Triathlon is a complex sport and there's a lot to get your head around. Sundried is here to explain the jargon and help you on your way to your first race.
Beginner Triathlon Guide
Sundried has written a guide for beginner triathletes so that you can understand everything that it entails. From distances to jargon, this handy guide has everything you need to know. You can find the Sundried triathlon guide here.
What do I wear for a triathlon?
Triathlon gear is very specific and you will need to buy some items you don't already own. Most people already have a pair of running trainers and leggings. But you'll need a tri suit and other accessories. Check out our guide on triathlon gear for the full list of things you'll need for your race.
Triathlon Race Day Checklist
If you forget something important, you won't be able to race! So it's important to have a comprehensive checklist of everything you'll need for the day. Have a read of Sundried's triathlon race day checklist so that you can see what kit you'll need for your first triathlon and be sure that you've got everything for the big day!
Sundried ambassador and winner of the Southend Triathlon 2017 Harrison Smith gives us an account of his time at the ITU WTC in Rotterdam.
Feeling Fresh and Relaxed
This year’s World Triathlon Championships were held in Rotterdam, Netherlands. With the race scheduled for late Sunday afternoon, my dad and I woke up bright and early Saturday morning, clipped the bike to the top of the car and breezed through the six-hour trip. Our hotel was situated about a mile from the finish line, so, after unpacking, we walked down to catch the elite men’s race. The pace they can sustain for 10km never ceases to amaze me. I went through the standard procedure: register, go back to the room, stick everything onto the bike, and go for an easy shake-out run to check out the course.
I woke up feeling fresh and relaxed; I focused a lot on my running last summer and my only other triathlon had been the Sundried Southend Triathlon three months previously. I wasn’t hugely confident, but I knew that if I could get myself into a decent group on the bike I would come through in the footrace.
Unsurprisingly, the day dragged on as we waited, idly watching the other age-groupers. The race was at three o’clock so I had a small bite for lunch before setting up in the two transitions- T1 was on the north side of the river, we would cross the bridge during the bike and finish on the south side for the run.
I warmed up with my usual run followed by drills before slipping my Tri’n’Swim Well wetsuit on and doing some sprints in the water to get a feel for the rather fresh 16-degree temperature. Alas, we were let out onto the pontoon and I realised how big the field actually was- over 70 guys from countries as far away as Australia had made the trip.
I went hard to the first buoy- as did everyone else- and was forced backwards in the ensuing chaos. As we rounded the last of the two buoys and began our journey to the swim exit, I was latched onto a set of feet, focusing on maintaining my technique and keeping up the cadence, consciously aware that I was toward the back. As I sprinted out of the water and into the 300m run to transition, my dad shouted that I had swam 10.40, hardly my fastest time for the 750m but not awful considering I had swam only a few times all summer.
I put a big effort in through transition while trying to focus on being as efficient as possible. It paid of as after a couple of kilometres of hard riding I found myself in a group of about eight, around 45 seconds behind the main peloton. Luckily the bike course was narrow- mainly on bike paths- and particularly winding, which suited our small group. As we worked together I did take a moment- at about 15km- to acknowledge how awesome it was that I was chain ganging through Rotterdam with an Aussie, and Belgian, another Brit and an American. We made good progress through the final miles, bringing the peloton from out of sight, to within 20 seconds as we leaped from our bikes into T2.
Surprisingly for me, I breezed through T2 too without a problem. I had a slight stich but I also had a long line of competitors in front, enticing me to push on. I was told at the start of the run that I was in 40th, hardly where I was aiming for in the back of my mind. By halfway I had passed most of the peloton and was in about 15th with my sights set on the stragglers from the first group out of the swim. Ignoring the rising pain, I focused on holding form and I raced down the last hill toward the finish, picking people off all the way. As I turned onto the carpet I was in 10th, so, with one last burst of adrenaline, I sprinted past two more guys, collapsing across the line in 8th with the fastest run time by 30 seconds- a respectable 16.05.
As we drove home that evening I was content with my effort, but excited for the year to come; the winner had only swum 35 seconds faster than me, with a faster swim I could potentially have won. With the priceless support of Sundried for my kit, Tri’n’Swim Well for my wetsuit and swim coaching, Finely Tuned Physio for my sports massages and injury treatment, and my coach- Nick Wetheridge- for guidance, I see no reason why I shouldn’t be able to fulfil that potential and win next year.
My brother and I have always been very active and competitive. I went to support him at a local Half Ironman where someone asked me, “how can you compete in an Ironman as a vegan”? Without saying anything, I knew I was going to do an Ironman and prove it.
I work for Sea Shepherd Global as Chief engineer on the MY Bob Barker, which makes it difficult to do any training. I started doing 3months on, 3months off. Perfect to start 70.3 training, right?
My first month on being February, I thought the Durban 70.3 (June sometime) would be perfect, so I entered. Ironman then announced it would be on the 3rd of June (my birthday) which limited my initial training plans. Sea Shepherd struggled to get a replacement for me so I stayed on the boat until mid-May. Then to top it all off, I was stuck in Monrovia, Liberia for a few days with airplane problems.
