Joyce does a triathlon

So you want to do a triathlon? Read me first!

This weekend is the Toronto Triathlon Festival. This will be the third time I’m racing in a relay team at this event but instead of running, I’m going to be biking. So excited!!

I signed up for the TTF as part of a relay team 2 years ago without knowing anything about the sport. I wasn’t even a runner back then, but I was really drawn to the idea of participating in a triathlon and I thought a relay would be a great way to try it out.

I remember going to the orientation session the day before the race during kit pick-up. I had information overload from all the new terminology and rules: transition area, T1, T2, markings, racking your bike, run/bike in/out, drafting, mount/dismount line, wave starts, etc…

Our whole relay team was new to the sport but we muddled our way through and managed to place third in our division — mainly because there were only six teams!

Last year, also at TTF, I bumped into a friend who was doing her first triathlon. I never thought of her as the athletic type so I thought if she can do it, I should be able to do it too! I also thought it would be a great way to force myself to cross-train, which should further help with my running.

So I started training for my first triathlon last fall and I completed the Multi-Sport Canada Rose City Triathlon last month. I did the sprint distance: an 800 m swim, 20 km bike, and 5 km run. It was so much fun I can’t wait to do my next one! You can read my race report here.

If you are thinking about doing a triathlon, here are some newbie tips:

  1. There are many different triathlon courses, formats, and distances to choose from. The shortest distance is generally a 400 m swim, 10 km bike, and 2.5 km run. There are also duathlons, indoor triathlons, and relays. The options are endless! There’s something to suit everyone.
  2. If you aren’t already a strong swimmer, start swimming regularly. I started doing laps in the pool last fall and gradually built up my endurance from 20 laps (500m) to 60 laps (1,500m). I chose to build up to double the swim distance of the race to minimize the chance that I would drown on race day. It worked! ?
  3. Buy or rent a wet suit and try to go on an open water swim with it before the race. Everyone told me that open water swimming is so different than swimming in a pool so I knew I should have done this. Basically, you can’t see anything in the water, you have to lift up your head to see where you are going every four strokes, and there might be waves that crash into your face when you come up to take a breath. If you don’t try out open water swimming before the race, just be mentally prepared for these differences to avoid a panic attack.
  4. If you can afford a road bike, get one. Bikes can get expensive so look into second-hand bikes. I bought my road bike from another runner from my run crew. I’m so glad I bought it. It’s so much fun to ride! The quality of the bike really makes a huge difference in speed!
  5. Get your bike fitted by a professional and spend some time getting used to the bike before the race. I only got to ride it about four or five times before the race, which was fine, but I think more long rides would have been better.
  6. Learn how to change a flat, put your chain back on, and generally maintain your bike. I still need to learn this!!
  7. Try some transition/brick runs before the race, i.e. bike then run. Your legs will feel like jello at the beginning of the run. It’s kind of a weird feeling that you just have to get used to.
  8. There’s a lot of stuff to bring to the race. Make a list by sport/transition. Here’s my list:
    • Pre-race: breakfast (PB&J), Nuun, Endurance Tap, trisuit (I wore a sports bra and tri shorts and put on a shirt during the bike/run), bib, safety pins, watch, sunscreen
    • Swim: wet suit, goggles, race cap
    • T1: Nuun, Endurance Tap
    • Bike: bike, helmet, sunglasses, gloves, socks, bike shoes, extra inner tube, and tools
    • T2: Nuun, Endurance Tap
    • Run: shoes, hat
    • Post-race: full change of clothes, protein bar, Nuun
  1. Talk to other triathletes. There are so many rules, structure, and process in this sport. I had the experience of being part of a relay team for a couple of years, so I knew how everything worked but I also talked to my triathlete friends to get their first-hand experiences. There’s a lot to absorb and it can be overwhelming for your first time.
  2. Have fun! You only get to experience your first time once. Enjoy every moment of it and cross the finish line with a big smile for that finish line photo!

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