Any triathlete should expect to have to do lots of research. And there will still definitely be things that you won’t find out until the actual race day. But here is a basic overview of some (random) things you might want to know.
1. Swim, Bike, Run
Most people figure that it’s in this order just because it’s safest. Given that most people struggle the most swimming, at least they aren’t having to try open water when they aren’t fresh. It also separates the faster from the slower racers, making the competition relevant for both the elite and the new-comers. Plus it means that the triathlon doesn’t become a competition about who can squeeze their wetsuit over a sweaty body.
2. There are lots of distances to choose from
A triathlon just means a race with swimming, biking and running. But there are a bunch of distances to choose from:
3. You will have to swap your bib over
When swimming you won’t have a bib (the water would probably damage it). Instead you’ll have a permanent marker number on your ankle (along with your tracking chip). While you can pre-attach your cycling bib to the back of your gear, ready and waiting to slip on as soon as you’ve emerged from the water, for the running you’ll need to swap it to the front so people can still see you.
4. Transition zones make a difference
You’re doing three sports, all of which require different gear. And when changing between the three the clock is still ticking. So if you get it wrong, can’t find your bike, and are slow putting on your clothes, then your time will suffer. So the transition part to the triathlon becomes a bit of a skill in itself.
5. You can get lost swimming
Even though they stagger the swimming part, there are lots of people in the water. Some of them might even grab hold of you at points (probably due to the panic of open water swimming). But with everyone around and about and bumping into each other, you might end up going off course. So don’t just rely on following other people, but make sure you keep on lifting up your head to get a sense of your direction.
6. You may get cramp
Cramp is likely with any kind of over-exercising activity. But particularly when it’s hot and humid it can creep up on you and take hold. Even experienced triathletes are vulnerable, so it’s worth learning how to combat just in case it actually does target you.
7. Swimming can cause chafing
It might surprise you that even swimming you’re still in danger of chafing. But around the wetsuit or swimsuit the friction is just the same as when you’re out of the water. Vaseline is therefore just as necessary at this stage of the triathlon as it will be for the running part later on.
8. A lot of it is about how much you eat
You’re expending a lot of energy. And so it’s only natural you’ll need to fuel yourself up for it. Some describe triathlons as eating competitions and for the longer ones they probably aren’t far wrong. Eating until the end will probably be the make or break of your triathlon, so make sure you think about it before.