distance races.

Setting Realistic Race Goals

A few years ago a friend was starting back in athletics, after a few years break. Even with a day job he told me his goal was to win the Stawell Gift , Australia's richest running race, within the next 12 months. He didn't achieve his goals, but it taught me two things about goal settings: 1. Don't be afraid to set lofty goals. Even if there's a good chance you could fail, don't be afraid to set a large goal. As long as you're realistic and think you can find a way to get their through consistent and rigorous training, why not? 2. Don't be afraid to tell people about your goals. This keeps you accountable from day one. You may think people won't remember the goals you set, but they will and there's nothing better than being able to let them know you achieved them.

I think there is one exception to this, and that you need to be comfortable with the fact you may not achieve your goals. As long as you own them, and don't make excuses for not making them, no one will hold it against you for trying. That being said, make sure you're comfortable with your goals. If you're happy to have the goal of simply finishing the race, there is nothing wrong with that. Make sure that when you're setting your goals, you factor in the time you have available for training, your experience in sport in general as well as triathlon, your current fitness level, and the amount of time you have until race day.

Triathlon Glossary of Terms

T1 -  Where racers change between swim and bike legs. T2 -  Where racers change between bike and run leg. Brick Session -  Training session that combines two of your triathlon legs to help your body get used to changing sports. For example, going for after a long bike ride. Road Bike -  Used mostly for road racing or commuting. Although not specific for triathlon, can still be sufficient for shorter distance triathlons. Triathlon Bike -  Bike designed for triathlon. They include aero bars to help reduce wind resistance, while trying to reduce fatigue on run specific muscles. Sprint Distance Triathlon -  Typically a shorter distance race, usually a 750m swim, 20km bike and 5km run. Olympic Distance Triathlon -  Sometimes called "Standard Distance", comprises of a 1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run. 70.3 -  Also called Half Ironman distance triathlon comprising, 1.9km swim, 90km bike and a 21.1km run. Ironman * -  One of the longer distance races. Swim is 3.8km, bike is 180km and the run is 42.2km. It's the longest triathlon distance before you move into ultra distance races. Ironman is also one of the more popular race brands. * Aquathlon -  Multisport race with no bike leg. Aquathlon will usually be run leg, then swim, then run again, or a swim leg and run leg. Duathlon -  Similar to an Aquathlon but will only comprise a bike leg and run leg. *Training Zone * -  Heart rate based method training that will target a different energy system when you training to a different heart rate zone.

Myths About Triathlon

  • You need a coach to do a triathlon. A coach can really help, but it's not necessary to have one if you want to do a triathlon. This is especially true when you're just getting started. A coach will help with a lot of information you may not know. But if you are just wanting to get fit and have some fun there are lots of resources out there to get you started.
  • You need to be part of a triathlon club. Triathlon clubs are a great way to connect and meet up and train with a lot of like minded people but if you don't have a club close by you can still have fun racing triathlon.
  • Triathlon is expensive. This depends on how much you want to spend. You can travel the world racing the biggest Ironman branded races, riding the latest bikes and equipment. You can also race smaller local races, riding an entry level or second hand bike. You don't have to spend a lot of money but you'll find some people choose to. Don't forget the extra cash won't usually make you faster either.
  • Only super humans can do a triathlon. I honestly believed this was true. I couldn't swim so I thought anyone who can swim, bike and run across a matter of hours must be only a few training sessions away from an Olympic medal. When you get into the sport you'll notice the people racing are all different shapes, sizes and speeds.
  • You need to train for 20 hours a week to do a triathlon. You may choose to do this but it's not necessary for someone just wanting to have fun and finish. You don't even need to train for half that time to stay fit, healthy and improve your time. - - You just need to be training smart with your time and make sure you are using it efficiently.
  • The swim leg scares me. I get this completely. I had a massive phobia of the water. A lot of this comes down to being comfortable in the water. The more you train your swim the confident you'll become when you swim.
  • I am going to get beaten up on the swim leg. See the previous point as there are some people out on the swim who are lacking confidence and will struggle as a result. There is plenty of space out on the swim leg to steer clear of these swimmers and still make sure you get through your swim leg in a respectable time.
  • You're not a real triathlete if you don't do an IronMan triathlon. No true at all. If people make you think this it is only cause they might have some inadequacy they are taking out on someone else. If you're able to swim, bike and run through your chosen race and safely finish, there's no reason why your not a triathlete.
  • Triathlon is too confusing. There are a lot of people out there who don't even know what the three sports in triathlon actually are but I'm sure by now you're a lot smarter than they are. Even when it comes to racing, races officials will have thorough details of the course and distances. I actually haven't been to a triathlon where race officials won't do their best to answer all the questions you have about your race.

