So you are thinking of taking up a new type of challenge - and one that involves not just one discipline, but three! Firstly - good for you! Now there are probably a million and one questions buzzing around your head, perhaps including 'why on earth am I doing this?!' Hopefully, this short blog post will help you get to grips with the basics to start your triathlon journey.
It is a common (mis)conception that you need to spend lots of money to do a triathlon, when in fact, the opposite can be true. Of course, at the other end of the scale, you might end up spending lots of money, only to find that (a) you don't actually need half the things you've bought, or (b) even worse, now you've given it a go, you don't really enjoy triathlon anyway. Let's hope the latter isn't the case - but it's still better to go into the whole triathlon game well informed, and aware of what you'll need.
One of the most important questions to be asked firstly is: What Do I Need?
With the first part of a triathlon being the swim, this is where you have a couple of essential pieces of kit. Even though you will probably be starting off with a pool-based triathlon, you certainly will need a good pair of goggles. These often will need you to try them to see if they fit your face by seeing if they will suction to your face without the need for the straps to be placed around your head.
For open-water events, a swim hat and wetsuit are the other essential pieces of kit needed. A swim cap will give you that extra protection and warmth as well as helping to keep your goggles in place.
With regards to the cold open-water swims wetsuits are compulsory in water temperatures below 14 degrees Celsius. Not only do wetsuits keep you warm, they also increase your buoyancy making it easier to swim. However pool-based triathlons would not require wetsuits.
A lot of first time triathletes also worry about what they should wear for the event. A tri-suit would be the recommended piece of kit, although this is not a necessity as anything that is close-fitting and comfortable to wear will be just as adequate. Again this can be expensive and therefore for your first event, anything that you feel comfortable wearing in water and cycling and running in afterwards should be fine.
With a tri-suit the added benefit is the extra padding, however this is normally only a thin layer, and therefore will not be uncomfortable for the run and is merely a slightly extra comfort layer for the bike portion of the race.
A mandatory piece of equipment for the bike section is a helmet; you'll never see a triathlete riding without a lid, not even elite triathletes. New helmets are comfortable, reasonably priced, simple to use, and offer proven protection.
What probably is the biggest expense for any first time triathlete is the bike. This is pretty much the piece of kit that you will spend a lot of time looking for to insure you get the right one, and obviously will cost the most with regards to all of the kit needed. To begin with you do not need to worry about looking for a tri-specific bike, but it is recommended to make sure that your bike is in good working order and in good condition. A service is therefore another good recommendation for your pride and joy.
For those of you just starting out, it is very easy as well to start to worry about cycling shoes; these can be deemed a luxury for those beginners, especially given the cost. It is therefore probably much more important to consider shoes that are easy to get on and off during transitions. The advantage of cycling shoes is that they attach to the pedals giving you better cycling stability and power.
When it comes to the run section of the race, again it would be recommended that you are wearing something that you are comfortable in for the entire race. Breath-ability is always an advantage.
When it comes to your running shoes, these are the most important part of your running equipment. If your feet are well supported and comfortable, it will make your run seem much easier. It is always advisable to seek out a running shoe expert who can recommend the best shoes for your feet as everyone is quite individual. Everyone has a slightly different foot-type and running style, therefore this will dictate specific requirements.