Hi Hayley!
I just (literally just now) signed up for my first ever sprint triathlon in May and I already have jitters.
I have always wanted to do one, and thanks to joining a swim team I am in better shape than I have been in years.  I am not too concerned with speed, my goal is to finish strong and feel like I tried my best.

So what do I need to know?

The swim distance should be easy enough but I have never swam open water or with a wetsuit (which I am planning to rent). I am mostly worried for the bike because I got a bike just a year ago and have never done any bike training (just riding the seawall and what not).  What equipment do I need and what would be useful? For example do I have to learn to use clip-ins? Would you recommend using my own bike (hybrid road bike) or renting/borrowing one for the day of? How often and how long should I be riding? (The bike is 20 K).

Suddenly May feels very soon….


Let me tell you about my very first triathlon I competed in, which like you, was a sprint. I had been a competitive swimmer when I was a kid and I was a pretty good runner, but the bike scared the sh-t out of me. I was petrified getting on my bike and actually riding it on the road. I remember riding around my parent’s cul-de-sac, asking my mom “Hey! Do I look like a triathlete?” I spent most of my training time riding it on my indoor trainer and only took it out on the road once before the big race.

Fast forward to race day. I was SO nervous and had no idea what to expect. After I finished the swim my arms were so tired that I could hardly move them, making it extremely difficult to untangle my very tangled hair.  It took me forever to find my bike and when I attempted to put my helmet on my hair was so tangled I had to force it onto my head, breaking it in the process. I finished the 20km and then proceeded to run 5km with Jello legs. I did that same race the following year, and in hopes of avoiding the hair fiasco I just wore my hair long on the bike. It saved me time alright, but I looked hilarious!

The summer after my second sprint, I found myself standing in line ready to sign up for my first Ironman.  A girl who could hardly ride 40km without stopping was about to sign up for a 12 hour triathlon race, on one of the toughest courses that the circuit offers.

Why am I sharing this with you? Because in making all of the mistakes that I made in previous races, I learned from them and I grew into a better and stronger athlete. Do not be afraid to do something wrong, because trust me, you will. Everyone you talk to will offer you different advice, tell you a different way of training, tell you a different way to fuel on race day, tell you to wear something different or buy a different bike. If you listen to what everyone else says, you will drive yourself crazy.

Use your own bike, you want to be familiar with it and take it to a bike shop a few weeks before the race and make sure it is ready to ride. Learn to change a flat tire!!! If you do not, and end up with one, it can ruin your race. There is no need to learn to ride in clips, just wear your runners and save the clips for next time! Try and find a beginner riding group you can join on weekends, your local bike shop should know of some.

You are going to show up to the race and see lots of fancy bikes and people who look like they know what they are doing, but that does not matter. Check your ego when you check yourself in and remember that you are there for you.

Find yourself a coach, someone you trust, who can design you a weekly training program and help guide you to your goal. Challenge yourself and push yourself to levels you did not think possible. When your alarm goes off for your early morning swim, get out of bed. When it is pouring rain outside and you do not want to do your tempo run, find a rain jacket and get out there. When you are exhausted after work and are dreading your spin class, get yourself on that bike and work hard. 

Train the best that you can each day, because you want to show up to the start line knowing you did everything that you could do to get yourself prepared for the big day. That is what competing is about.  It is not about winning. It is about overcoming adversity and growing as a person. It is about learning how hard you can push yourself and how uncomfortable you can allow yourself to be.

Be nervous, be excited, be scared, and hardly sleep the night before the race but never doubt your ability to finish the race, because the number one thing you should learn about yourself in the next four months of training is that you have the ability to overcome anything.

Attached - Reese Witherspoon out for a jog yesterday.