How to Pick Your Best First Triathlon

First Triathlon | Triathlon Distances | Preparing for Triathlon |

Let’s start at the very beginning ….  (it’s a very good place to start.  Anyone singing along with me?) Ok – remember my beginning?  Jumping right into the deep end without a wet suit or knowing anything about Body Glide?  (Don’t fret if you don’t know what Body Glide is now – what you should remember is that you want to use it.  Every single time.  Without fail.  Just do it.)

So – let’s start out at your beginning – which is picking the right race for your first triathlon.

Ultimate Triathlon Checklist

Enjoy logo b highres01

Get the Ultimate Triathlon Checklist and NEVER forget anything at home!

Powered by ConvertKit

There are two questions (well, I am SURE you have 2 million questions, but we are taking this one step at a time) that you need to answer.  The distance of the race and which actual event you will complete.  And I mean that about the complete part – you are going to actually cross the finish line with a smile!  I can’t wait to see the pictures!



What are your choices?

Swim Bike Run
Sprint .25 – .5 miles (varies) 12.4 – 15 miles (varies) 3.1 miles
Olympic .93 miles 24.8 miles 6.2 miles
Half Ironman 1.2 miles 56 miles 12.1miles
Full Ironman 2.4 miles 112 miles 26.2 miles


A couple of notes.  The Sprint distance does NOT mean that you have to sprint the whole time – it’s just the name.  I am not sure why there isn’t a set distance for the swim and bike for the Sprint distance.  Just go with it.  There are mini sprints, but don’t do one.  You can do the Sprint.

Now – I don’t know you or your athletic background (yet), but I am going to suggest that you start with the Sprint.  Regardless of your current fitness – your first triathlon is going to be a learning experience.  Start with the Sprint.  If those distances make you nervous right now, don’t worry – just make sure that you pick a race further out in the season.  You can do it.  You can do a Sprint.


Whew – first decision done.  Doesn’t it feel good?  On to the next one …



There are a few things that you want to ask yourself or others about the actual event.

  1. How long has the event been running? I probably wouldn’t do a race if it were the first year in existence.  I know – we all have to start somewhere – in fact that is exactly what you are doing.  However, for your first race I would suggest one that is more established.
  2. Who is putting on the race? You can ask around or google (love how that is a verb) the race management.  Again, for your first race go with people who know what they are doing.  Remember, this is a learning experience for you – you want a race management team that already knows what they are doing.
  3. Do you want a small or large race? This is the big one.  Your first thought might be to go small.  I am going to urge you otherwise.  I know that there will be more people at the swim start and in the water.  I know that walking around at the pre-race festivities might seem more overwhelming.  (There will be a LOT of super fit people who look like they know what they are doing.  No worries – by that time you will know a lot as well!)  And I know that you might want a smaller race venue because it will seem safer somehow.  I just really think that in this instance bigger is better and here’s why.
    1. Larger races tend to be well established.
    2. Larger races will have a well-marked course and lots of people telling you where to go.
    3. Larger races will have blocked off streets or at least police presence on the bike and run course. Major bonus points!
    4. Larger races won’t run out of food and water at the aid stations and at the end. (Believe me as a slow racer this is crucial!)
    5. Plus – larger races will have WAY more spectators and better photographers to cheer you on and capture all the moments along the way. And – the celebration at the end of larger races can be amazing – and celebrating afterward is part of the fun!


Let’s recap.  You have decided to do a Sprint Triathlon.  Check.  You have decided that you are going to choose a larger race venue.  Check.  There are two more things you need to do before next week.

  1. Pick the actual race.
  2. Register for it.

Checked both of those off?  Then don’t miss next week when we cover Essential Gear.

Until then – move your body, put good things in and ENJOY every day!


PS – Are you ready to get started now?  Do you have more questions than these blog posts can answer?  Don’t fret!  I was serious about wanting to see the pictures of you at the finish line.  Register now for online triathlon coaching.  You just have to promise to send me the pictures!


PPS – Missed the first post in the series?  No worries – here it is!

Leave a Reply