Triathlon Resources



Race Day Checklist



Why should I consider triathlon?

Triathlon is a fun sport with a great community.  Race day is awesome!

Because of the various legs - swim, bike, and run, triathlon provides a full-body workout that can get you in more balanced shape than, say, just running.  Most people who train for a triathlon find themselves in much better whole-body shape as training progresses.

Triathlon can provide a new challenge to people who have been just doing one sport over and over, or may be in a rut with their other fitness pursuits. For those who are starting from a more sedentary lifestyle, triathlon is a great way to build your conditioning.  

A big plus is that much of triathlon training occurs outdoors, giving you a reason to be outside and train for something, whether you are doing it for fun or to be competitive.  


How long does it take to train for a triathlon?

The time it takes to train for a race depends on your starting level of fitness, and your experience with swimming, biking, and running.  For most people, 100 days is a good minimum number of training days. Perhaps more if you need to learn how to swim again. So, if you plan to do a July race, think about starting your training in the March timeframe or before. 


What gear will I need for a triathlon?

The gear needed largely varies based on your budget, but there are a few minimum things you will want.  You will need something to wear during the duration of the race (more on that later), which can range from basic to extensive. For the swim, you need swim goggles. You will obviously need a bike for the bike leg, as well as a helmet.  For the run, you simply need running shoes.  From there, you can actually buy lots of gear and gadgets for triathlon, but you don’t have to if you are trying to keep your budget low.


Speaking of bikes, do I need a triathlon bike to race?

No, not at all.  Many people do a triathlon with a road bike or even a mountain bike.  A triathlon bike can be nice for people who plan to do more than one triathlon, or aspire to be highly-competitive in triathlon.  At any given Sprint race, you will probably see 60% triathlon bikes, 30% road bikes, and the other 10% mountain or hybrid-style bikes. 


Should I use a wetsuit?

Wetsuits are nice because they keep you warm in the open water, and add buoyancy, almost like a safety blanket.  If the water is too warm on race day – 78 degrees (water temp) is usually the cutoff – then you cannot use a wetsuit per US Triathlon rules. 

Longer races with open water swims typically allow or encourage wetsuits. Pool swims typically do not allow wetsuits.

If you are on the fence and your race will allow wetsuits, you probably want to use one because it help with your flotation in the open water.  Just make sure you are using a triathlon-specific wetsuit, like these. They are built for the active swim motion of open water swimming.


What is the “transition”?

The word “transition” comes up a lot in triathlon.  There are two transitions in each race.  Transition 1, or T1, is the one where you move from swim to bike.  Transition 2, or T2, is when you move from bike to run.  The “transition area” is where you leave all your gear during the race, and where you will switch from one event to another when the time comes.


What should I wear?

Most people wear triathlon shorts which can be used during all three legs on their bottom, and a singlet on the top. Both the shorts and singlet can be worn under the wetsuit and then remain on during the bike and run. For males, a workout or cycling shirt can also be put on after the swim leg instead of using a singlet.

You can also buy a triathlon suit, which is a one-or-two-piece suit intended to be worn for the entire race, but most newer racers do not invest in a suit.


How long is a triathlon?

A triathlon can be any myriad of distances, as things like the course constraints and the Race Director’s personal preference can impact it. However, there are generally four recognizes race distances, and you will hear these terms used in relatively standard ways.

  • Sprint: 750 m swim, 20 km bike, 5 km run (sometimes called “short course”)
  • Olympic/International: 1.5 km swim, 40 km bike, 10 km run. (sometimes called “full course”)
  • Half Ironman, aka “IM 70.3”: 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run
  • Full Ironman, aka “IM”: 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run

The majority of races you see in any given area will be Sprint or Olympic distance.  Half and Full Ironman length races are more rare and typically occur in just a few locations throughout the year. 


Is it common for newbies to race?

Absolutely, and rest-assured if you decide to race you will not be the only first-timer.  Especially in Sprint distance races, a relatively large portion of the racers will be doing it for the first time.  

Triathletes are a very supportive bunch, and we love to see new racers try the sport out. Between other racers and the race volunteers, you will have plenty of guidance on race day if it is your first time doing one.


Which leg is the most difficult?

That is highly-debatable, and will be based on your historical sports activity and overall training approach.  You will probably hear more triathletes cite the swim leg as the most difficult, but that is only because many are not lifelong swimmers. If you train well, none of the legs will be too difficult for you to complete confidently.

The bike leg can be challenging, especially if the course is hilly or windy.  And the run leg comes at the end, so you will have a fair amount of lactic acid built up by that point. 

One thing is certain - you will feel great when you finish the race.


Why join a tri club?

Triathlon clubs offer many benefits, a major one being support as you train and get comfortable with the three legs. Many members enjoy the demystification of the sport and useful tips and stories from other members.

Triathlon clubs often provide organized workouts that you might not find elsewhere, such as a chance to experiment with open water swims or do workouts involving real transitions.

Finally, many tri clubs are affiliated with or sponsored by local tri or bike shops, and can provide occasional gear discounts as a result.