Equipment  -  What You'll Need To Get Started


You don't need to break the bank when you're starting out in triathlon and if you've been keeping fit and healthy, there's a good chance you'll have a lot of this equipment already.

Swim -  goggles, swim suit, swim cap. Swimming wetsuit for colder temperatures and added buoyancy. Extra equipment you may need for masters or triathlon squads are kick board, pull buoy and fins or flippers. Anti chaff or vaseline for the back of your neck.

Bike -  Road bike with aero bars or a triathlon specific bike. Helmet, water bottle, bicycle shoes with cleats, bike shorts, cycling jersey, gloves. Cycling tights and winter weight gloves for colder temperatures.

Run -  Running shoes, running shorts, shirt and cap.

Transition -  Towel, bike pump, spare bike inner-tubes

Race day -  Tri suit(1 or 2 piece), race belt with number holder.

When you start swimming, even though triathlon is a summer sport, you still may be swimming in cooler water. It's definitely worth buying a swimming specific wetsuit for training in open water and racing. The price of a new, entry level swimming wetsuit have come down a lot over the past few years, so hopefully the price won't stop you from getting one. If you're allowed to wear it on race day, you will get a major advantage from wearing the wetsuit as some estimate you'll save at least one minute per kilometer in the swim. The extra buoyancy in the water should give you more confidence as well.

I've been mentioning "swimming specific wetsuit" because they are very different to a surfing or diving wetsuit. It will be made of a more flexible type of neoprene which is not as hard wearing as a diving or surfing wetsuit, so you'll need to take care when you put the suit on. You'll also need to make sure it fits properly so it doesn't cause drag. There is a good chance it will also chaff you neck. This happens to everyone and one of the best ways to make sure you keep as much skin as possible is to smear some Vaseline on the back and sides of your neck to limit any rubbing.

Your bike will be one of the most expensive pieces of equipment you'll need in a triathlon. Make sure you're as comfortable as possible but you will need at least a road bike if your wanting to make it as easy as possible for you to be running afterwards. Even for shorter races aero bars that clip on to your handlebars can significantly reduce wind resistance. So if you're comfortable using them, do so.

A lot of people, including cycle shop sales people, will try to convince you, that you need to spend as much as possible to get the lightest, most aerodynamic bike and gear available. There is a point where the return you get for the money you spend, will be less and less. Let me be clear, I have 20 year old GT road bike that I use to commute to work, and a 2 year old Cannondale time trial bike with a carbon fiber frame. One of those bikes will get me from A to B in a quicker time than the other, but this is only because the Cannondale has a lot more technology than the GT and has been set up specifically for me.

The fact is, something, or someone still needs to power the bike. If the engine underneath the bike is unable to ride for more than 30 minutes without stopping, there is little that spending more money will get you. Technology has come a long way over the years, so a reliable second hand bike that is only 5 years old will go along way in getting you through your first few years of triathlon, without needing an upgrade. As you learn more about bikes, you'll most likely want to indulge yourself in something newer, but if your planing to only do one or two triathlons and then finish your career on a high, a 20 year old second hand commuter road bike, will be perfect and will only leave you $300 or so out of pocket.

If your budget can stretch, I highly recommend getting a bike fit to make sure you're as comfortable as possible on the bike. This could also mean getting a safety check and service if you purchased a second hand bike. Lastly, you may not know about aero bars just yet, but if you're comfortable on a road bike, they may be a viable option to reduce a significant amount of aerodynamic drag while you're on the bike. In the image below, you can see the rider using aero bars to tuck his arms under his body, reducing drag. I said, you do need confidence as with a standard road bike, they will take a little time to get used to and you wont get a significant improvement in speed until you are able to ride over 25km per hour.


Running shoes don't need to cost the earth but I do recommend that if your not sure what to get, head to a sports store as you will usually get some good advise on what you'll need to train and race. Make sure you're replacing them when they wear out. You'll get the hang of judging when you need to replace running shoes. A lot of people recommend replacing your running shoes every 600km to 700km. You also need to remember a lot of the materials today's running shoes are made of, will also degrade over time. Even if you haven't worn out your running shoes, make sure they are no more than 3 years old either.

By now you've also seen a lot of people racing and training in tri suits. They are specific for triathlon and can be beneficial when racing. But there are a lot of people who simply don't feel comfortable in them. Don't fell these are compulsory for racing your race. Just as everything else we've mentioned in this section, the goal is to make sure you're comfortable.

