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My First Triathlon: What Do I Really Need to Know?

Race season is upon us.  Like now.  WOW… wasn’t it just off season?  Yes, yes it was.

Many of us are embarking on our first triathlons this season – and that is wicked exciting.

And terrifying. And exciting.

And terrifying (am I right?)

Here’s a few things that I think every newbie triathlon should know before his or her race.


1. It’s Other People’s First Triathlon, Too

There’s a local race here in Atlanta every year – and it’s a women’s-only triathlon.

At the start of every race, the race director asks, “Who is going to be a triathlete for the first time today?”

I wish every RD would ask that before the race – because I swear, it’s about 50% of the field for smaller, local sprint tris.  (I have no data to support that. It’s just feelings.)


You aren’t alone. And even if you ARE (which you aren’t), everyone else had their first tri at one point, too.

Even me. And I crashed my bike in transition.

And that was okay, too. I survived, and have gone on to do many more races and crashes too.IMG_2449

2. You Look Silly. (And So Does Everyone Else!)

Seriously.  Wet. Spandex and sitting on a bike.  Running down the road.

Don’t worry about what you look like.

Focus on the goal – which is the end of the race, and enjoying it. (See below).



3.  Swim Bike Run – in that order, unless the Race Director says differently.

Remember that the task at hand is what’s important.

When you are swimming, don’t think about running.  When you are cycling, don’t think about running.

Break the race up into FIVE parts:
– swim
– transition 1
– bike
– transition 2
– run

And do those parts when it’s time.



4. Triathlon is Not the End of the World

If you don’t finish?  So what.  If you finish slow?  So what.  If you don’t beat that obnoxious girl who has it coming?  So what.

Now, I will say—I don’t mean really “so what” about DNF (did not finish)…

That is hard.

But really. Life DOES go on. It does.  Keep perspective. We do this for fun, right?

5. Wear One Thing and Don’t Change Your Clothes

My number one blog post is “My First Tri: What the &#*@ Do I wear?”

Truth.  It’s a real problem.

We are mostly women and clothes are important. And tight and stretchy clothes are really hard–why does anyone want to wear that? (See #2.)

I wrote this post.

And whether you buy a Swim Bike Mom or Tri*Fe racing kit or not,  that post IS a good play-by-play of what you can wear–even if you are a larger lady and need a larger kit (we have those too, and they are pretty. That’s why I made them. Because it was a real struggle to find GOOD tri kits that FIT and were attractive. The end.)


6. You Should Care About Your Safety–Above All Else

Triathlon actually is a slightly dangerous sport.  You can drown.  You can crash.  (Not to scare you. )

But seriously, take your safety very seriously in a race. Take care of yourself.  Don’t endanger yourself just for a PR.  If you feel TERRIBLE, take pause–and ask yourself what’s going on.  Pay attention. Know your body.  And be careful on the bike course. Don’t be careless.

Be safe, be smart and be a student of triathlon (e.g., learn the triathlon rules, follow them, the end.)


7. You Should Care NEXT about Enjoying Yourself

Again, we do this for fun.  Have a sense of humor and ENJOY yourself.

It’s a wonderful sport.  Go out and get ’em.  But remember that it’s a race–not the end (or the beginning) of the world.

8.  Just Keep Moving Forward

I’m serious.  All day, all race… keep your eyes ahead and your heart happy. Just Keep Moving Forward–and never give up.




  • Steffi

    May 4, 2016 at 3:56 am

    I love this and am SO excited to do the same race again this year that was my first tri last year. I have gained so much confidence, got myself a decent bike and will hopefully do better. But first of all, I will try to soak in every part of it. Because that’s what tri is about for me. Enjoying myself and earning what I worked for so hard. And I work hard (most of the time) because people like you inspire me. Thanks!!!

  • Lori

    May 4, 2016 at 9:30 am

    I always like to tell newbies to make sure they can do the swim. You can coast on the bike and walk during the run, but you have to be able to swim the distance – even if it’s slow.

  • SoAnyway

    May 4, 2016 at 10:57 am

    Two things:
    1 ) talk to the other triathletes, tell them it’s your first. They’ll talk you up and be super supportive. Triathletes are the best people 🙂
    2) The pic for number two is an excellent example of how everybody else looks silly. You look great in that pic, but the other guy is a goof…


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