A Beginners Guide

Part 1-

Choosing an event ,

Where to start

  1. When starting off in triathlon, it’s the beginning of a fun journey into Multisport, but that can raise lots of questions on where to start and how to go about it. Which event to choose, which distance, what kit do I need, what training do I need to do?
  2. Choosing a distance based on your level of fitness, how much time you have to train and your sporting background will help keep things manageable, realistic & enjoyable. Being able to do each discipline and continuously exercise for a sustained period of time is a good guideline to start with.
  3. Starting off with a Sprint or Super Sprint are a great introduction to Triathlon and easier to complete, and there will be plenty of time to advance to longer distances or go farther afield when the time is right. But if something longer suits you initially and you’re confident with the challenge, then there is no reason why not. Be mindful of how the distances increase and with that, the bike becomes a bigger overall portion of the total distance.
  4. Keeping it local. Entering a nearby event, where you’re familiar with the location, route or even the host club, helps to keep things familiar and thus easier to prepare for and visualise. This can likewise be useful for help, racing with friends and having family & friends to support.
  5. Pool swim or open water? Flat bike course or hilly? Road run or trail? Check out the event information so that you are aware of the course profile and can train & prepare appropriately. Additionally so that you have equipment to suit the terrain.
  6. If you decide to go further afield or abroad, factor in additional time, travel, hotels and costs. Consider the time of year or season and possible climate or likely weather conditions.
  7. Many events will hold a training day for first timers or those new to the sport, and this provides an ideal opportunity to get some hands on advice about the simple things to know on race day, as well as to see the course and familiarisation with the location & surroundings.

Part 2- Pre race

1 Even if you know the location of the event well, research the course profile and route beforehand so that you’re familiar with the terrain, any bends or notable sections of the course. It provides good peace of mind on race day and helps to visual what’s coming up ahead.

2 Make sure you have the right kit. Can you borrow some if not? You don’t need the latest gadgets or new equipment to start with, just enough to cover the 3 disciplines.

  • Swimsuit or wetsuit if open water, goggles & swim hat
  • Working bike & helmet
  • Pair of trainers & running kit
  • A tri suit is a nice item to have but not essential to start with.
  • A race belt is a cheap and simple way of attaching your race number for the bike & run.

3 Write out a checklist for all of your kit, nutrition, and things to do and have pre & post race. Layout your kit beforehand and check that you have everything.

4 Work back time wise on race morning so you have plenty of time for a light breakfast and hydration and avoid rushing.

5 Stick to what you normally eat & drink and avoid changing too much on the day or in the days before your event.

6 Practice a brick session from bike > run so you’re familiar with that feeling of heavy legs when trying to run after the bike. Likewise with open water swimming if your event is in a lake, river or the sea.

7 Make sure you’re familiar with the event rules and any time or other requirements on the day.

Part 3-Transition

1 Have some spare trainers or flip flops to wear in transition and before the swim as your run shoes will need to be ready for the run leg.

2 Pack some warm & dry clothes for pre & post event, particularly depending upon when & where the event is held.

3 Familiarise yourself with where your slot is located in Transition, so that your bike is easy to find after the swim when your enter T1, and likewise your run kit as you enter T2 after the bike.

4 Lay out your kit so it’s easy to see & access, and a towel for drying your feet can also help you to locate your bike.

Part 4 -Kit List


-Goggles, swim hat, swim costume/tri-suit, wetsuit if open water.

-Get to the swim start in good time so that you’re not rushed and you’ve time to get familiarised with the course layout.

-Consider a land based warm up & mobility as doing so in the water is often not an option

-Note the swim exit and route to T1.


-Bike, helmet, cycle shoes, sunglasses, gloves, socks. -Consider a gilet or rain jacket if the weather is cold or wet.

-Check your bike beforehand so that it’s mechanically sound and check tyre pressures

-Put your bike in an easy gear so that you can start off comfortably.

-Put a little talc in your shoes to help absorb some of the moisture.

-Put your cycle shoes on as you normally would. Only consider attaching to the bike when you’ve practiced. -Socks are fine, particularly if it’s what you’re used to or practice beforehand.

-Be clear on where the mount & dismount lines are situated for leaving and re-entering transition. -Ensure your helmet strap is done up before moving your bike and that your bike is re-racked before removing your helmet.

-Have spare kit and be able to change a flat in case of a puncture.


-Running shoes, sunglasses, socks

-Check for T2 exit

-Also make note of the finish area and how many laps you need to do.

-Elastic laces help speed up the transition but test beforehand so that they are comfortable and the correct fit.

-Again a little talc in your shoes can be useful to help absorb some of the moisture.

-Enjoy the finish line!


Thoughts of starting out in triathlon

It’s a while since starting but I remember knowing nothing about what I was about to embark on. Things that I did as a beginner that are almost a rite of passage as a newbie!

-Borrowed a road bike and did the first few on road bikes without clip on Tri bars.

-Bought a cheap wetsuit but at least it was a proper swimming one.

-Dried my feet with a towel in transition before putting socks on.

-Still put socks on but use loads and loads of talc.

Things I wished I’d known when first starting.

Get the right sized frame on your bike.

Mine was too big and therefore very uncomfortable for longer tri's.

Get proper Tri clothing.

Whether it’s a 2 piece or one piece, it makes for quicker transitions. It also wicks and dries quicker.

Pre talc your bike shoes and socks, if you’re going to wear them, as wet feet just slip into them without the faff of drying them.

Try and get simple bike shoes that just have a Velcro strap to tighten, again making transition quicker.

Put elastic laces into your trainers so that you can just pull them on.

Lay your kit out the day before.

Go through each stage of the event in your head making sure you have all the correct kit from arriving to departing, including walking around shoes ie flip flops to warm clothes and undies for after the race if you are hanging around to celebrate your achievement.

Be very organised about the order that you lay your kit out by the side of your bike.

Think about which order you’re going to take things off and put things on and lay them out accordingly. Make it fool proof.

Orientate yourself within transition so that you can find your bike when dashing back and forth in T1 and T2.

Find tall, big objects, buildings, lamp posts, that don’t move (bins do) and find them from the directions that you are coming in from the swim and the bike.

Also find the exists for bike and run so that you’re not going round the long way. Have a bright towel/bag next to your bike so again its easier to spot

Things to think about when training.


Try and do your training frequently and not cram it all into the weekend. Obviously this is easier to do if you are coached as they plan out the week for you.

Easy and hard.

Mix the sessions up so you don’t over do it. I trained myself for my IM and over trained and did too many hard session, eventually injuring myself and having a year out of triathlon. Lesson learnt.

Train for the transitions.

These is where time can be made up if you are slick. Practice makes perfect and it is so right in this case.

Train with your nutrition.

The more your gut is ready for the nutrition you have decided on, the less likely that you’ll have gut issues on race day.

Brick sessions.

Something I never trained for initially so was in complete shock that my legs didn’t work initially on the run. One GB triathlete once told me that off as many bike rides that you can, quickly go for a 10 min run/jog so that your legs get used to the feel of those jelly legs. It worked for me.