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2014-01-09 3:03 PM


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Subject: Entering my first ever Triathlon, I'm a newbie to the sport
So I'm hoping to enter my first ever Triathlon in May, I have started training as of three weeks ago, I do indoor training at the gym seeing is the weather is cold, I've been swimming and biking as well as a little running. I've been cycling for 3 years now so that's not new to me and I know a bit about running and swimming, the thing I have no idea about would be the dreaded question, What do triathletes wear when racing, I'll hopefully be entering in The Columbia Triathlon in May hoping registration is not closed in February, what I would like to know is what gear to purchase to be race complete, I would like to buy and wear as little as possible, meaning I want to be able to wear the same one piece or two piece suit for each event and only have to take off and put on shoes swim cap goggles socks and cycling shoes as well as helmet, any and all info is greatly appreciated, as well if I rent a trek madone from my local bike shop to use during the race is that ok to do so?


2014-01-11 9:56 PM
in reply to: Anguscole76

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University Park, MD
Subject: RE: Entering my first ever Triathlon, I'm a newbie to the sport
Welcome! Hang around on the main BT forums and you'll learn a lot. Many people with similar questions.

Columbia Tri is a real test for your first tri. It's a great event, but also quite challenging with the hills on the bike and run. I did Columbia Tri as my first 'official' race, though I did a very low-key semi-official sprint tri as a test a couple of weeks before that.

A one-piece tri suit could get you through the whole race fine. I bought one at the local REI in the spring of my first race. But you don't even need that. What you will need is bike shorts and a top made of tech fabric that dries quickly. Most people doing Columbia Tri will be wearing a wetsuit over their trisuit for the swim, but the temps will likely be such that you would be ok without a wetsuit, if not toasty warm. Note that wetsuits do make most swimmers faster. I would highly recommend practicing swimming in a crowded group in open water before your first race. I first tried this in a couple of organized practice sessions. It freaked me out the first time, so different doing OWS than pool swimming. Second time was much easier. And by the time I got to the race it was (mostly) fine.

I would recommend to not rent a bike for the race, and to stick with what you're used to. And if you're doing Columbia, it can be good to practice the course ahead of time. It's a hilly route, and it's good to get a sense of what gearing you'll need where, and where to be more/less aggressive on the downhills.

Good luck.
2014-01-13 8:53 AM
in reply to: Anguscole76

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Subject: RE: Entering my first ever Triathlon, I'm a newbie to the sport
Originally posted by Anguscole76

So I'm hoping to enter my first ever Triathlon in May, I have started training as of three weeks ago, I do indoor training at the gym seeing is the weather is cold, I've been swimming and biking as well as a little running. I've been cycling for 3 years now so that's not new to me and I know a bit about running and swimming, the thing I have no idea about would be the dreaded question, What do triathletes wear when racing, I'll hopefully be entering in The Columbia Triathlon in May hoping registration is not closed in February, what I would like to know is what gear to purchase to be race complete, I would like to buy and wear as little as possible, meaning I want to be able to wear the same one piece or two piece suit for each event and only have to take off and put on shoes swim cap goggles socks and cycling shoes as well as helmet, any and all info is greatly appreciated, as well if I rent a trek madone from my local bike shop to use during the race is that ok to do so?


Welcome to the world of triathlon! My two cents on your questions:

Wetsuit: For me Centennial Lake in May can be cold and I would highly recommend purchasing or renting a wetsuit for Columbia. I guarantee you that if the water temperature is wetsuit legal, nearly everyone will be wearing one. In addition, not only is it a time-savings but it will help you with floatation, especially in your legs. You can get a full or sleeveless but just ensure it fits, not too tight or loose. Xterra has pretty good discounts and I hear that they have a good exchange policy (check the BT Xterra ads and discounts for BT members). You will need to practice swimming in one as well as getting it off in T1. I recommend some Open Water Swim practice beforehand and there are a few groups who host those practices, one of which is Racine Multisports (www.racinemultisports.com) in central MD. You can practice a bit in a pool but you shouldn't have it on too long because you'll overheat and the chlorine isn't good for it in a longer exposure.