I arrived at my brother’s place 2 weeks before the Ironman...
I used to be a decent road cyclist and runner, however being on and off the ships for 2 years has made me start training from the bottom. Luckily for me we had swim stops on the boat almost every day and I could swim in 3000m deep seas. We also had a spinning bike on the ship. Imagine a rusty, noisy spinning bike with a wooden pedal in 45-degree heat, and a rolling ship. After 10min on the bike I was soaked in sweat and getting light headed.
I jumped into training with my brother which consisted of swimming pretty much every day and cycling and running on alternative days. My first bike session being a FTP test. 200 Watts was the number I had to work with. I did a track and a hill running session during the week, planning big training sessions for the weekend. During my first brick workout I injured my ITB, 3 running sessions was all I could do before the race.
I had a decent plan for the race, swim around 40 min and bike under 3 hours. I was just going to wing it on the run. It all went really well. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I did the run in just over two hours, walking once. I managed to finish in just over 6 hours. I should say, my fiancé is an amazing cook and without her I would not have been able to do that well.
To me, being vegan is an unfair advantage. People who don’t know how powerful the lifestyle is, are missing out. I will keep on trying to be the best example of this lifestyle that I can be.
Thanks to Sundried clothing for helping me during training and racing. We share the same ethics and values. I am honoured and proud to be part of the Sundried team.
My next 70.3 will be Lake Placid, NY in September 2019 where I hope to have at least 2 months to train.
This post is dedicated to my best friend Cassie who overcame her demons and took on this race again a year after missing the cut off time for the bike. She has huge courage and bottle to go back to a race that totally devastated her and almost made her quit racing. In 2016, she took on the race and in a moment of great human kindness helped a fellow competitor change a flat tyre, but unfortunately this made her miss the bike cut off time by a matter of minutes. We had trained together hard for months so it was absolutely devastating for her. This year was her chance to come back stronger and complete the course.
Ironman Exmoor was a complete disaster for us last year. Not only did Cassie miss the cut off on the bike, but I managed to flip the car onto its roof the day before the race which meant racing with an injured hip! The venue for this race is beautiful, but you could already sense nerves and excitement from the other competitors when we got to registration. After we registered we had a look at the lake to get an idea of how we wanted to swim and planned the route out of the water into transition. Next we drove the bike route (which is really hilly!) and then went back to our little cottage which would be base camp for the weekend. That night we packed our transition bags and checked over the bikes to make sure all was OK, we had dinner and went to sleep excited about the next day.
We woke up bright and early ready for a fairly busy day racking and getting swim practice in the lake. We had a plan to get this out the way early in the morning to give us enough time to relax and enjoy the day. We got to the venue at 8:30 am for the swim practice at 9 am; the weather had took a turn for the worse and it was getting cold and started to rain so we decided to miss the swim practice and just get our gear sorted. We grabbed our bikes and headed to transition to rack and drop our bags off; finding my rack number was easy and then we hung our bags up in the transition tent. We then worked out our routes from swim to bike then bike to run just so we were prepared in the blur of the race. With this all now sorted we had a look around the expo and headed back to base camp. That afternoon we spent time fuelling up for the race and preparing; I decided to go for a little run in my new Sundried Triathlon suit to loosen the legs and also see how it was during a run. I only ran about 5km but the suit felt great and super comfy.
Back at base camp, we put our feet up and recharged for the next day. Looking at the weather it was going from bad to worse with heavy rain and 30mph winds predicted. Cassie was getting nervous so I suggested we race together as we had trained together and I could keep her informed on times and pace during the day. She was reluctant at first in case I got a penalty for drafting, but I assured her I would stay well behind on the bike and outside the drafting zone, in the end she agreed and the plan was set.
My alarm sounded at 3:30 am and we woke with feelings of nerves and excitement. We managed to get some breakfast down and headed to the venue to get into transition at 5 am. We prepared our bikes by pumping up the tyres, added nutrition and bike computers, and then went and sat in the car waiting for the start of the race. Time ticked down and nerves started to build; myself and Cassie chatted about the race and reassured each other that we would be fine and have a good race. Then it was time to get our wet suits on and head for the start line. The atmosphere was a mix of nervous chatting and excitement. The rain started to pour and the winds picked up and the lake looked huge, grey and scary. The music played on the loud speakers and a countdown ticked down to the start.
The swim started and I had a plan to attack the swim straight away; previous races this season I have started way too relaxed so I wanted to change this. My arms were burning from the sudden burst into life but I knew this would pass as I got used to the swim. This was proved right after about 400m when my arms started to relax to the pace. I felt in great form while swimming and passed people along the way which was a great confidence booster. I wondered how Cassie was doing and kept getting glimpses of the beautiful scenery around the lake. I turned the far end buoy and started to head back to the start. In the distance I could see the exit tunnel and pushed on to get there as fast as I could. Exiting the water I felt super light headed but got my bearings and walked up the hill to T1 whilst getting out the wet suit. The plan now was to take my time to give Cassie some time to catch up. Once in the T1 tent I got changed into my bike kit and headed out to find my bike. As I walked towards bike exit I saw Cassie’s family and headed towards the bridge out on the course to wait for Cassie. The bridge is about half a mile into the bike route and no one really stands there so I was confident I wouldn’t be too bothered by people whilst I waited.
