From saddles to swimming hats, bras to bike fit, our resident triathlon expert Kerry gives us her top tips for women taking up the growing sport of triathlon.
As a female triathlete, I have found that there are a few extra bits and pieces that I need to consider to help me in my training and race preparation, as well as actually during the race.
Finding a good starting position in the swim
Firstly, swimming. What I find during open water swimming is that ladies can certainly be just as powerful and competitive as men, and so as to avoid jumping straight into the middle of what can feel like a fight, I tend to start my swim more towards the back of the field, or to the side. This helps avoid being swum over, and also prepares you for the most clear swimming line. Another good open water swimming tip for me is to wear two swimming hats. Like many women, I have poor circulation and I find that I get really cold ears and head while swimming, so the extra layer is a good way to help keep those ears slightly warmer! Speaking of hair - I also tie my hair up in a non-restrictive and practical fashion for both training and racing, to make sure it doesn't get in my face when I am sprinting to the finish line. I often wear a cap on the run anyway, to make doubly sure.
What to wear under your tri-suit
Another point to consider for ladies, is what to wear underneath a tri-suit. I have to find a good, close-fitting tri-suit as it is important to be fully *ahem* supported in all areas! A good sports bra underneath your tri-suit is probably more out of preference for me than for practicality, but it may be a very worthwhile choice for some ladies!
Get your bike fit just right
Making sure you are as comfortable as possible on the bike is so important to your performance on race day. For me, this starts with finding the right saddle. We women are certainly not built the same as men - so should we be using the same saddles? In the end, it is all about finding the right saddle for you, which offers the best all-round comfort and protection - and speaking from experience, I can definitely recommend a women's-specific saddle.
You should also check with a bike expert (or your local shop) that your bike is set up correctly for you, especially if you are riding on a men's frame. Men's bikes tend to have wider handlebars and a longer reach than women's-specific frames. I have had mine adjusted as it is a men's bike and I have made sure that all the geometry is set up for me. It would be worthwhile exploring a professional bike fit to give you the confidence that you are set up correctly.
Sure you need all that gear?
Okay, so now I'm stereotyping...but if you're anything like me, you'll want to be as prepared as possible for every eventuality in training and racing...and this can result in carrying lots of pieces of equipment on your person which are of little or no use, and will weigh you down. If so, it might be worthwhile getting used to carrying all (yes, all) your equipment in your cycle jersey pockets and if you are cycling in a group, sharing the load, with one person bringing a mobile phone for emergencies, and another carrying money for cake!
Join a club
One invaluable piece of advice, and one which has led me to some great friendships, was to join a triathlon club. I am a member of my local Triathlon club - Stamford Tri Club. I have learned so many tips and tricks from fellow triathletes who have bags of experience to share. It also allows you to form groups for riding, organise races and training weekends, so you are never on your own for training!
One last thing that you probably will find as your training time increases is that you have less time to spend on other hobbies/family/household tasks. Although I would argue that household chores are not the priority in my life, family and friends do come first, and even though there are days and evenings when I have to make a tough choice between family and friends, or a social and training, I have to balance them out quite equally. You should always bear in mind that although training is important for your triathlon success, your friends and family will be there to support you through these ventures, so keeping in the loop with them is just as important. If you have joined a club (or encouraged your friends to also give it a go) then you can almost combine the two!