Tri outfit: I would recommend a two-piece tri-specific outfit as that way you can mix and match tops and shorts to find what works for you. I have worn a Sugoi tri-top and 2XU tri-shorts for many seasons now. You probably shouldn't get bike shorts as they may not dry quickly enough and also the chamois may hold water more than a tri-specific set of shorts would. You could get a one-piece too, but I have found they take a bit longer getting out of if you have to take care of...um...business. Easier to do with just shorts. Plenty of online places to shop for tri clothes but see about getting a tri store too.

Renting a bike: unless you can practice with it for several weeks, I'd just go with what you have (unless you have a mountain or hybrid). Adding anything new the week prior to a race can lead to disaster. I would recommend a road bike vs a hybrid/mountain bike because you want to be able to maintain a fair amount of speed on the course.

A few other comments:

- KNOW THE RULES, especially on the bike wrt drafting and blocking. Seen too many new folks not know that they need to stay to the right unless passing and not hinder faster riders.

- Practice your transitions (especially T2) and hydration/nutrition needs.

- Like the other poster, practice on the bike course beforehand if you can. At least drive it if you can't.

Again welcome! Good luck at Columbia if you register and in your future races!
2014-01-13 9:34 PM
in reply to: #4928013


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Subject: RE: Entering my first ever Triathlon, I'm a newbie to the sport
Thank you for all the much needed information,it's greatly appreciated, I should most likely do a sprint for my first race just to get a feel for the scene and what have you, I'll also go and watch the Columbia Tri if I don't choose that as my first race.
2014-01-13 9:40 PM
in reply to: Anguscole76

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University Park, MD
Subject: RE: Entering my first ever Triathlon, I'm a newbie to the sport
Originally posted by Anguscole76

Thank you for all the much needed information,it's greatly appreciated, I should most likely do a sprint for my first race just to get a feel for the scene and what have you, I'll also go and watch the Columbia Tri if I don't choose that as my first race.


Prior to doing Columbia, I did a super low-key sprint the U of Maryland at the start of May called the Terrapin Triathlon. It's a half-mile pool swim (but in a pack rather than in lanes, so partly simulating OWS, then 10 mile technical bike ride around the campus, followed by 3 mile run on trails. I found it really useful just to get the experience of setting up transition, drying out on the bike, etc. etc. And it helped to prepare me to freak out less in my first real OWS race. Not sure if you're in this corner of the state, but it's one worth trying.

I'd also endorse the other suggestion of the Racine Multisports OWS swim practices, which typically start in April up at Fort Ritchie in the Catoctins. That was my first OWS experience, and it was as useful to me as it was surprising.
2014-01-14 8:01 AM
in reply to: Anguscole76

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Baltimore, MD
Subject: RE: Entering my first ever Triathlon, I'm a newbie to the sport
If you're not sure you'll be ready for the distance of the Columbia Triathlon in May, TriColumbia also has the Celebration sprint tri in June/July (I think the date is later this year than previous years). I did that in 2011 & 2012 as my first "real" triathlon. It was a good intro to the sport for me. There was more time to train outside prior to the race as compared to Columbia in May. The water temp is too high for a wetsuit, so you don't have to worry about buying or renting a wetsuit (or figuring out how to get out of it). The distances are long enough to make it challenging and the event is very well run.

When I did my first one in 2011, TriColumbia held an open water and transition clinic at Hammerman beach in Gunpowder state park. That was a good intro into swimming in open water and they gave some helpful insights into what to expect in the transitiion area. If they offer something like that, I highly recommend it.

As for gear, the first year I only had tri-shorts as my specific gear. I swam in them and just wore a tech-fabric T-shirt for the bike & run. The second year I bought a tri-tank top. I still didn't swim in it though. I got both of those items at REI in Timonium. They don't have a huge selection, but what they do have doesn't sell very well, so I got both items at a deep discount. I'm a mountain biker first, so my road bike is fitted with SPD pedals. I wore my MTB shoes for the bike ride. I think they helped because you have to run up and down a steep grassy hill to get in and out of the bike area.

You can enjoy a traithlon without spending thousands in new equipment. A few select items can make it better, though.

I am signed up for Columbia in May (I signed up last year, but ended up having to go to China for work that day, so I missed it.) Maybe I'll see you there.


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