Training Basics

Training Intensity

We've tried to make this as simple as possible for you to know where you need to work and train in the training plans further into this article. We've also tried to limit the amount of equipment you need to get started when you're swimming, cycling or running. This will hopefully allow you to understand you body further and with the goal of pacing your race day better.

Time Management

This is a beginners guide so the last thing I wanted to do was overload people with training theories and formulas. We're here to keep things basic. One of the main things you need to remember is people who are successful in training for and racing triathlons will either have good time management skills or this is something they will be able to improve as their training continues. The guide doesn't intend to over load you with hours of training, but you do need to remember, if you start skipping training sessions, this is going to cost your constancy and eventual progress.

Time is one of the main excuses people use to stop training or give up on their triathlon goal. So now as we're still just breaking the surface of your triathlon journey start by cutting out any unnecessary travel in your training. Make sure your gym or swimming pools are close to either your home or work. Even if you like running or cycling with a group, make sure you balance your training time and your commute times to training.

Efficient training means the least possible work to create the largest effect or improvement. This can be a balance between volume(the distance you swim, bike or run in training) and intensity.(how hard you are swimming, cycling or running) A lot of people find a certain amount of hours will get them through their first race, then as they add more volume, their race times also improve. This will continue to happen to a certain point until you body is no longer able to recover from the training you are doing. Recovery is where your improvements in your race times are actually made.


Another important aspect of any training and keeping physically active is diet. And when I mention diet, I don't mean losing weight. More so what you're eating regularly, day to day. There's a lot of discussion on what the best diet for athletes are and this article doesn't want to weigh in on that discussion. I do want to say, please try your best to eat whole foods, trying to reduce processed foods and food with high amounts of sugar. If you are craving certain foods, it's just a result of being deficient in something else. Your body needs adequate fuel to promote recovery and help fuel your future training. Try leaving jells for longer training sessions and races.


This is one massively overlooked aspect of any training plan. Recovery is just as important as consistent training, as improvement comes from the time you take to allow you body to recover. This may come in a few forms, from getting enough sleep, to stretching or massage, and finally not overloading yourself with constant training.

Improvement comes from the time you take to allow your body to recover!

At this point, especially if you're starting out, you won't really need to worry about over training, but we'll give you some queues to make sure you are stretching after some of your training sessions and providing you enough time between straining session. The training plans have full rest days allocated to them to make sure you are taking enough break.

Breakdown Of The Swim Bike Run(and Transition)


Transition refers to T1 when you're moving from swim to bike and T2, when you get off your bike and start to run. There are two types of transition here. - The time you spend in the transition area changing between sports, and… - The transition your muscles makes moving between sports.

Both of the points above can slow you down a lot when you are in a race. A lot of people underestimate transition and how much it can delay their final run to the finish line. The training plan will actually do a practice race in the lead up to your goal race to help you see what you need to remember when you are changing between sports.

Starting With The Swim

The swim leg is what stops a lot of people from taking on a triathlon. If I had a dollar bill every time someone told me they'd love to do a triathlon but the swim is just something they wouldn't be able to handle, I would have a large wad of dollar bills. That being said, a lot of people who actually do triathlons, go into the swim leg, under prepared.

For professional or elite triathlete, although the race is rarely won in the swim leg, the race can be lost if they have a bad swim leg. So if you're trying to improve your time, you need to improve your swim.

A lot of people leave themselves under prepared for the swim leg as it is the smallest part of the triathlon. They think they'll be able to just "wing it" on race day. By making sure you're prepared for the swim, it'll not only have you finishing the swim in a shorter amount of time, it will also help you for the rest of your race. Firstly, you won't be wasting energy stressing about the swim before the race and secondly, if you've prepared well for the swim you'll also have more energy to take on the bike and run legs.

I can't help stress how important the swim is, and people usually don't dedicate enough time to it. Your swim training will pay you back for the time you put in. We're not even talking about a stupid number of hours in the pool. Two to four dedicated swim sessions per week lasting about 45 minutes each will; - Help you build endurance by improving your aerobic base, as a majority of the time you spend in the pool, you'll be training in aerobic training zones. - Help you recovery from your tougher training. Even though you're still training, swimming will give your legs a break. The water will also act like a giant compression suit helping to pump blood around your body. - Swimming will also help you improve your core strength. Remember all the times you said you'd do your core exercises and didn't, well swimming is a great core workout. - Research has even shown that swimming will actually help you to run faster, as a study published by the "European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology" found that runners who included regular swim sessions into their training, improved their run times over 3.2km by an average of 13 seconds.

