Sunday, April 6, 2014

Triathlon 101 by Lauren Wong

Excited to share Lauren's new series: Triathlon 101. Many newbies find this site and will ask some of the same questions regarding their first tri. Lauren will be sharing her 2 cents on what you need to know!   She blogs over at  and you can connect with all her social media sites from her main page. Thanks Lauren and best wishes as you prepare for IMWI.  

So… planning for your first tri?

The weather is warming up around the country (and coming slowly to Chicago and the rest of the midwest), and if you've set a goal to do your first triathlon this year, it's time to start thinking about what you're going to do!

I'm excited to contribute my experiences to the Swim.Blog.Run & Chicago Triathlon Bloggers community on how to prepare for your first triathlon. Please do not hesitate to email me your questions at and I'll do my best to gather answers and share my experiences! 
Onto the first questions I get from newbie triathletes! 
What gear do I need?
Let’s break it out by swim, bike, & run. In general, think about what you’re used to using for any of these sports individually.
  • Swim: a swimsuit, goggles. The race will provide you with a cap.
  • Bike: bicycle, HELMET (!). What are you used to wearing for shorts, shirt & shoes?
  • Run: what are you used to? Also: visor or hat, maybe a handheld water bottle. Often times the run is hot & sunny, and you’re already 45+ minutes into your event.
Do I need a trisuit? What is a trisuit?
A tri-suit is either a one or two-piece suit that you wear in triathlon. It’s skin tight, and has a lightly padded chamois in the crotch. That helps provide some padding on the bike, but is quicker to dry out & easier to run in than the pad in a bike short.
Chicago Triathlon Finisher
There is no body forgiveness in a tri-suit – so be aware of that! Rock that body!
But if you’re preparing for your first triathlon, and you’re not sure if you’re going to do more than one, then you don’t need to go out and purchase one just for this event. You can make do with other things you have:
  • Swimsuit + Add Shorts (& Tanktop) for the bike & run
  • Sports Bra & Shorts for the swim + throw a shirt on top for the bike & run
  • Sports Tank + bikini bottoms for the swim + shorts for the bike
What about a wetsuit? It seems like everyone has one at Kona…
Kona is an Ironman race where the swim is 2.4 miles long. Your first triathlon is probably a sprint triathlon, so the swim is usually 700-800 yards in distance. Depending on the distance, and the weather, you may or may not need or want one.
There are a few advantages to wearing a wetsuit:
  • It can keep you warm in cold water
  • It can help you float. This can help if you’re: a) afraid of drowning, b) gives a nominal speed advantage since less of your body is in the water.
However, a wetsuit can slow you down as you have to take it off once you’re out of the water. I wore a wetsuit at one of my two sprint triathlons in 2012. I chose to wear it at the colder water triathlon, and that I didn’t need it at a warmer water one where I might not get enough advantage (comfort or time) to warrant the time it takes to take off the wetsuit.
2012-08-27-15.25.22.jpgIt’s a completely personal choice on whether you want one for your first triathlon. I recommend you checking out your race website to see if they have recommendations on wetsuits. You can also ask at a local triathlon store (or call one up if you’re going to a destination race).
If you DO choose to wear a wetsuit, you can look at borrowing from a friend or renting a wetsuit from a local triathlon store. I recommend trying to practice once or twice with a wetsuit prior to your race. You’ll want to practice putting it on, taking it off, and what it feels like to swim with the wetsuit.

What other questions do you have about triathlon? Let me know in the comments or by email at and I can discuss in a future week – or help get you resources to answer your question!

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