Sooner than expected Cassie zoomed past after having an amazing swim and the battle of the bike started. I had written on my handlebars worst case scenarios of times we needed to hit at every 10 mile blocks, Cassie had trained so hard for this race and it proved as she started super strong. I sat about 10-15 metres behind her and every now and then pulled up beside her for a few seconds just to give her a time check then dropped back again. The rain was freezing and pouring down, the winds were so strong and kept blowing me across the road but Cassie just kept pushing. At 10 miles we were 6 minutes ahead of time and 20 miles we were 11 minutes ahead but then the horrendous hills really started. Cassie was riding so well and got her head down and cycled up them gritting her teeth and working really hard, I knew we would lose time here but I didn’t expect the amount we lost. At 30 miles we were back to zero time ahead and on worse case scenario. The 40 mile marker on the side of the rode came up and to my horror we were 3 minutes behind time, I have no idea how this happened but I got alongside Cassie and told her I needed her to work harder up the hills than she ever has before. A few of the hills she had to get off the bike and run up with me shouting for her to dig deep and keep going. We got to mile 50 and to my complete shock we were back bang on time. We flew into T2 and the bike section was completed with about 7 minutes to spare, cheers from her family lifted both of us and we quickly got changed and went out onto the run course.
The start of the run didn’t go well for Cassie as she was dizzy and exhausted from the bike but I got her into a walk run rhythm and she fuelled up at the first feed station. The first lap went by and she found out just how hard the run is but she also knew what she had to do for the next two laps. Cassie was digging deep and I asked her to keep with me as I picked up the pace, she battled fatigue and sickness trying to fuel when she could and keep up with me and then the end was in sight; 400 metres were left to the end when she looked at me and said she was really struggling, I think I actually begged her to keep going which made her smile and then we hit the red carpet and finishing straight.
Cassie's story is a real inspiration to never give up on your dream; she could have picked an easier Ironman after missing out on this course last year but she didn’t want to. She said there would always have been a question mark if she had. She risked failure again but she had the bottle to do it. She is an amazing person and a real inspiration to others.
It’s no secret triathlon is an expensive sport and can slowly drain your student loan. With Freshers entering University all over the country, our ambassador Laura Rose Smith has put together some ideas on how you can make the sport more affordable whilst living as a student.
Get your meal prep on point
Meal prep (especially batch cooking) is the key to keeping food costs down whilst getting the nutrition you need for training. Instead of grabbing food whilst you’re out and about, bring it with you and save those pennies.
My rucksack is always packed with a flask of tea and copious Tupperware meals to keep me well fuelled throughout the day which additionally contributes to waste reduction from overly packaged food and takeaway cups. Overnight oats is always a winner for a post-swim breakfast on the go.
Swap and share
When I started triathlon it was great to be able to use teammates when I needed kit that I didn’t have. We would often trade a trisuit for a wetsuit and wheels for some aero bars to keep us training and competing without blowing our budgets.
In with the old out with the new
Whilst swapping and sharing can be good, there is only so much you can get away with borrowing. Look for second-hand essentials, like a bike, that are in good working order to ensure you have the basics.
Opt for cheaper kit alternatives
I love the idea of kit that looks the part, but financially this isn’t always viable and can result in having to wear the same pair of bib shorts all year... which no one wants!
Keep your eyes peeled when in supermarkets for kit that doesn’t cost the earth and have the luxury of a choice of shorts.
Bike maintenance isn’t hard and there are plenty of YouTube channels that guide you through how to service and fix your own bike. Learn the basics and use the knowledge of others to keep your bike in top shape whilst saving on the cost of a bike shop visit.
Utilise the perks of being a student
Being a student does come with its benefits, including cheaper gym memberships and affordable University clubs, so make sure you use them!
Get the essentials first
Yes, a disc wheel is very fancy and sunglasses that match your bike are cool but are they really necessary? Prioritise purchasing the gear you NEED initially and then, if you have the funds, you can go crazy on all the added extras.
Support local events
Who doesn’t love a trip abroad and racing in major Championships but realistically it isn’t affordable all the time. Make use of nearby events to save on travel expenses whilst keeping your local events up and running.
Cut down on travel expenses
If travelling is inevitable then opt for the cheaper options of car sharing and camping. Saving money and socialising… no brainer!
If all else fails do what I did...
Find a triathlete partner and steal all their kit, hijack their trips abroad, and use them as a personal mechanic. Easy.
So that’s my top ten tips for cutting the costs in triathlon… No excuses not to get out there and swim, bike, run!
About the author: Laura Rose Smith is a Team GB Age Group triathlete and Sundried ambassador.