Swimming Is About Technique

By now you're hopefully sold on the fact that swimming is an important part of your race and training. I also hope you're eager to jump into the pool and start training as soon as possible. I need to make one thing clear before you start. Technique will beat power any-day when it comes to swimming. I should also amend this a little to be;

Technique and confidence will beat power any-day, when it comes to swimming.

If you don't have either a good swim technique or confidence in the water, you'll need to work on that before you start worrying about improving your speed. If you're a complete non swimmer, you'll need to start getting lessons on how to swim before you really start training.

If you're like me and you were taught how to be safe around water and how to save yourself in a difficult situation, you'll most likely be lacking the confidence and technique needed for the triathlon swim. But as long as you can comfortably swim 50m or more in a pool. This is a good place to start and we'll provide more details on how to get started later as well as add some additional links to resources you could also use to help improve your swim.

Your swim training will be a fine balance between getting fit in the water, improving your confidence in the water, while improving your technique. Remember the more sessions you spend swimming, the more you're likely to improve these aspects of your swim, especially if you are relatively new to the sport. I've watched people swimming laps in the pool, improve as each lap passes. Secondly, the swim is neglected by a lot of other athletes in the triathlon, so you'll have an edge on them in no time.

Resources for Triathlon Swimmers

There are a lot of great resources that can help you with your swim training, technique and fitness, below are my top t - Tri Swim Coach - Swim Smooth - Total Immersion Swimming

Tips To Help You Through Your Swim Training

We've made a list of things you should keep in mind through your training to get the most out of your swim training and hopefully be as prepared as possible on race day: - It's fine to train and swim on your own, but finding a masters swim or triathlon swim squad close to you might be a good way to push yourself and help you improve your swim. - Build your swim distance slowly just as you would with your run or bike training sessions. Doing too much too soon can lead to injuries. - Swim fitness is very different to run or bike fitness. You can be a fit runner but find you can't swim nearly as long as you can run or bike for. - Recognize you'll need to develop different swim speeds. You might think you only have one speed in the water but you need to develop different speeds. Slower speeds for longer distances and faster speeds for sprinting and race starts. - You need to get experience swimming in open water. Open water swimming will build confidence on race day and you'll learn to cope with waves, swell or currents that the pool doesn't have. It will also make you a stronger swimmer. - Do some open water swims in a wetsuit, especially you are planning to race in a wetsuit. Wearing a wetsuit can change your swim style, so need to get practice in a wet suit. You'll also learn where the wetsuit will chaff or rub. - Frequency of time in the water is better than total time. If you only had 90 minutes a week to dedicate to your swim. You're better off doing to 30 minute swims instead of one 90 minute swim. Shorter, more frequent swims will help your technique more.

Key Swim Training Sessions

If you're already swimming two or three sessions a week in a masters swim squad, this will most likely be enough for your to be ready to race. And you can substitute your squad training for the swim training sessions allocated in the plan. The only thing I would recommend is to add one or two open water swims in the lead up to your race, especially if your goal race will be in open water, as a majority of races are.

The main swimming you'll be doing with the training plan will be focusing on the follow types of sessions: - Technique and Drill Swim Sets - This will usually be one swim training session a week, where you will be including a lot more drills to help strength and techniques. - High Intensity Swims - You'll still be swimming a similar time as the other training sessions but there will be more short distance repeats at a higher intensity. - Critical Swim Speed(CSS) Sets - You'll perform a test at the start of the training plan which will help you calculate your CSS. You'll then be swimming 400m and 500m swim repeats at your CSS pace.

Swim Drills And Kicking

If you're not currently swimming with a masters or tri squad, we do have one session dedicated per week to technique and kicking. There is a lot of work you can do with technique, and the links above in the resources section will be able to help you with taking your technique further. In the technique session we have planned, we have limited the drills to the following 3 drills to help you with different aspects of your swimming. - Fist Drill  -  Pretty simply but gives you some good improvements. You simply swim freestyle with a closed fist instead of an open hand. If you have trouble doing this, there is the option of holding tennis balls. This drill helps improve your catch and your hand entry into the water as well as body rotation. - Finger Trail Drill  -  This helps body rotation as well as controlling your arms not to swing out to the side. You are basically swimming freestyle slowly, and as your hands are recovering over the water, you are dragging your finger tips on the surface of the water with a bent elbow. - Kicking  -  I prefer to have people kicking without any kick boards or fins(flippers) on, and usually have people kicking on their side with their arm out. Kicking drills not only help you kick but also improve your core strength and help you transfer the power from your legs through your body to your arms.

