Preparing For Your First Triathlon

Preparing For Your First Triathlon

Leading up to the big event, whether it’s a Sprint, Olympic, 70.3, or 140.6 distance, you will have already trained and dialed in your nutrition for your race. Now it’s time for final preparations before your big day. This timeline is about 10 to 14 days prior to the race, up to the night before.

Read More: How Long Is A Triathlon?

Don’t Do Anything New

Now is not the time to try anything different, whether it’s a new helmet, completely different running or bike shoes, energy gels, etc. You need time to get used to new things. A couple of days out, you’ll want to practice your transitions, which we’ll explain below.

Get Your Bike Tuned Up

Before any race, whether it’s your first triathlon or your 10th, you’ll want to get your bike tuned up about 10-14 days out. This will give your local bike shop (LBS) enough time to get your bike ready, which can take about 1-2 days, and you will avoid any rush of racers trying to get their bikes tuned up, if there’s a local triathlon.

When you get your bike back, you’ll want to make sure everything is fine – if you’re about one to two weeks out, you’ll have plenty of time to bring it back for a minor adjustment or two.

Read More: The Best Triathlon Bikes For Under $3,500

While at the bike shop, the mechanic should:

  • Perform a safety check
  • Wash and degrease the bike
  • tighten bolts to torque spec
  • adjust the front and rear brakes and derailleurs
  • lubrication of all the cables and drivetrain
  • adjust the bike’s headset and bottom bracket
  • inflate the wheels
  • take it for a test ride
  • And much more

There are other, more robust and thorough services your bike shop can perform, but may not be needed prior to a race if you have been up-to-date on servicing your bike. In addition, some shops may have additional charges for some of the items listed, or offer different levels of service and tune-ups.

Practice Your Transitions: T1: Swim to Bike, T2: Bike to Run

Practicing will help you get through the swim-to-bike, and bike-to-run transitions, and improve your time spent there. That time is added to your overall race time. A transition area is where you will rack your bike and set up your gear for the ride and run, and is usually in one location. You’ll put a towel on the ground, normally no more than 2 feet wide to maximize space, and not take up too much space for other triathletes.

We’ll have a bigger blog about setting up and practicing transitions, but you’ll want to put the gear in the order of what you’ll be grabbing for the next leg of the race. So bike gear first, running gear second. Pro tip: Make sure your bike and running shoes aren’t tied or velcroed.

Above image: Brianna Laugher


Transition 1 (T1) is when you exit the water, run to the transition area, and prepare for the bike ride. So make sure you put your helmet upside down with sunglasses inside (so you can quickly grab them and put them on), then move to putting your socks and bike shoes on, take another gel if needed, put nutrition in your back pockets, grab your bike off the rack, and walk it to the bike exit where you’ll see an area marked to mount your bike and ride off. Volunteers will help you.


Transition 2 (T2) is when you reach the entrance, get off your bike, and head back to your area and re-rack your bike. From there, you’ll take off your helmet and bike shoes, put on your running shoes and race belt which will have your bib number. Make sure that number is facing the front. Take another gel and head to the exit to begin your run.

How do you practice this? While you likely don’t have a bike rack handy, what many people do is have a friend or loved one watch your bike (perhaps you rest it against a car) and set up your transition. Could be near a beach, lake or even a pool. Make sure you are wearing your tri suit.

You’ll swim a few laps, exit the pool, lake or ocean, run to your transition area, prep for the bike, and ride perhaps 1-2 miles. When you arrive back, park your bike and prepare for the run. Head out for about 5 minutes and return. Take off your gear, reset everything, and do it again one to two more times, making sure you can do it fast and efficient, and not forget anything.

Pick Up Your Race Packet and Bib Number, Attend the Beginner’s Seminar

A few days out, the race director and team will start having race packet pick-up’s at certain times and locations. We strongly recommend you do this ahead of time, and not the morning of the race. You’ll have enough things to do then, which we explain below. Some races will offer an expo, where sponsors will be available with samples of nutrition, triathlon gear manufacturers and distributors, and more. They’re a lot of fun to attend!

