Performance Hub

Tips for Tackling Your First Triathlon

ByEmma Porter |

Race season is upon us at last! If this summer is your first time taking on a triathlon, you might be a little bit nervous about how the event will go. We’ve pulled together a few tips for your first triathlon to help keep your mind at ease in the lead up to, and during, the race.

Pre Race

The Timing Chip

There’s a good chance no one will tell you this unless you get it wrong. The timing chip goes on your left ankle. This is to avoid any possibility of it catching your bike chain.

Check Your Bike

In the days leading up to the race, make sure you have everything you need ready to go. If you think your bike needs a service, make sure you book it in for earlier that week so it’s ready with plenty of time pre-race day. The bike mechanics in your local bike shop will also appreciate your bike arriving with plenty of time and not adding to the pre-race rush!

Read / Watch the Race Briefing

Make sure you check out how far away the race is, note the check-in and wave times, and important race information such as parking, logistics, check in and race routes.

Get Organised

Pack the night before. If you need a run through of things you’ll need for race day, we’ve got you covered there too! Check out our recently published checklist for race day HERE 

Transition Set Up

No you wont need all that ‘stuff’ in transition, keep it simple and to a minimum, whether the items are racked in a bag for a large scale event or  placed at your bike in transition during a smaller race, the less items to have to hand the better;  small towel, talc, small bottle of water and whatever kit you need for your bike and run and thats it.  – Oh and if it’s going to be sunny don’t forget the sun screen.

Use A Race Belt

You don’t need to be fiddling with safety pins or changing your race number from back to front on your race kit mid race so take the stress out of it all and invest in a race belt that can be put on after your swim and left on until the end of your race. In general numbers go to the back for the bike and to the front on the run. They are not worn under wetsuits in the swim.


Photo Credit: Lough Cutra Triathlon/ Triathlon Ireland

The Race 

The Swim

The swim is often the most daunting part for anyone who is taking on their first triathlon. Just remember, the race organisers must make sure the relevant safety precautions are in place in order to host the race. There will be stewards as you enter and exit the water. There will also be support out on the water who are there specifically to help anyone in who finds themselves in trouble.

If you find yourself struggling, or panicking, roll onto your back and take a few deep breaths. If you feel you’re not able to continue with the swim, put your hand in the air and a kayaker will come and help you.

Many races will have a mass start for each wave of the race. If you’re anxious about the swim, take your time entering the water and keep towards the back of your group to avoid all the elbows and feet looking for the best line to the buoy. Don’t forget to keep an eye on which direction you’re swimming!

A little bit of body-glide or Vaseline under your wetsuit will help you get it off much more quickly as you transition from swim to bike.

The Bike

Unless you’ve had plenty of practice of mounting your bike with the shoes attached ( flying mount) and are confident you can successfully do so on the day, it’s probably best to pop your bike shoes on beside your bike and walk/run to the mount line, especially for your first race.

If you’re worried about mounting your bike and causing a traffic jam behind you, just move a little bit to the side after you cross the mount line and take your time.  Just like training for swim, bike and run, you will need to practice a ‘flying mount’.

Most triathlons in Ireland are non-drafting. This means there shouldn’t be anyone too close to your back wheel to avail of an energy saving draft. It also means you are required to give the rider in front of you adequate space so that you aren’t benefitting from their draft. Unless you’re making an effort to pull out of their slip stream and pass them, make sure to leave enough space between you and the rider in front of you. This will be outlined in the pre-race guidelines.

Make sure you have water or a carbohydrate mix in your water bottle for out on the bike course and your choice of  sweet treats to give you an extra boost of energy on the course.

The Run

Remember to keep your helmet on and the strap closed until you have your bike racked.

If you’ve pushed yourself on the bike, your legs will probably feel a bit jelly-like as you set out on the run. Don’t worry, this is normal. Remember to pace yourself during the run course. It’s better to finish strong than go out too hard too early and fade before the finish.

Don’t worry, you’ll be back to do another race soon with all the knowledge and experience you’ve acquired in your first race!

The Finish

Smile! Enjoy the atmosphere at the finish line and listening to each other’s race stories.

Sign up for your next race ASAP.



Photo Credit: Castle Race Series
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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.