This is not an exhaustive list, but hopefully it will get you started and as you improve, I am hoping you feel the need to search and improve further. As a last point on technique, make sure you are trying to be a streamlined as possible in the water, stretching as far as you can. Try not to bend your knees as you kick and try to rotate your body with each arm stroke.

Swim Training Tests

The following test is to hopefully give you some good insights on your Critical Swim Speed. This will hopefully improve as your training improves, and should give you an idea on how you should be pacing your race. It should be performed every 2 or 3 months and we will do this at the start of the training plan to help you plan your training. The CSS Swim test works like this: - Warm up for 5 to 10 minutes so you are ready to swim hard for the rest of the set. - Time yourself swimming 400m as fast as you can go and record the time. - Rest for 5 to 10 minutes to make sure you are fully recovered. - Perform a 200m swim as fast as you can go and record the time.

Finish the swim off with a cool down and once you are back on dry land, place the results of the 400m swim and 200m swim into the following pace calculator: here

You should now have a speed at which you will be able to complete some of the race pace training sessions at. This brings us the end of the swim specific section of the article. In the training plan section, we will have more details of the specific training you will be performing in your swim session. For now, we will take a look at the bike leg and cover off some of the information you need to know about your training, specifically on the bike.

The Bike Leg

The bike leg is the second leg of the triathlon and is usually the longest in both distance and time. It's where a bulk of the race pans out. For the athletes up the pointy end of the field, the bike leg is a delicate balance of pacing, attacking and in some cases building a lead on their competitors.

By now, you've hopefully carved out some time in your training to make sure your swim leg is as strong as possible, so there shouldn't be anything holding you back on the bike leg. The bike leg doesn't phase too many people when they start to think about racing their first triathlon. Most people have fond memories of riding their bike as a kid, around their neighborhood, so the bike leg seems a lot less daunting than the swim and the run.

That's a great frame of mind to be in and I hope you keep this positive mindset. This section will hopefully fill in a lot if the blanks when it comes to setting up your training plan and racing your goal race. One thing you should look at, and this is doing some of your training indoors. This means you'll need a spin bike or bike trainer, but it is a lot more time efficient and your training will also be at a much higher intensity thanks riding outdoors.

Although I did say, training indoors will be a lot more time efficient, you will still need to get outside and ride your bike as well. There are some things, you won't be able to learn training inside. Riding outside will help you riding in different weather conditions, riding with other riders and traffic on the roads, as well as helping you judge road surface conditions and dealing with things like wind and rain.

As we discussed in the section on equipment, you can spend a lot of money on your bike and accessories, and this does put a lot of people off. At the same time, with a little research and some help, you can get away with getting a good quality second hand bike. The second issue a lot of people experience is the fact that a proper race or triathlon bike set up will usually have your feet clipped into their pedals. This is a little scary for most people, and takes time to get used to. My girlfriend had an amazing idea when she started training for her first triathlon, where she would wear one bike shoe and one running shoe. Although this doesn't look the best but it gives you a lot of confidence know you'll have a free foot to put on the ground if you loose balance.

A lot of people also think you need to be a bike mechanic to start riding a road bike as well. I agree, your should have some bike maintenance skills, like changing tyres and inner tubes and making minor adjustments to the bike. It's definitely worthwhile to get your bike serviced on a regular basis though, if you're not going to be doing a bulk of the maintenance on it.

Before we get into more of the specifics of your training, there is one last point I need to make, and that is you need to be aware of draft legal and non draft legal races. If you don't know already, drafting is when you sit behind another rider and gain an advantage from the reduced wind resistance the other rider has provided you. A lot of races today will be non draft legal, meaning you could be disqualified if you are caught drafting, so make sure you know the rules for that specific race, including the distances allowed between each rider.

Drafting is cheating for a non draft legal race.

Key Bike Training Sessions

We're not going to make things too complicated with the bike training, we have in our training plans. Especially as this guide is directed to shorter distance races, the bike training will not go much beyond 90 minute rides - Aerobic Steady State Bike Rides - These are pretty simple, where you're just getting out to ride and spending time on the saddle. This helps build aerobic endurance, increase speed and improve your bike skills. If the weather is a little crappy or its dark out, you might consider switching to an indoor training occasionally. - Spin Classes or HIIT Sessions - If you're able to attend a Spin Class, I recommend doing it as they are a great way to improve power, speed and endurance in a class that is usually under one hour in length. If you can't we'll give you details on how to get a similar training session, from the time allocated. There's a lot of good research showing High Intensity Interval Training can build both power and endurance, and is a time effective way to train.