It is absolutely mandatory to attend the beginner’s seminar. Make sure you set the day and time aside for this important meeting if you’ve never raced a triathlon before, or a specific distance or course. You’ll receive valuable information related not only to racing a triathlon in general and that race specifically, but also rules, tips, etc.

Some races allow triathletes to rack their bikes the night before, and will provide security. It’s really up to you; you won’t be setting up your transition area yet. Other races make it mandatory to do so.

Night Before the Race

The night before your triathlon, you will want to get all your gear and bags ready. Have your tri suit standing by, wetsuit (if applicable), goggles and the swim cap that was assigned to you, if you picked up your race packet ahead of time. You’ll probably have your bike and associated gear, plus an extra pair of dry clothes, ready to load up into your car early the next morning, as seen above. Depending on the distance of your triathlon, you might end up with more bags.

In addition, you’ll want to have your bike, helmet, sunglasses, socks, bike shoes, and nutrition ready to go. You’ll place the stickers with your race number on the front of your helmet, and on your bike (see above). Plus, prep your running shoes, bib number and belt, visor, and anything else needed for your run.

Keep your dinner light, and try to get to bed early. It’ll be difficult to sleep, but that’s okay – race day is always exciting!

Read More: Top 10 Triathlon Books To Inspire You

Race Day: Final Preps

Unlike a single race, such as a 5K run, you’ll likely be waking up even earlier to get your bike and gear over to transition. We hope you picked up your race packet, bib and stickers ahead of time, but if not, many races offer that service the morning of the race. Try to arrive early enough, as there will be a line.

Once you’re all set, you’ll pick up your timing chip, get marked – they’ll put your race number on your arms with a marker, and your age on your calf, likely the right side. Walk your bike and gear over to the rack you’re assigned to, and begin setting up your transition spot while making sure you’re not taking up too much space. Lay everything out in the order of the race, so bike gear first, running gear second. Staying organized will help you during the transitions.

Bike racking etiquette: When putting your bike on a shared rack, make sure you don’t affect the other bikes too much, and don’t move them without asking. Try not to take up too much space, and be careful with your bike as well as the other ones. If you can’t rack your bike the night before, try to arrive an extra 15 to 30 minutes early, so you have enough time to get marked with your race number and grab your timing chip. Plus, you can find a space that’s easier for you to change into your bike and run gear, and get out of transition faster, unless there is a designated spot for you.

Put you timing chip on your left ankle – away from the bike chain – and prepare for the swim (see above). If you need to wear a wetsuit, i.e., if the water is a certain temperature (wetsuit legal or mandatory), put that on. Add your official swim cap, goggles, take a gel, and head to the water, where you’ll do a little warm-up swim before the race begins.

Read More: How To Put On A Wetsuit

Final Tips

After you’ve had your bike tuned up, prepped your gear and nutrition, and did some mock transition practices, now is the time to relax before your race. Don’t try to push yourself the final 2 to 3 days doing training. You’ll be in taper mode, which means your training has been reduced over a certain period, usually 1 to 3 weeks, and you’re fresh and ready for your race. Most of all, be ready to have fun, and know you’re about to become a triathlete.

Personal Triathlon Coaching

You can get started in triathlon with MyTriPro, and enjoy the many health and social benefits. MyTriPro will guide you through training for your first triathlon with a dynamic coaching algorithm that includes workouts for the swim, bike, and run, plus bricks and strength training. Get personalized plans for Sprint, Olympic, 70.3 and 140.6 triathlon distances.

Get started today by downloading the MyTriPro app for iPhone today, and join the Global Triathlon group on Facebook to connect with people around the world, who are all working towards achieving their triathlon goals. Follow us on social media: Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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