Swim-Bike-Run, Oh My!

pe05982_A couple years ago my husband and I went to watch his sister and her fiance and some other friends finish the first triathlon in Annapolis. We cheered her on through the finish line at Navy Stadium and I remember clearly being in awe of the hundreds of people who had just done three sports in a row! My sister-in-law and her fiance have competed in a number of triathlons and I feel fortunate that I am continuously meeting and connecting with other triathletes as their multi-sport talents are ever impressive.

In getting to know triathletes, however, I still always positioned myself as a runner forever and ever. No need to also be a biker and a swimmer. But then I took a break from running and started spinning, albeit not the same as road biking, but certainly a good introduction to the work-out. And then a friend of mine signed up for a triathlon in July and we got to talking about swimming. Next thing I knew, I was at the pool trying for a half mile swim with her.

All of a sudden, I have my own first sprint triathlon on my calendar. I feel as though training for it will provide a good balance to running but I’m just also curious how I’ll do. This isn’t like the sporadic adventure race I thought I was going to do and then had to bail on. The triathlon I’m going for is not until August, so I have a legitimate three months to train and no schedule conflicts. No excuses. I also get to compete against my brother-in-law.

So here I am with questions again. I am absolutely a beginner triathlete. I have set my own loose training schedule just to get started, but I am on the hunt for the perfect beginner training schedule that will also fit with my life schedule (can that possibly exist??). In addition to the training questions and all the unknowns I’m sure I’ll discover when it comes to biking and swimming, my other main questions seem to revolve around the gear and transitions. Some of them are:

  • Should I wear a two-piece athletic swimsuit in lieu of a sports bra later?
  • Since I’ll be using a swim cap the hair will go back in some sort of bun but I doubt that will last for the bike and run; will I have a chance to get my hair into a ponytail?
  • Is there time to slab on some sunscreen post-swim?
  • I’m not going to be using a fancy bike with clip-in pedals so is it ok to use my running shoes as my biking shoes?
  • What else should I be asking?

I don’t want to overthink this. People do triathlons all the time so surely there are some tried and true methods for making it all go smoothly. As always, your input is welcomed and I look forward to learning from your experiences!

12 thoughts on “Swim-Bike-Run, Oh My!

  1. Jim

    Congratulations on registering for your first triathlon and good luck at Cazenovia.

    I would say, ok to use running shoes as bike shoes and as far as the hair goes, my wife likes to do a pony and then braid it so it’s easy to tuck in your swim cap and it stays fine for the rest of the race.

    Have a great race and Have Fun! 🙂

  2. Christine

    Congrats on training for that first tri. Your path is the same I took a few years back. However, I first did an aquathlon, then a Du and finally a Tri. I was too nervous to go straight to all three. Living in Florida gave me a lot of options to play with. More then here in MD.
    I don’t know if you get the Tri-DC publication, but I wrote an article last year about going from a runner to a triathlete. I would also HIGHLY recommend joining the Annapolis Tri Club which stages practice tris, open water swim lessons, and all kinds of other good stuff to beginners.

  3. Natalie Post author

    Christine, Now that I found a training program I’m even more excited! I don’t get the Tri-DC but have friends that read it. Sounds like a very fitting article! Thanks for the Annapolis Tri recommendation. I looked at joining before but wasn’t serious yet about doing a tri; I guess it’s time to reconsider.

  4. Stan

    Hi Natalie,

    I am also a runner that has signed up for my first sprint tri – June 20th. I have been swimming all winter, but was wondering where i could find a good training program for a first timer?


  5. Natalie Post author

    I am using the Runner’s World triathlon program which has both beginner and an intermediate options for training: http://bit.ly/vUAVl. There is also a great site for beginner triathletes with exactly that name, http://www.beginnertriathlete.com/ and they have programs and all sorts of resources on their site. You may have to pay for some of the content but I’m not positive. The other site I like as a beginner is http://www.trinewbies.com/. Last I also learned of this site, http://www.goswim.tv/ that has a daily drill which is helpful for the swimming part of training.
    Good luck on your first tri!

  6. Stan

    Thanks Natalie! This was so helpful! I will check out all these resources. I was looking all over RW site for a training plan. I really like Trinewbies.com!

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  8. Rami

    I’m doing my first triathlon this Sunday! I was pretty much a couch potato 2 years ago, then started excercising to loose weight. I started weight lifting, then spinning, then running. I’m now a spinning instructor! I saw a signup sheet at the local YMCA for a tri clinic to train for the Hy-vee olympic distance triathlon. I signed up in Feb, 2009 and have been training since then.
    I couldn’t even swim one length in the pool back then, and I have only swam in open water the past 2 days during the open swim sessions! I am nervous, but at the same time confident that I can do it.
    My best advise is to join a group (best bang for the buck for real coaching), watch lots of swim videos, and don’t forget to practice the 4th sport in triathlons: Transitions!
    Good luck!

  9. Natalie Post author

    Thanks for the note! It’s too late to wish you good luck in your first tri but it would be great to hear about it; I hope it was a fantastic experience! I hear you on the need to practice transitions; it’s something I haven’t done enough of yet but will be a strong focus this last month of training before the sprint tri. So far, so good with everything and I’m quite excited! Good for you for making such a positive change!

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