Triathlon Tips ….

Lots of new people are entering the world of Triathlon.  I know it can be scary.  I know you are nervous.  I know that you have questions.  Here are a few tips to get you going and provide a bit of confidence that you really can give it a TRI.

TRI graphic


  • Start small, pick a non-branded race in the middle of nowhere and give it a TRI.
  • Each race is sanctioned by USAT (USA Triathlon) and will require you to purchase a one day membership, in addition to your registration fee, if you are not already a member.   You may use that one day membership fee as a credit toward an annual membership ($33). 
  • Go to the Athlete’s meeting.  Each race is different and they will give you specific instruction at the meeting as to where they want your race numbers/stickers, where to park, what to expect, and any special instructions regarding course changes.
  • Many triathletes participate for fun and fitness.  They come in all different shapes and sizes and have all different types of gear. 
  • Triathletes are helpful and friendly and are more than willing to give you a few tips if you ask.  Don’t be scared.  Ask.
  • Wear a TRI kit if you have one.  I train and race in my TRI kit so its money well spent in my opinion.  If you don’t own a TRI kit and are reluctant to buy one for your first event, then wear a tight performance wicking top, sport bra without padding (the padding holds water), and a pair of tight fitting “biker” style shorts.  No padded bike shorts or you’ll be collecting water in that gigantic pad and it will feel like a diaper.
  • Get to the race site early to get everything set up to lessen the race day jitters.
  • Allow race officials to mark your body with race number/age.  It’s in the rules.  You can’t do it yourself.
  • Apply sunscreen after body marking.
  • Take it out slow, it’s an endurance event.  Endure it.
  • Enjoy it.


  • Wetsuits are not required on the swim.  However, if the water is cold or you are nervous, it will help you stay afloat calm.  Wetsuit rentals are available online and at many local multisport stores.  Some stores will even allow you to apply the rental fee toward the cost of a new wetsuit if you decide to go that route after the race.
  • Wetsuits are illegal and will disqualify a participant from age group awards if worn when the water is 76.1 degrees or warmer.  Officials always designate the race as wetsuit “legal” or not.  No guessing, they will tell  you.
  • Goggles are a necessity.  They protect your eyes and help you see in the water if the water is clean and calm.  Consider tinted goggles in case you are swimming into the sun on race morning.
  • Swim caps will be provided by the race officials and it’s required to wear the cap they provide, it will help to identify your age group for the swim wave.  It will also help them determine  how long  you have been in the water and they will keep a careful eye on you if you fall off your wave and are swimming “solo”.
  • Just like with any race, if you know that you might be one of the slower swimmers, start toward the back of your assigned wave.  I like to start mid-pack and toward the side so I have fewer people in the water around me. 
  • Go wide around  the turn buoys to avoid some of the chaos.
  • If you feel someone coming up on you in the swim, possibly even grabbing at your feet, don’t be afraid to give a few kicks to let them know that you are there.  Don’t freak out.  Don’t stop.
  • If you feel crowded and aren’t worried about time as much as a finish, feel free to move to the side,  put you head up and let the crowd move away. 
  • Relax and breathe.  The key is to get out of the water and onto the bike.  I always tell myself that the swim is the easiest part of the day and I try to relax and enjoy the peace and serenity of the water.
  • Just keep swimming.  Don’t worry about how far you have left.  Don’t worry about how fast (or slow) you may be going, just focus on the task at hand and keep swimming until you dig sand with your fingers.  Then stand up and start unzipping your wetsuit (if you are wearing one) and head into transition.

I did a post about transitions last week, so I’m going to skip that for now.  If you want transition tips, please go HERE.


  • Make sure your bike is racked in an “easy” gear.  You may be going out of transition and heading uphill.  Or maybe your legs will be a bit fatigued from the swim and run into transition.  Start easy, then shift up once you catch your breath.
  • Make sure you fill your tires on race morning.  Who knows what could have happened to the tires while transporting the bike.  Check the tires for good measure.
  • Put the race number/stickers on your bike, either the head/top tube, or the seat post.  You’ll need a number to be visible on both sides of the bike.  This eliminates the need to wear the paper bib while riding.  They may also give you a sticker for your helmet. 
  • Wear a helmet.  It’s a requirement.  Make sure the helmet fits well and doesn’t move around.  This is your only piece of safety equipment on the bike and its very important.
  • Gloves – Optional.  Road bikers wear them but most triathletes won’t because it adds time in transition to put them on.  Totally up to you.  They will help to protect your hands if you fall and reduce the road vibrations while riding.  My recommendation is to skip the gloves and not fall.  Smile
  • Just keep pedaling, even on the downhill.  No coasting.  Shift, pedal and harness as much power as possible on the downhill to boost your speed. 
  • What goes up must go down.  Don’t get discouraged on the uphill because chances are it will be followed by a nice downhill. 
  • Learn to shift.  The gears can make or break a hilly course.  If the course has a lot of hills, a road bike over a TRI bike will benefit you.  TRI bikes don’t climb well.  TRI bikes have less gears than road bikes.
  • Drink up!  The bike portion will be your longest discipline.  Use the opportunity to fuel and hydrate. 
  • Watch for loose gravel, especially on turns.  If you didn’t learn this as a kid, the gravel can take you and all your friends out of the game fast.  Take the turns wide, pay attention to who is around you and yield to those going faster.  Don’t be afraid to lose some speed on the turns in order to stay upright.
  • Keep your “sit” bones pushed back on your seat.  Don’t move around and allow your soft tissue to take a beating.  The seat is wider at the back for a reason.  Your “sit” bones need to be at the back and take the brunt of the bumps of the road.  If I notice my bum getting sore, I push back in my seat and always seem to find that I wasn’t sitting properly in the first place.
  • Don’t be scared by the crazy kids on the fast bikes with disc wheels.  They sound like a train coming up behind you but don’t worry, they will be gone as fast as they appeared.
  • Be prepared to be your own bike support.  If you have a flat, fix it.  Find Step by Step tips to fix a flat HERE.
  • No drafting.  It’s illegal in triathlon.  No exception. 
  • Pass on the left.  Say, “on your left” as you approach to avoid them veering into you for any number of reasons.
  • Mount and dismount the bike at the “mount” line.  There will be volunteers helping to point out the line but know where it is located.  Don’t stop to mount/dismount where there are a lot of other people doing the same because if one person falls in the process, they will “domino” everyone else. 


