Preparing for triathlon season

March 8, 2011 at 1:01 a.m.
Updated March 7, 2011 at 9:08 p.m.

RUNNING WITH MISSY JANZOWThe triathlon season is now upon us, with many races taking place this month and many local triathletes preparing for their first race of the season.

If you are planning on an early season triathlon, you should be well into base training and turning your attention toward sharpening through interval work in all three disciplines.

If you are a triathlon newbie, there are many other components in preparing for the world of triathlon besides just the training and the race schedule. Purchasing a bike is an obvious step of the equation, but there are also other essential items that need to be on your packing list when that first race rolls around.


Many of my clients and friends alike that are new to participating in triathlons will often ask which bike should they buy, a road bike or a tri bike.

There are a number of items to consider when answering this question. I had been involved in the sport for the past 18 years, and competed in my first world championship (2006) before I even considered buying a triathlon-specific bike. It wasn't that I had a problem keeping up on my road bike that made me consider the change, but the fact that I was competing more often in the half-ironman distance, and making my move to the ironman length.

Through research, I had discovered that the way the body is positioned on the tri bike, especially for the longer races, the legs would be fresher coming off the bike and better prepared for the 13 to 26 mile run that laid ahead of me. So what is the person new to the sport to do? Here are some questions to ask yourself before you run out to buy that shiny new, carbon component, and likely pricy tri bike.

Is this going to be your only bike? If so, the road bike would likely be a better option as it is more versatile and designed for a number of uses. If you plan to do most of your training rides in a group setting, a road bike is also a better option.

Why? A tri-bike is designed for non-drafting efforts, as drafting is forbidden in the sport of triathlon in most races. Group riding typically involves a large component of drafting. Tri-bikes were designed for the cyclist to ride down in the "aero position," where you are holding position down in the aero bars. This type of riding is generally unsafe for group riding and it is a less steady position to hold, especially with others surrounding you.

If you are new to the sport of triathlon, and also to cycling, it can be assumed that your bike handling skills may be lacking proficiency. This may pose another problem due to the forward-shifted position on the tri bike and the components that are used are generally lighter, making for more difficult control on the bike. The bottom line is this- it's about the engine, not the machine. Consider your overall goals when choosing your first bike, and be realistic about what outcomes you expect.

The most important aspect to any bike purchase is being properly fitted on the bike, and making sure your position on the bike is comfortable. Don't dig yourself too big of a hole before you have determined the longevity of your affinity for the sport of triathlon.


In preparing my athletes for an upcoming race, we always address the packing issue. I have them do "homework" which requires them to address their packing list for an upcoming race. Once race week is upon you, especially if it is your first race, the nerves set in and you can wind up forgetting an essential item or items. If you put together a list of items that you need, even saving it as a word document or similar, then each time you approach a race week you can run off your checklist and make sure you are equipped with all necessary items.

The list is includes most of the typical items you will need on race morning. I suggest having a duffel bag or back pack that you organize all of your items into to be carried into the transition area on race morning.

I can remember the first triathlon I did back in 1992. It was a pool swim, and I completed the race in nothing more than a Speedo swimsuit. I had a hand-me-down bike from my sister and had done no formal training.

The world of triathlon has evolved over the past 25 years with all of the latest and greatest items to be purchased that supposedly help you to go further and faster.

The above packing list seems enormous, but there is something to be said for being prepared. However, the most important thing you can do in being prepared for your first triathlon is making sure you have trained properly. Stepping up to the swim start knowing that you are as prepared as possible will help calm those nerves (a bit) and give you the confidence to get to the finish line.

Lastly, when the call comes and you are standing at the start - get ready to experience the rush of a lifetime!

Missy Janzow owns Fit4U, a personalized training and nutrition service. You can reach her by e-mail at or online at



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