Tips To Help You Through Your Bike Training

We're not going to go too deep on things you need to remember when training for the bike leg of the triathlon, but we have a few key points you need to remember: - Ride On Your Own - If you've got limited time, having to meet up with friends and plan out your training rides could waste a lot of unnecessary time, especially if you're having to drive somewhere.  - Spin Class - Don't underestimate the work out you're going to get in a spin class, especially if you don't have a lot of experience on the bike. An experienced instructor will be able to train all your training zones and help improve strength and speed. - Indoor Training - Another time effective way to training and help you stay out of the elements. Indoor trainers can be an extra cost, so if you're worried you won't use it, there are some cheaper options to start with and make sure you are happy with riding indoors. - Keep Your Bike Maintained - Like I said you don't need to be a bike mechanic, but it helps if you have a little knowledge to at least do minor changes and repairs on the bike. Make sure you're at least getting your bike serviced by a mechanic regularly, especially if you are doing a lot of millage on the bike. - Be Safe And Visible On The Road - Please make sure you're being safe. Although cars will try their best but, it only takes a momentary laps in concentration for a driver to not see a cyclist, so do what ever you can to be as visible and as safe as possible. - Commuting Is Valid - This is only to a point. If your ride to work only takes you 15 minutes, you are going to need to spend some more time on the bike. If you commute takes you 60–90 minutes, that is going to give you a lot of fitness that you'll be able to take into your racing and training.

The Run


We've finally made it to the last leg of the triathlon. The Run Leg. For me personally, as the run leg is the final part of the race, if the run goes well, the race as a whole went well. There's been times when I've PB'd, but because I crashed so hard on the run, it left me feeling dejected.

This was just me and doesn't mean you should feel that way. Consistent training should have you ready to run your socks off and cross the finish line like you can do it all again. In the previous sections I've being trying make it clear, all three legs of the triathlon are as important as the other. A lot of people feel that as long as you have a fast bike leg, the rest of the race will simply fall into place. This couldn't be further from the truth. So many people put all their eggs in their cycling basket and then everything falls apart in the run, leaving them walking the run leg and worse, having a lot of their competitors running past them.

Each leg of the triathlon, can compliment the other. Improving your aerobic base on the run, will carry through to your swimming and improved strength in you quads from higher intensity run training will help your bike leg.

Key Training Sessions For The Run Leg

If you've done some running in the past or if running is the sport that has brought you to triathlon, a lot of the session below will be familiar to you already: - The Long Run - Your long run will build endurance as well as improve blood flow, muscle tone and helping your body convert fat into fuel. - Interval Training - Sometimes called threshold training, this is where you'll run at a speed slightly slower than your goal pace, but for a longer period than what you plan to run on race day. This training will teach your body to be more efficient at clearing lactic acid and allow you to run at higher intensities for longer. - Speed Work - This is where you run repeated efforts faster or at your goal pace run. Speed work help you improve strength and speed as well as improving your endurance.  - Brick Run - This is where you try to emulate your body moving from the bike to the run. You'll learn this soon enough when you do your first few brick training runs. Brick runs will teach your body that the feeling of your legs feeling like they are full of lead will soon pass and you can get on with running through the finish line.

By now you're probably worried you're not going to have enough time to get through all your sessions, but don't fear, we'll help you find a way to spread your key training sessions over a number of weeks to make sure you gain the full benefit.

Tips To Help You Through Your Run Training

We've made a list of things you should keep in mind through your training to get the most out of your run training and hopefully let you finish the triathlon on a high: - Build Distance Slowly - If you're running longer runs, try not to increase your distance by no more than 10% each week. Even for longer races, the amount of running should not really exceed 90 to 120 minutes. With the extra training you're doing, you'll be running the risk of injury. - Try Elastic Laces On Your Shoes - Tying your laces either after the swim or after the bike leg, is actually a lot more difficult than you think it'll be. You can get elastic laces, so you won't need to worry about tie them up, you'll just slip your shoes on and run. - Don't Be Afraid Of The Brick Run - I get it, I avoid them too, but the more you do them, the stronger you will become. The feeling in your legs will pass and a brick run will show you that it will pass and hopefully improve the time it take for your legs to feel better. - Walking Is Still Progress - There may be times you'll want to walk. That's ok, it happens to everyone in both training and racing. Keep moving forward though and try to walk with purpose to still be moving as fast as you can while you're walking.

This ends the breakdown of the three main legs and hopefully that will give you some more information to start progressing and start training. Of you still not sure where to start, the next section will run through the basic training plans to give you a starting point.

