So you've signed up to your very first triathlon in 2017. How do you feel? Probably a little excited, a little nervous and probably a little bit confused by all the kit that you need to buy.
I remember how I felt in the build up to my first triathlon. Other than the fear of drowning and/or falling off my bike, the biggest source of apprehension before the race was what to wear and what I needed in transition. The array of items you could buy seemed endless, with no limit to the amount of money that could be spent on getting through a little swimming, cycling and running.
That was 10 years ago. I now know exactly what I should have bought for that first race and what wasn't necessary, but isn't hindsight a wonderful thing! At least I can pass my knowledge on to a new 'intake' of triathletes embarking on their fledgling triathlon careers so here it is...
1. The most important question is whether you are swimming open water or in a pool. If you are swimming open water in the UK the vast majority of races you will need a wetsuit. You may be hoping that the water will be warm enough for it to be wetsuit optional, however unless you are a very competent swimmer, a wetsuit will still make you loads faster and much less tired. Think about buying or hiring a wetsuit as far in advance as you can. It may take you a few practice sessions to get used to swimming in it and more importantly get used to putting it on and taking it off quickly. As a guide you need to spend around £150 to get a good wetsuit that will help you rather than hinder your swim.
2. Trisuits or seperates. Do you really need one? The answer is...you don't have to. BUT they do make your life a lot easier and your transitions significantly faster. For my first race I wore a swimming costume then attempted to get dressed in transition for the bike. To be organised my number was pre pinned to my top. It was a farce...I was too wet and cold to get my clothes on and the moment I tried to stretch my top over head the half the pins for my number pinged off. I must have been in transition for longer than I was in the pool. The next race I did I made sure I had a trisuit and life was much easier. You simply exit the swim, put on a number belt, shoes and helmet and off I went. Which brings me on to...
3. Buy a number belt. If you don't buy anything else at least think about this one cheap item. You can just clip it around you in transition. Wear your number on your back for the bike then swing it round to your front for the run. No need for two numbers, pins and incidents such as my experience above.
4. Do you need a whizz-bang super speedy aero race bike? Of course not, but you might want one if you are in it to go as fast as possible rather than to get around. My first triathlon was on a borrowed mountain bike which was more than enough to get me round. However, I did find myself being overtaken throughout the bike by people with road bikes putting in much less effort than me. It was so frustrating that I bought myself a £800 road bike for my next tri and guess what?...I was much much faster.
These are all things that will make you faster. Lets face it...we all want that. But personally I wouldn't worry about these things until you know you actually enjoyed your first triathlon. Plus, its fun to get faster with each race. I think its much nicer to buy yourself one of these things each time you complete a race as a treat.
That said, if money isn't an issue or you are planning a big important triathlon as your first then you may want to invest in a number of these things. The best thing to do would be to pop into your nearest Tri Shop (or give The Triathlon Shop a call or an email if you can't make it in), and discuss your needs. They will know the best things to buy to get the most speed per pound of your money.
Please remember, your first triathlon should always be about having fun. Don't put too much pressure on yourself. You probably won't have the slickest transition and you probably will have something go wrong. Just embrace it! If you have any questions at all get in touch with the shop. We all love helping newbies into the sport and have a huge amount of experience between us.
Good luck with your first tri!
Holly - Owner, The Triathlon Shop