I've had several people lately ask me what they need to do if they want to do a triathlon, so I thought I would inaugurate this blog with how to begin.
1. Get a physical. Make sure you don't have any crazy heart abnormalities or breathing issues, and if you do, it's good to know about them BEFORE you push your body past what you think you can do. Do not skip this step.
2. Sign up for a triathlon. Of course, be realistic. This being your first tri, sign up for a SPRINT, sign up for a tri that's however many months out you think it's going to take for you to train. The year I turned 25, I decided that my goal for that year would be to do a tri. I always wanted to, thanks to years of watching the Discovery channel and those wacky adventure races, and figured 25 was a good year to do something crazy. I started training on January 1st by starting to walk at least 30 minutes every day. January 15th, my birthday, I started training for the Danskin women's triathlon in Austin that June.
3. Tell people you're going to do a triathlon. Tell them when. I've always been a huge fan of the concept of accountability, and seriously, this became one of my biggest motivating factors. How lame would you be if you spent 3 months going around saying you were going to do a tri and then say, "oh, well, i haven't trained for it..." Lame. Set a goal, then go after it. Also, you'll be surprised at how many people will be totally supportive instead of looking at you like you're crazy. Those supporters will get you through some tough training days.
4. Get some gear. Now, the bare bones essentials you're going to need are: a bathing suit, a bike *, good running shoes **, and socks.
* don't go out and buy a fancy pants bike on your first tri. I did mine on a red beast of an old OLD Schwinn that had like, 2 gears. You will also probably need a pouch to hold stuff on your bike, and some water bottles and cages. While you're at it, learn how to change a flat on your bike. I highly recommend getting a pair of biking shorts. I got mine at Academy for like $20 and TRUST me on this one, you want a little extra help in the shorts when you're riding long distances. Don't worry about getting a snazzy (read: expensive) bike jersey just yet. You can put your ID and snacks in your bike pouch. You know what is helpful, though? A bike computer. You don't absolutely need one because you can always Google-maps your routes, but it's nice to be able to push a button to see how far you've gone in how long. Plus they're like $20.
** now, being the complete cheapster I am, I never believed that a good pair of running shoes had anything to do with how I felt during running. After considerable research on the subject (After all, I *HAD* to be able to justify dropping $75+ on SHOES.) I discovered that the experts say that if you can't spend money on good shoes, you shouldn't run, because you'll hurt yourself. Our feet over and under pronate and that really screws with your body, so you need to get a shoe that adjusts for that. I have a friend who had to deal with horrendous hip pain because of her shoes. She got new shoes and several massages to work it all out and now she's back to her half marathons. I dragged myself to the nearest knowledgeable running shoe store (I'm not talking Academy, people, I'm talking RunTex or RunOn!) and trotted around for at least an hour with experts checking out the way that my feet turned when I run. I finally was led to the kind of shoe I needed and dropped the cash on some good shoes. Just kidding. I actually went to the Nike outlet store, found the same shoes, and got them for discount. Remember, frugality is sexy these days.
Um, that's all I can think of for now. All the other stuff, the anti-chafe gel, the bike jerseys, the gooey recovery gel and stuff, that's auxiliary on your first tri. You have to train and do one before you can really understand your body and how it's going to react to the race and therefore how you're going to prepare for it. Unfortunately, you can't know any of that before you do your first. You can just prepare as best you can and then resolve to get through the thing with a smile on your face :)