Taking Steps Towards Your First Triathlon

ByEmma Porter |

Swim, cycle, run. It might seem a little daunting if you’re thinking about taking on your first triathlon. However, if you’ve ever seen one of the many triathlons that take place around the country every year, you’ve surely noticed there’s always an amazing supportive atmosphere around the event and everyone taking part is really enjoying themselves. Whether a triathlon is on your bucket list, a major fitness goal or you’re looking for a rewarding challenge, here are some of the best tips we can offer for those who are new to the sport.

Find A Club

The best way to get started on your triathlon journey is to find a local club. As the fastest-growing sport in Ireland, there are plenty of clubs around the country that are always happy to take on new members. You’ll benefit from joining a club in lots of ways, having a group to train with, learning from the experiences of other members, and a whole new group of friends.

If you’re not able to join a local triathlon club, try to find a swimming group and get yourself cycling on a regular basis – can you start by commuting to work a few days a week and doing a slightly longer ride at the weekend.  If you haven’t done any running before, try a couch to 5km app. Training for your first triathlon on your own can be done, however it’s much more fun if there’s a good group around you and you can get some help with balancing the training for the three disciplines. 

There are a whole host of online groups on Facebook for triathletes for every level from beginners to those racing at the pointy end of triathlon, if you need some motivation, advice and encouragement be sure to check out some of these groups. In Ireland the PARC Tri Community is a very supportive and engaging group, whether you are a beginner or taking on an IRONMAN for the first, or twenty first, time.

Make A Plan

Choose an event. Go to the Triathlon Ireland website and take a look at the event calendar. Triathlon Ireland clubs will host a number of races aimed at “New to Tri” or “Try-a-Tri”, these events might appeal to some who are new to the sport as the swim is often shorter than the traditional “sprint” event. The Sprint distance triathlon consists of a 750m swim, 20km cycle and a 5km run. Many of the “New to Tri” events will be shorter than a sprint, with some as short as a 250m swim, 6km cycle, 3km run.

Get The Right Gear

You don’t necessarily need triathlon specific kit to start. However, the following are some essential pieces you’ll need for training and for your first race!

The Swim 

A comfortable pair of swimming togs, a swimming hat, and goggles. If you can try on the goggles before you buy them, do! If you’re new to swimming, it helps to try on the goggles, make sure they fit your face well, and won’t leak when you get in the water. 

*Top Tip A good tip for checking the fit is to place the goggle sockets over your eyes and apply some pressure so they will stick while leaving the straps dangling in front. If both or one side of the goggles stays in place, they are a good fit for your face. If they fall off immediately, try again with a little more pressure just to be sure. If they fall again they probably aren’t the right fit for you.

A wetsuit is compulsory for all open water triathlons in Ireland unless you’re racing at Elite level and the water has reached a suitable temperature, which is very rare! As with all kit, the higher end wetsuits can be expensive. In Ireland, you’re going to need a wetsuit for just about any triathlon you want to do. However, there’s nothing stopping you from wearing an old surfing wetsuit for your first triathlon if you’ve already got one and you’re comfortable in it. Once its’ neoprene, covers you sufficiently, and you’re comfortable to swim in it, away you go. 

There are plenty of websites where you can buy cheaper wetsuits. That being said, there’s no substitute for being able to try one on before you buy it and make sure it fits perfectly. If you buy one you’ve never tried on before, it could end up being uncomfortable or the wrong fit for your body shape, which could slow you down in the swim.

The Bike

Bib-shorts. These are padded cycling shorts, and if you plan on spending a few hours in your saddle each weekend, it is very much worth investing in a pair. Chamois cream, an anti-chafe cream which will help prevent uncomfortable friction while you train, is an item to pop in the basket with your bib-shorts.

A helmet is simply a non-negotiable. You should always wear one while training on the road, and you won’t be allowed to race a triathlon without one.  Although lights are not a requirement for racing, it’s worth investing for a good set of lights for training especially on some of those darker days in winter and dusky evenings in summer. A puncture repair kit & bike pump for on the road and a foot pump for giving your tyres some air before you hit the road on two wheels are also worth the investment for training. 

The bike itself. We all know bikes can be expensive. However, you don’t need to invest in a top of the range aero-dynamic speedy road or tri bike for your first triathlon. For your first triathlon, any bike will do. Once there’s air in your tyres and your brakes are working you’ll be able to take part which is the most important first step! 

The Run

Places like Amphibian King or the Run Hub offer gait analysis while you’re trying out different shoes. This might sound over the top to some people; however, if you haven’t done much running before, this can be very helpful in finding the right pair of shoes to get you started. Running places the most impact on your legs of the three disciplines, so making sure you’ve the right shoes on your feet will help you build up the miles that little bit easier and help to avoid some common running injuries and annoying issues like blisters and dodgy toenails! 

Other Kit

Another non-negotiable, although not for everyone, is a good quality sports bra. This will make training a lot more pleasant for some people, particularly when it comes to running sessions. A good sports bra will likely cost in the region of €30-50. Brands like QueenB and Shock Absorber offer both comfort and support, and are a good starting point for those who might be wondering where to look.

A watch is another piece of kit which isn’t necessary but can be very helpful for monitoring your progress. Alternatively, there are a range of apps like MapMyRun, Strava, etc. which will be able to help you monitor your distances, paces, and progress. 

Race Day Kit

Many triathletes wear a tri-suit underneath their wetsuit. While this makes transitioning from the swim to the bike easier, it also isn’t a requirement to race. Wearing a pair of swimming togs under your wetsuit and having a pair of shorts and a t-shirt in transition for after the swim is perfectly suitable for your first race.

So…. what are you waiting for? Take the plunge embrace triathlon, it’s not just about the sport, it’s a lifestyle that can bring lots of fun, friendship and adventure to your life! 

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Meet the Author

Emma Porter
Emma is a former competitive swimmer who has a number of national titles, she competed internationally in her youth. A qualified and experienced swimming coach, she is currently an avid triathlete and cyclist. She has podiumed in several Triathlon National Series and Super Series races, claimed the National Aquathlon Championship title in 2020 and raced in the French Triathlon Grand Prix league. She has worked within a number of sports, across a variety of roles and has a keen interest in sharing her passion for sport.