Frequently Asked Questions

questions about triathlons….???

Q: Running : Will training for a Triathlon effect my running speed ?

A : Yes it will, I haven’t met a runner who’s race pace hasn’t increased after they took up triathlon. Probably due to the cross training over 3 disciplines giving a more balanced training load.

Q: Racing : What are the different race distances available ?

A: There are 5 main race distances

Super Sprint ( sometimes simplified to sprint )

Swim up to 400m mainly pool based
Cycle 10 / 20 k
Run up to 5k

Swim 750m usually open water, but can be pool based
Cycle 20 k
Run 5k

Swim 1500m open water
Cycle 40 k
Run 10k

Half Iron distance (70.3)
Swim 1,2 miles open water
Cycle 56 miles
Run 13,1 miles

Full Iron distance (Ironman, 140.7)
Swim 2,4 miles open water
Cycle 112 miles
Run 26,2 miles

However, Triathlon race distances are quite relaxed, and you can find all kinds of variations on these distances in the “Race” section. The choice is yours.


Q: Training : Do I need to train 7 days a week to compete in a Triathlon ?


A: No you don’t. Just because you are going from a one discipline sport, to a three discipline sport, doesn’t mean you have to triple your work load. What you need to do is train smarter ! At present how much of your mileage is just used to maintain fitness, or dare I say it “Junk Miles”. Use this time to train on your bike or in the pool, you’ll maintain, if not improve your fitness levels, and have a more balanced training load.
Speak with an experienced triathlete about training plans, read a book, hire a coach or do a combination. Most importantly always listen to your body, balance training with other important aspects of your life and try and work on your weaknesses.

Q: Swimming : Do I need to buy a wetsuit ?


A: Wetsuits are compulsory for “open water” swims in the UK . However, most “Sprint” and “Super Sprint” races are pool based, so you will only need standard swim wear to compete in these events. If at a latter date, you want to progress onto the longer distances, you can then buy a Tri specific wetsuit, or hire them for either the whole season, or individual events.


Q: Cycling : I have an old Penny Farthing Bike – Can I use this or should I spend £2000 on a new bike ?

A: Neither of these options seem very sensible. If you are new to Triathlon, I would start off with a very modest bike. Mountain Bikes or even Shoppers are regularly seen at short distance events. To get you going, beg or borrow whatever you can. The more road based it is, the easier it will be to cycle, and so the more energy reserves you’ll have for the run section. Remember if you like the Triathlon experience, you can always invest in a sexier stead latter on. An entry level road bike with clip on tri bars is more than adequate.


Q: Cycling : Do I need to wear a cycle helmet ( on the bike section )

A: Yes you do. Cycle helmets will be compulsory for all races.


Q: Swimming : I’m useless at swimming – Should I just not bother ?

A: Not at all. Sounds like you’ve got the ideal opportunity to gain an essential life skill. Swimming is a little like running. No matter how “useless” you feel you are, come race day you’ll likely be surprised how many competitors are behind you. In any case the main thing is that you are taking part. The swim cut off times are normally very generous, allowing time for those new to swimming  and those going slower.


Q: Training : Do I need to train all 3 events, one after the other, say once a week ?


A: Not at all. You very rarely link all three disciplines together in training. Work on each separately to build up your competence. However, as you get nearer race day, start to combine bike rides with a run to follow. Getting off after a hard bike ride and trying to run does strange things to your legs ! You’ll need to train your body to get used to this feeling. Also practising transitions, from swim to bike, and from bike to run, is important come race day.


Q: Racing : What do you recommend as a starting race for a complete beginner ?

A: Start short, go for a pool based swim, with a short bike and run section. It will be enough for you to get a feel for Triathlons, without the need for expensive outlay on kit. Remember to give yourself enough time to prepare, you will want it to be a good experience.


Q: Swimming : I can only swim breast stroke, am I allowed to compete ?


A: Yes you can. I’ve seen breast stoker’s all the way up from to shortest sprint swim leg, right to full Ironman. However, Triathlon swimming is all about being as efficient though the water as possible, the aim being to save your energy reserves for the bike and run legs. So I would certainly recommend that you have a long term aim of developing a front crawl stroke, as this has the dual benefit of taking less effort, and being quicker though the water.


Q: Racing : Can I enter Triathlon races on the day ?

A: No you can’t. There are two reasons for this. The first is that pool swim starts are seeded on your predicted swim time. This way swimmers of approximately the same pace are in the pool at the same time, and so don’t hold each other up. This means organizers need to know in advance who’s going to turn up. Secondarily, Triathlon races are very popular, and tend to fill up way before their closing date, so there are rarely any spare spots on the day.


Q: Open Water Swimming : I’m scared about drowning, and getting pushed under/swam over ! –

How can I get over this ?

A: There’s know doubt that Triathlon swimming can become a contact sport ! Pool swims are much more civilized, so I would start there. You need to get used to the contact, ask a friend or Triathlon coach to go swimming with you, and bump into you a few times, You’ll soon get used to it. Group Open Water practice starts are a great way to alleviate nerves.