Triathlon - where do I start?

So my marathon-running friend has convinced me to train for a triathlon with her. I have no idea where to begin. She’s got mono, though, so I have some time to catch up with her.

Here’s where I’m at:

  • I used to jog a lot in high school and university, about 5-15 years ago.
  • I was on the swim team in high school
  • I have been a devoted bike commuter for the past 10 years or so.

I’d love assistance with specific questions I have, as well as any other things I haven’t though of.

Questions, in random order:

  • If I run in the morning, when/what do I eat? I can’t imagine running on an empty stomach but I can’t think of what to put in there, either.
  • I have a beloved hybrid bike that I’ve been using for years. I know I would have to use a real racing bike to actually race, but is my hybrid okay for training? Are there ways of renting/borrowing a good racing bike when needed, or should I just splurge on my own (to make sure it fits me correctly, etc)?
  • How do you train for swimming? Just swim laps?

Any other tips/tricks/advice?

Thanks in advance.

First, pick a short tri race to start. They come in four basic flavours:

a) sprint
b) olympic
c) half iron
d) full iron

Once you pick a race in your area, begin to train for the race by… duh!.. swimming, cycling and running. LOL!

There are a number of books available to help you train. This is one of the good ones. This is another.

These books will help you schedule a training program that gets you ready (depending on your current physcial fitness level) for the upcoming race day.
As to basic tips…

Swimming: Yes… just swim laps. Swim open water (lake/pond/ocean) when you gain confidence. Do open water with a friend for safety. Otherwise, pool is good, especially for the shorter distances.

Cycling: You can use the hybrid but upgrade the tires to slicks (if you can). A good road bike will be much better. A tri specific (time trial) bike would be best. You can put aero bars on almost any road bike to give you that TT bike position feel. If that gets you excited and more into training mode, go for it.

Running: Run. Run distance. Run hills. Run intervals. Just run. But get good shoes first.

Good luck!

As for diet, etc…

It varies greatly. I can’t stand to have anything in my stomach in the morning while I train or race. In fact, I avoid a large meal the entire day before. If I need an energy boost, I use sports drinks and gels.

Others seem to need food like they need air.

Experiment and see how your body handles nutrition and physical stress.

For a morning run I like to keep the food intake fairly minimal - some toast or a bagel, with a glass of juice is about the most I’ll have. Mind you, I haven’t done any runs over an hour or so in a long time.

Some places will rent road bikes - try calling around to the different bike shops in your area. It might be worth trying to find a rental or a loaner for your first race since even basic road and tri bikes cost a fair bit and if you find the sport isn’t up your alley, it’d be a shame to have spent all that money on a machine that won’t get used.

Another book that I can recommend is This one. It employs the concepts from The Triathlete’s Training Bible which Quicksilver linked to, but saves you the step of actually building your own custom plan. It includes plans for everything from sprints to ironman distance.

A few online resources are Tri Newbies Online and Both have forums with plenty of experience to learn from. Slowtwitch is the one that I read regularly, and I caution that it might seem a bit intimidating at first, but there is a wealth of information there.

My Wife is training for a tri. She has run 5 marathons.

Do do some sprint triatholons and such. This will help you get ready for the transition of going from swim to bike to run. I think this will also help you get the proper gear sorted out. I’m sort of the pit crew. And help my Wife with her training.

Also, don’t discount how different it is to swim in open water than a pool. My Wife is a great swimmer, and scuba dives. She was a life guard. But on her first tri-sprint, she freaked out a bit in the open water. She has since found a place where people practice in the open water. Seems to help a lot. The last thing she thought she would have problems with is the open water swim.