5 things you should know before your first triathlon

Have entered your first triathlon and don’t know what to expect on race day? Here’s our tips for ensuring your event runs smoothly

Keep calm and carry on swimming

I’ve been doing triathlons now for over five years, and I’ve never spoken to a single person who has said, ‘Ohh, I can’t wait to swim, I love it.’ So, try not to stress about the swim because everyone is pretty much feeling the same way.

Best advice for a swimming pool event: keep calm, swim at your own pace, breaststroke if you need to in order to get your breath back but try to keep going rather than stopping because this will help calm you down and  as you maintain some rhythm.

If someone wants to pass you, you’ll feel their hand on your feet. This is NOT them saying,’Oi hurry up get out of my way.’ Most of the time, you hit someone’s feet without realising. Etiquette and expected behaviour is to keep swimming until the end of the lane, and then let them go in front. That’s what they’ll be expecting so DON’T panic about being in their way if you feel their hand.

Likewise, if you’re faster than someone in front, tap their heels and then swim in their wake until they move out of the way at the end of the lane.

Best advice for open water: same thing, keep calm, take deep breaths and start near the back or, better, out to the side but further to the front. This means you won’t have faster swimmers going over the top (and contrary to belief, mostly it’s not done deliberately), but nor will you find yourself waylaid by someone breaststroking which can be equally frustrating.

Get a race belt

If you are used to running, then you may think safety pins are the only way to put a race number on. Purchase a triathlon race belt, which you then safety pin your number to or thread elasticated cords attached to the belt through the race number (you may need a pair of scissors or sharp key to puncture the race number – some event organisers provide hole punchers but not always).

This way, you can spin it around to your back when you’re cycling, and then when you get off, you can spin it back to the front. This is essential to ensure you are not disqualified.

As for the swim, don’t wear your race belt on the swim (you might think, ‘Duh, as if you would,’ but I used to wear mine under my wetsuit until I learned you didn’t have to!). Leave it over your handlebars ready to put on for the bike ride. You will be marked with a permanent marker on your arm so that you are recognised in the pool.

Don’t take lots of things into transition

I’m the queen of taking loads of clothing ‘just in case.’ What this means is that you are stuck by indecision. It’s baking hot but you have arm sleeves? ‘Ooh, I better put them on just I incase it’s cold on the bike.’

Keep it simple, because you generally are totally fine on the bike. If it’s going to be warm, suncream will suffice. If it is going to be cold and wet, arm sleeves that you can pull up or down if you get hot/cold and a cycle jacket (or thin run jacket) will work just fine. And if you do get cold? Cycle harder.

The more you take into transition, the more you panic. I’m the queen of it. Take a look at my looooong transition times.


Triathlon events are always super early, leaving it difficult to know what to eat. But you should eat. All that nervous energy can burn through calories. And also short events such as sprint or olympic triathlon where you think, ‘Oh, I don’t need anything,’ are generally raced faster, because they’re shorter which means that you use more glycogen.

Eat your usual race breakfast and then take a simple carbohydrate form of snack for just before the start – a banana, or my current favourite, a Zenzero stem ginger Veloforte bar.

When you’re on the bike, you should eat too depending on how long the triathlon is. If you’re doing a sprint, think about having a gel just before you get off the bike ready for your run. Or you can also try Tailwind in your water bottle, a carbohydrate the drink that prevents any GI upset. You shouldn’t need anything more than this for this distance.

Go elastic

Change your laces on the trainers to elasticated ones but check them first by running in them to ensure they’re not too tight or too lose. Even if you’re just doing the event for fun, having to stop and tie your shoe laces on before your run when your hands are shaking and everyone’s running around you can leave you feeling like a two year old who can’t do up their shoe laces! Try these Zone 3 Elastic Lock Laces in Fitbitch purple, £7.12


Wishing a fun and inspiring triathlon for our team of 10 women who are undertaking the Steyning Sprint Triathlon on May 5th 2019. If you want to join us, there are still spaces and we have discounts for any FB members.