  • Certainly the most dreaded discipline by some.  I find a lot of triathletes are cyclists who can swim but don’t necessarily like to run.  This is evident by the participants who start by walking the run, then never do run one single step.  So if you need to take a walk break, don’t worry, you’ll be in good company.
  • Yes, your legs will actually feel like “bricks”.  When you get off the bike, plan to be a bit wobbly.  Very normal.  It will work itself out within that first mile.
  • Just keep moving.  Seems simple, right?  It really is simple.  If you feel like you can’t run, take a short walk break and start back up again.  But keep moving.  The longer the distance of the event, the later in the day you will face the run.  The heat will be brutal.  You will feel like crap.  The faster you move thru that run, the faster you can be soaking in the lake.  RUN!
  • Hydrate.  Drink at every water station, dump water on your head if you are feeling warm.  Triathlon brings most of us a very long day.  If you don’t stay hydrated and fueled, you won’t finish.
  • Wear a hat/visor.  Once again, anticipate the run to be hot as hell, hot, hot!  Provide yourself with a little necessary shade.  It will also help keep your head damp and cool if you dump water on your head.
  • Race belt.  You will need your paper number on the run.  It’s easiest if you have a race belt with the number attached and ready to clip on.  If you don’t own a race belt and you are hesitant to purchase one for your first event, some people use their Spi belt and pin the number to that.  Your choice.
  • Be happy.  You’ve  made it to the end of your race.  Run thru the finish shoot and sent out a whooooop of joy, or thanks, or relief.  Regardless, rejoice in the finish and be proud of your accomplishment!

Lots of tips!  What did I miss?  If you can think of something, let us know!

** Don’t Be Scared To TRI ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

11 thoughts on “Triathlon Tips ….

  1. Great tips Amanda! Thanks! I’ve got my first tri and even though it’s an “easy” one and a sprint…It’s definitely a challenge when it’s your first! I just got a race belt, have a visor, went to the transition clinic….etc….ready, set, go!!

    • You are going to do great, Amanda! You can do it! And there is no such thing as an “easy one”. Respect the distance. It’s still challenging.

      Next year, I’m going to do shorter races and just try to enjoy it. And also go to events where I know more people. That’s what makes it fun. So I think I’ll be delving into the world of sprint next year too!

  2. Thank you, Amanda. Good tips for those of us who are just learning. It’s all a bit overwhelming, but I think it’s important for us to realize that everyone out there isn’t an expert, and it’s ok to ask questions from those with experience. Hence, you can expect me to be asking you a lot of questions! 😉 And I think it’s important to be able to laugh at yourself a bit — like when you (meaning me!) put your wet suit on backwards or start the run with your bike helmet on. Whoops! Live and learn, right?

    • Yep, we’ve all been there. I make mistakes all the time. Like during that transition clinic when I about choked myself because my necklace got tangled in my helmet straps. LOL!

      You’re doing great, Susan!!

  3. Great advice. Triathlon, including transition, can be intimidating to say the least. Maybe one to add; don’t go too hard on the bike, pace yourself. No matter the distance, I reckon you have to respect the run.

    And yes, triathletes are great people. Always willing to help in any way.

    • Great point in all three disciplines. Pacing is key. Thanks for the reminder. I have a hard time with that on the bike and then always fizzle out!

      On Mon, Jul 15, 2013 at 2:25 PM, TooTallFritz

  4. Great tips! For my first few triathlons when I didn’t have a race belt yet, I just pinned my number to a tech shirt and but that on in transition. I usually wear my gloves in long races (half-iron) because I don’t have aero bars and it makes my hands a lot more comfortable. It did add some time but it was so worth it on the 3+ hour bike.

    I also always make sure to look for the swim entrance and bike exit then bike entrance and run exit the morning of the race and walk from those places to my bike so I don’t get confused in the race.

    Oh and the USAT wetsuit rules are wetsuit legal to 78 degrees. From 78.1 to 84 they can still be worn, an athlete just will not be eligible for awards. If someone is really nervous about the swim portion a wetsuit might still be a good idea in that range because it helps so much with flotation!

    And good luck this weekend!

  5. Pingback: Swimming to TRI … Tips on Surviving the Swim in YOUR First (or Next) Triathlon | TooTallFritz

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