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While triathlons look incredibly daunting and seemingly require impossible endurance, many have taken up the challenge and are utterly hooked. With a range of different size races, triathlons can accommodate complete beginners to hard core "Iron Man" participants, offering a more varied challenge than a standard marathon. Take a look at the guide below for some tips.
Triathlons come in different distances. In the shorter distance triathlons, the swimming leg of the race usually takes place in a swimming pool, while the longer races are often in the sea or in lakes.
The swimming section comes first, and is usually the part people find the most daunting. If you're a first-time triathlete competing in longer distance races where the swimming takes place in the sea or in a lake, make sure to come prepared with a decent wetsuit. Wetsuits are great because they keep you warm and add buoyancy, but make sure to wear it during training because swimming in a wetsuit takes some getting used to!
There is always a temptation to take the first part slowly to avoid the throng of thrashing contestants, but if you can, it is obviously better to push ahead of the crowd. However, if you can handle the barrage of flaying limbs, a really good option would be to single out another swimmer with a similar pace and position yourself right behind them – this is called drafting and can save quite a bit of energy.
If you are planning to do front-crawl, practice breathing on both sides when training so that on race day you can minimise the chances of heading off in the wrong direction. If the water is a bit rough try lifting your arms higher, coming out of the water slightly to make sure you’re getting the most out of each stroke.
The thought of not being able to rest properly is a concern for some people, but don’t worry, if you run into some trouble and have to stop, turn around on your back and gently tread water using arms and legs – this should give you plenty of time to get a breather.
- Swim cap
It is important to get a wetsuit that fits properly and goggles that don’t steam up or leak. It is highly recommended to try out all equipment (or better still train in it) before hand to make sure it doesn’t fail you on the big day.
This is usually the longest leg of the triathlon by far and it offers the best opportunity to improve your overall position. For this reason, it is imperative to build good endurance – train as much as possible and work on keeping a competitive pace for the entirety of this section.
A road bike with cleated pedals would be the most versatile choice, but less experienced triathletes may use mountain bikes, and more experienced riders may even use triathlon-specific bikes.
Remember, unlike in the swimming leg, drafting (intentionally cycling in someone’s slip stream) is not allowed. If you’re seen doing this, expect to incur a time penalty.
Much like swimming, a lot of practice will help develop valuable techniques to keep up a good speed over a long distance – with this in mind it would be a good idea to practice cadence drills. On race day you will be cycling in close proximity to a lot of other cyclists, so it is important to get some practice riding in big groups, so you can focus amongst the throng.
- Bicycle – fully serviced
- Helmet (you will not be allowed to race without one)
- Bicycle repair kit
- Easy on/off shoes – with cleated pedals (optional)
The final and most trying leg, running can be extremely tough straight after a long bike ride. Make sure to wear clothing that is light and comfortable and won’t chafe.
Make sure you get comfortable running the distance in a decent time – then try doing the same distance as fast as possible for at least one of your training runs per week. It is good to vary the speeds at which you run to make sure your training prepares you for anything on race day.
It is a good idea to do a mixture of track work, interval training and long-distance runs to help keep up the spirit of variation. By far and away the best way to train is to do a bike-run brick session, which is training that incorporates a cycle and a run, one after the other.
Starting a high repetition strength building gym class would be great if you feel you need to improve the strength of joints, muscles and tendons – all of which need to take a considerable amount of pressure on race day.
Whatever you’re training programme, don’t overdo it. Try not to increase the distance of your runs, swims or bike rides by more than 10 or 15 percent each week and make sure to schedule in regular rest days – and even a rest week once every month or so – depending on the intensity of your workouts.
- Good fitting running shoes
- T-shirt (optional)
- Socks (optional)
Choosing the right triathlon is important, don’t enter an event that you will have no way of completing. Make sure to choose a race with achievable distances – some of our favourites are:
- London triathlon; 2/3rd August 2014 (different categories, see here)
- Brighton triathlon; Sunday 15th September 2014 (1k swim - 32k bike - 8k run)
- Nottingham triathlon; Saturday 31st May (750m swim - 20k bike - 5k run)
If you don’t live nearby make sure you’re staying somewhere close the night before and even the night after the race – it isn’t fun traipsing all the way home after a Triathlon. Jurys Inn offers city centre hotels in London, Brighton, Nottingham and across the UK ideally located for such events, including the three locations above.