Your First Triathlon

If you are sitting on the couch right now wanting desperately to change your life, this book is for you.

The first thing you must do is forget everything you have heard about triathlon. It doesn’t require super-human strength or the will to push through excruciating pain. Yes, to race an ironman distance race, you need a lot of training, dedication, and perseverance; but that should not be your goal for your first triathlon. Your goal for your first race is to get your lazy butt off the couch and turn your life around.

You and I will set a goal, for this change in your life, of completing a triathlon. Whether you finish your triathlon or not will not define success or failure. Read that sentence again, it’s important. Success is getting off the couch. Success is going out for that run. Success is when you get a flat tire out in the middle of nowhere and you change the tube and get going again. Success is being outside exercising and pushing yourself. You will put un-needed stress on yourself if you focus on finishing the race. Triathlon is a journey that starts with a swim, then a bike ride, and ends with a run. The finish is the end, but every swim stroke, breath, pedal turn, stride, and drink is more important than the finish. Do them all well and the finish will happen.

For you, the focus of training and racing should be having fun. That’s it. Each workout should be difficult, but never painful. You should end each workout happy and looking forward to the next one, not in pain for three days losing fitness because you went too hard. You need to gradually build your strength and stamina and that means starting easy and only doing more when your body is ready for more.

Triathlon is a celebration of life. It is not torture. You are alive! Celebrate each day by moving your body, laughing, swimming, riding, and enjoying the outdoors. This is the true win. You will not win your first race, but this true win will be yours.

For your first triathlon you should not care about your time or how you place. Why put that added stress on yourself? The race should be a celebration of everything you have accomplished. You should invite everyone you know to come watch you and be a part of your accomplishment. Triathlon can be a lonely sport during the workouts but having friends and family at the race makes it all worth it. Nobody coming to watch you cares one bit about your finishing time. They want you to finish because they care about you and wish you the best. That will not change if you do not finish.

It’s now time to find a race around twelve weeks from now that is close to your home. Your first race should be a sprint distance race. A sprint is a perfect first race because each of the distances is something you will do as a normal daily workout in the last months of your training.

Check out TriFind.com. At TriFind you can search for triathlons in your state just by clicking on their map.

You can then pick the year and the month that you want to find a race for.  You’re looking for a sprint distance race, something with about three miles of running. Don’t be fooled by the name. Sprint does not mean you have to sprint the whole race. Sprint means it is a shorter distance race.

The Race

An image of the Wildflower Olympic start by Tony Farley
An image of the Wildflower Olympic start by Tony Farley

Race day is the day you trained for, the day you read books for, the day to enjoy moving and living just like every training day. You should expect your race to go like your training. You have done the distances in the swim, the bike, and the run. You have eaten the food and drank the fluids that you will use. Everything is the same but this is different because it is with hundreds, maybe thousands of athletes that have gone through the same thing as you. Your friends and family may be there to watch you do this crazy thing that few people ever do. You don’t want to fail. Failure is a cause of so much stress for the first time triathlete. You sit and imagine all the things that could go wrong and it’s really terrifying if you go through every bad scenario you can think of.

Your goal for race day is to not let any negative thoughts into your head. You shall not think a negative thought about yourself, your fellow racers, or even the weather. When you notice a negative thought, let it go. Maybe you’re worried about coming in last. Let it go. Last triathlete is still a triathlon finisher. Worried about getting a flat? You have two tubes and three CO2 canisters. You have changed a tube before. A tube change is a good time for a break. Find some shade, change your tube, and finish the ride-no worries. Worried the swim start? Heard stories about how crazy it can get in the washing machine? You’re not going to start with those crazies. You’re fine waiting for fifteen seconds while they go off and do their thing and then you will calmly start your race. Fifteen seconds is all it takes. You may find that you can start easily after five seconds!

You will follow your plan today and go easier than your training days. You will swim easy, taking a break if you need with a little breast stroke if you need to, and get out of the water calm and collected. You will walk quickly through transitions and get yourself ready for the next discipline, you will drink fluids every mile on the bike and enjoy the aid stations on the run. You will take your time, smile, thank all the course workers, and know that you got this. Do all this and the finish is inevitable.