Setting Up Your Training Week


We have a beginner training plan below are suggestions on ways to get started with your training. Both have 5 days of training over 8 weeks of training and are set up not specifying the day of the week to implement each training session but are there to allow you to be flexible and allow you to decide when to train. Try to make sure you are taking rest days during the week.

At first, day 5 has an optional training session, which then changes to a second easier training session in the afternoon. This is to get you ready to start doing some brick training session where you run after a bike ride. The first brick training session you have will not be until week 4 and depending on your fitness level, even though the training sessions are stated as runs, feel free to take walking breaks if you need them. By the end of the plan your fitness should have come a long way from where you started.

There also isn't much variation in times for training but as you progress you should also be covering a little more distance as your fitness improves.

If you are part of a masters swim squad, feel free to use these as your swim training session. If you're not as confident in the pool, feel free to break a little between lengths. Once again, as the progress you gain more confidence in your ability. The CSS test is first in the training plan, to gain a n idea on how to swim the longer training swims. As well, even though the freestyle swim stroke is not compulsory in a triathlon swim, so feel free to swim different strokes in you training as well.

You'll notice some training sessions will be a shorter effort at fast pace or hard effort and this will be the fastest pace you can sustain over this distance. These training sessions a re a good way to boost endurance while giving you more confidence racing at a faster pace.

If you are needing a longer training plan. Feel free to duplicate weeks 5 to 8 if you need extra weeks. The week of the race should not be a rest week. It should be a final tune up before your big day. The goal of the training during race week is to leave you fresh for you race, while still peaking in your swimming, biking and running ability.

We have scheduled in stretching as part of your training plan. This could mean just stretching, or possibly foam rolling and massage. And it definitely doesn't mean you can be doing this every day. This is just another reminder to be doing this and athletes are usually more inclined to be doing these activities if it is on their training plan.

Lastly, there is not Open Water Swim listed in the training plan. Please make time to add two or three swims in open water to help you get used to swimming in open water.

Beginner 8 Week Training Plan

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Race Day

If its your first triathlon, there may be a lot of things going through your head in the lead up. Hopefully the following section will give you some more insight into race day and is not meant to provide more stress, but to give you an idea of some of the things you need to think about when you are approaching race day.

Things To Note On Race Rules:

Before you get to race week, make sure you have read through the event details, and are clear with the race course and have a brief look through any race rules the even organizers may have outlined. There may be different rules of these particular race, with things to look at including: - Is the course draft legal. If not, what is the distance you need to keep between the rider in front of you. - Is the race a compulsory wetsuit race, or is the water too warm and you are not allowed to wear a wetsuit.

The Night Before - I thought it would be best to start here because this is where a lot of stress starts. Don't worry if you don't get much sleep, not a lot of people do. Try to stay relaxed, hydrated and don't eat anything that you normally wouldn't. If it helps you relax, get all of your stuff ready for the race and have it packed ready for tomorrow. Make sure you read through the event information and get to know the course and event details, so you'll know when you need to be at the race and when your start times are.

Make note of how many laps of each leg you need to do…Many races will have you doing numerous laps of the course to get to the dedicated distance and it will be your responsibility to keep count of the number of laps you have completed.

Before Race Start - Try to get to the event early enough to give yourself enough time to get ready and go through your race ritual. Check in or register(If not done the day before), rack your bike, set out your transition with everything you need for the race. Speak to organizers and make sure there have not been any changes to the race or schedule. Make sure you know where you bike will be when you come in from the swim.

Warm Up - If you're wearing a wetsuit, get it on and head to the warm up area and get into the water for a few minutes. It doesn't need to be too long but at least swimming to the first marker buoy, at your own pace, will help you a lot when the gun goes off for the race start. Make sure you goggles are fitting nicely, your swim cap is on and your wetsuit is not rubbing or restricting your movement. Getting some water into the wetsuit will actually help with this as well. A pre race warm up is a great way to help the pre race nerves and calm you down.

5 Minutes Prior To Race Start - Make sure you are at the race start, on time for your wave to enter the water. With your swim cap and goggles on. Start up your watch as well if you are tracking with GPS.

Race Start - Try and seed yourself in the race start. If you're feeling less confident in the water, sit yourself to the side or at the back of the start, so you don't get caught up in traffic. When the gun goes off, start your watch and enter the water at a comfortable pace. Duck dive, when the water hits your thighs, then start to swim after two or three duck dives and you feel the water is above your waste.

First 200m Of The Swim - Start to head towards the first buoy and get into a comfortable swim pace. Be mindful of people around you in case you are getting too close to other swimmers or they are getting too close to you. Make sure you are sighting and hopefully moving towards the first buoy. If it is a bigger size field, there could be a lot of traffic both at the start of the swim and at the first turning buoy. Be mindful of where everyone is and don't get too close to the buoy as this is where everyone else will be moving. If the water is choppy, keep composed and move through the water a little slower, making sure you are getting breaths in regularly.

