Runner to Triathlete . . . Making the Leap

9 04 2010

I have several runners that I am training to make the big dive into the triathlon world so I thought I would share a few thoughts about making a smooth transition.

Step One:  Get Information!  The gold level would be to find a coach.  (hint, hint)   Find a certified triathlon coach that has experience working with new triathletes.  There are great coaches out there that can coach elites to Kona, but might not be well suited to coach a new athlete.   If you are getting a coach I encourage you to interview several and look for the best fit.    They are offering a service and you should make sure that you feel 100% comfortable (o-k, maybe a little bit scared or awed is o-k, it will keep you getting those workouts in!) and that they are going mesh with you.  If you can find a coached group that is even better!  A group will give you accountably to several people, not just one coach.  You will find training partners and you won’t be going through the experience alone!

The silver level would be to find a good online site.  Look for a site that has some great articles, a good log for your training and solid training plans available.  My favorite site is Beginner Triathlete.  I have used the site since I was a beginner just starting out and still log my training daily there.  Is it worth upgrading and paying a few $$ for the higher level membership?  I think so.  You have access to great articles with just the basic level of paid membership as well as some great logging features.

The bronze level would be to get a good book.  There are tons of books out there.  Books for female triathletes, books for the senior athlete, funny books, really good books, really bad books, and everything in between.  Joe Friel has a book called Your First Triathlon, I have not personally read it but I have used a lot of his training and have read the excerpts and it looks very comprehensive.

For every level I encourage you to find a local tri club.  You will find a wealth of knowledge and lots, and lots of support.   Do not be intimidated joining in the the group before you do your first triathlon.  Each and every triathlete in the club began with one race.  Ask questions and use the resources available.   Here in the Valley we have started a new tri club Shenandoah Valley Triathletes, join the group if you are local!!!

Next you need to find a race.  I thought I had a good blog post about how to choose a race but I searched and searched and can’t find it.  Bingo!   New post idea for next week!  Until then start looking and I’ll give you a hint, look at location, weather and distance. Onto gear . . .

You need some gear!  We triathletes love our gear!!  I will say as a beginner there’s not much you really need to get.  You need a pool to swim in, a bike (in good working order) to ride and some running shoes.  Having said that, I wouldn’t be a good triathlete if I din’t tell you about some of the ‘extras.’  By the way, you can most races on a mountain bike, some even on a beach cruiser.  Don’t worry about going out and getting a fancy road or race bike, do a race first to make sure you love it (you will) THEN start counting pennies – you’re gonna need them!

As far as cheap speed there are just a few things I encourage ALL triathletes to have.

Elastic laces with some sort of quick locking mechanism are a great way to speed up your transition!  They are generally $5 – $8/ pair and come in all sorts of colors and brands.  Buy  them!

Next is the Race Belt:   Unlike a running race where you can pin your number to your shirt and wear it all race, for a triathlon you only need your run number for the run.  Do you want an awkward number flapping on the bike?  Where exactly are you pinning the number?  To your tri top?  To your spandex shorts?  For $5 you can buy a nifty race belt, and when you come into transition 2 you snap it on, with the number facing the front and you’re off!

You gotta look good right?  We tried to mess with my brother in law before his first race by telling him everyone wore teeny speedos, it didn’t work.   Kind of mean, yes.  But it really would have been funny.

You do need SOMETHING to wear on race day, so lets talk fashion!  I do think it’s worth the $$ to get either a one piece race suit or a tri top and tri shorts.  You will wear the outfit from beginning to end – swim, bike and run.  The shorts have a small and fast drying chamois pad of some sort for your biking comfort.  As far as what to look for, comfort, comfort, comfort.  You don’t want to spend the entire race pulling down shorts that ride up!   This year I will be wearing a Saucony top and bottoms.  I love a good one piece suit, but when you start racing longer distance you have to think about peeing, so I go with a separate top and bottom!

Saucony Tri Suit

Really, those are the very basic things you need.  It doesn’t have to be a really stressful and overwhelming experience.  For your first race just go out and enjoy it.  You will make mistakes, you will learn from them and next time you will be even faster!

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3 responses

9 04 2010
Scott Skalny

Great tips for beginners!

9 04 2010
Meghan Ling

Thanks for the beg. tips…you didn’t mention swimming lessons! I think I’d need to start with learning the correct strokes. I’m totally serious. Oh, I have noticed that tri athletes like their gear, that cracked me up when you mentioned it. Very true. Nice post, thanks!

10 04 2010
coachkati

So true Meghan, as a triathlete (and duh, a swim coach!) I take for granted that everybody will take swim lessons! : )

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