The journey to the finish line of your first triathlon is one of the most rewarding ones you’ll ever go on but getting started can often feel overwhelming.  Because the sport has many different distances and an athlete seamlessly transitions between swimming, biking, and running, there is a rather large learning curve. In order to help you choose which race is right for you and how to get started, we’ve put together a quick start guide to triathlon! We believe that you’re about to embark on a life-changing journey to becoming a triathlete. There’s always more to learn and we’d love for you to come by the store and ask all of your questions!

“Hard things take time to do. Impossible things just take a little longer”~Percy Cerutty. I knew that my overall change from a very unhappy sedentary overweight, morbidly obese female was going to take time. Walking, then running and eventually triathlon gave me the motivation to continue despite plateaus.

-Michelle Pierce, Ironman 70.3 Finisher

Sprint Triathlon

A sprint triathlon is a great starting point for anyone new to the sport. Depending on your level of physical activity and comfort in the three disciplines, a new athlete can typically train for a sprint in 8-12 weeks. A sprint triathlon has no ‘set’ distance so make sure you check the course maps before you sign up. Expect the race to take you between one and a half and two and a half hours to complete on race day.

Swim: Between 500 and 800 meters Bike: Between 12-18 miles Run: Typically a 5k

Consider a sprint your introduction to the sport. Try out the training and see if you like it. You can train and race on almost any bike. You can do much of your bike training indoors at a spin class.

Some must-haves:

  • A swimsuit
  • Goggles
  • Swim Cap
  • Some type of bike (can borrow)
  • A helmet
  • Water bottles
  • Running shoes

Nice but Not Must Haves

  • A bike fitted to you
  • Tri Shorts/Top
  • Race Belt

Olympic or International Triathlon

An Olympic Distance Triathlon is a great next step for someone who has gotten 2-3 sprint races under his/her belt. You can expect the race to take between three and four hours for the typical athlete. A new athlete should plan 12-14 weeks to train for his/her first Olympic Distance Race. Plan on 5-7 hours of training per week.

Swim: 1500 Meters (.9 mile) 

Bike: 22-27 miles 

Run: 10k (6.2 miles)

Some must-haves:

  • A swimsuit (for training)
  • Goggles
  • Swim Cap
  • Some type of bike – you’ll spend more time riding your bike so it’s more likely that you’ll want your own bike for this distance
  • A helmet
  • Water bottles
  • Running shoes
  • Tri shorts/top to train and race in. At this distance, you’ll feel more comfortable racing in the proper gear
  • A basic nutrition plan

Nice but Not Must Haves

  • GPS Watch with Heart Rate Monitor
  • Bike Computer

70.3 or Half Iron Distance

A race is only called a ‘Half Ironman’ if it is an Ironman branded race. While the majority of the races do fall under the Ironman brand, you’ll still find some local half iron distance races. You can expect this race to take between six and eight hours to complete and you should plan 4-6 months of training depending on your fitness level when you begin training. Plan on 6-12 hours of training per week.

Swim: 1.2 Miles

Bike: 56 Miles

Run 13.1 Miles

Some must-haves:

  • A swimsuit (to train in)
  • Goggles
  • Swim Cap
  • A bike properly fitted to you
  • A helmet
  • Water bottles
  • Running shoes
  • A detailed plan for nutrition
  • Tri Shorts/Top that are comfortable for race day
  • Race Belt

Nice but Not Must Haves:

  • A GPS watch with a heart rate monitor
  • Bike Computer
  • A power meter
  • An indoor trainer

140.6 or Iron Distance

An Iron distance race is a serious undertaking and should only be chosen if an athlete knows he or she has the time to train and is physically ready for the training. You can expect this race to take up to the 17 hour cut off time and should plan for 5-8 months of training depending on your level of fitness when you begin. Plan for 12-16 hours of weekly training time.

Swim: 2.4 miles

Bike: 112 Miles

Run: 26.2 Miles

Some must-haves:

  • A swimsuit (to train in)
  • Goggles
  • Swim Cap
  • A bike properly fitted to you
  • A helmet
  • Water bottles
  • Running shoes
  • A detailed plan for nutrition
  • Tri Shorts/Top that are comfortable for race day
  • Race Belt

Strongly Recommended but Not Must Haves

  • A GPS training watch
  • A power meter
  • An indoor trainer
  • A coach