The Final 200m Of The Swim - If you have paced your swim properly, you should be relaxed coming into the final 200m, you may even be parsing a few of the competitors who haven't been prepared for the swim leg. Keep sighting and moving towards the swim finish, even increase you pace towards the end if you're feeling confident. Move towards the finish and even if you see other swimmers stand, do not stand up until you hands scrape the ground as you're swimming.

Run Out Of The Water - Lift your knees and run out of the water. If the surface is a little slippery, make sure you are careful as you come out of the water and run towards the transition. If you are not wanting to run, make sure you are walking at a quick pace and make sure you don't hold up anyone behind you. If you are feeling good, make sure to start taking your goggles and swim cap off, and start top to take your wetsuit off if you are wearing one.

Transition(T1 ) - Hopefully you're starting to have a little fun. Run through the transition and look for your bike, and hopefully you will be there shortly. Stay composed but don't waste any time as it could add an extra 3 to 4 minutes to your time, if you loose yourself in a meaningless task that is not going to get you onto your bike. Remove your wetsuit, and place it with your goggles and cap next to your transition set up. Put your helmet on and if you need to, put your race number on as well. Put your socks on and put the shoes you are going to be riding with on ready to head out. If you feel more comfortable, spend an extra moment putting on gloves and sunglasses, but I don't think they are necessary for your race day.

Sunscreen is optional but I do recommend it. It should not take you long to get some sunscreen on before you head out on the bike. Triathlon is a summer sport and you could be spending a lot of time out in the sun.

Getting Onto Your Bike -Un rack your bike, ready to head out of transition area, you will need to find the mount line. You will not be able to get onto your bike, until you pass the mount line. There should be marshals letting you know where this line is. Try to move away from other competitors while not blocking anyone from getting through. Get onto your bike and clip into your shoes to start riding.

Your First Kilometer On The Bike - Once again stay composed and get into a comfortable rhythm, hopefully setting a pace to get you through the entire bike leg. Remind yourself if the race is draft legal or not and keep the appropriate distance between riders depending on the race rules. Remind yourself of the number of laps you need to complete and set out for a fun ride.

Finishing Off The Bike Leg - Hopefully you've completed the bike leg with little drama, you've paced it well and although you are tired, you are ready to finish the race off with the run. Slow down a little on the bike as you approach transition and just as there was a mount line at the start of the ride, there should also be a dismount line for the end of the bike leg. Look for marshals signalling to dismount, approach the line, stop your bike and get off. Run into transition with your bike shoes with a little care as your legs may feel a little wobbly once you have stepped off the bike.

Transition(T2) - Run through the transition area with your bike and rack it back in your transition area. Take off your helmet and change into your running shoes. Grab a had and drink some water if you need it. Also grab any extra nutrition you need for the run leg. Once you're ready, head out onto the run course.

Getting Your Run Legs - This is one of the toughest parts of the race. Your legs will feel like jelly, but if you've practiced this part of the race in your training, you will know that once you start moving, you legs will eventually feel normal after 5 to 10 minutes of running. Once again, get into a comfortable pace, making sure you will be able to finish the run. You may need to walk, don't worry everyone does, just keep moving forward all the time.

Race To The Finish Line - Once you approach the finish line, you'll hopefully get your second wind by then, as the race is nearly over. Get you head up, look strong and stride through the finishing area, making sure you are looking out for your supporters and anyone wanting to give you a high five…This is what you've been training for, so make the most of it and enjoy how far you've come.

Disclaimer Any of the activities described in this guide can carry risk of injury or death, especially if you are unfit. Undertake any activity only with proper instruction, supervision, equipment and training. The publisher and its servants and agents have taken all reasonable care to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this publication and the expertise of its writers. Any reader attempting any of the activities described in this publication does so at their own risk. Neither the publisher nor any of its servants or agents will be held liable for any loss or injury or damage resulting from any attempt to perform any of the activities described in this publication.

About The Author Hey I'm Vince, an Aussie living in New Zealand, trying my best to make the most of the time I have. I work as a Software Engineer but love to run and all aspects of it, including geeking out on the latest science to help get the most out of my body.


3.48% Since last month


3.48% Since last month


3.48% Since last month

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3.48% Since last month wrote: this was a very comprehensive guide to triathlon. Thanks for putting this together.

@steevc wrote:

I've bookmarked this in case I ever succumb to triathlon madness ;)

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