THE ROCK TRI CLUB - Rock Hill, SC

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Intro Tips 
If you're brand new to triathlon, you've probably got a lot of questions.  Hopefully we can answer some of them here.
 
What is the difference between an Ironman and a Sprint triathlon?
There are four typical distances for triathlons; sprint, olympic, half-iron, and iron.  A race can be any distance that the race director chooses, but typically it is one of those four.  The approximate distances of each event are:
  • Sprint - 750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run (sprint swims & bikes vary the most)
  • International/Olympic - 1500m swim, 40km bike, 10km run
  • Half-Iron - 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run
  • Iron - 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run (Ironman is a brandname!)
One of the great things about triathlon is the ability for people of all levels and interests to compete.  The distance options are part of the reason triathlon is growing in popularity year after year.  Another reason triathlon is so popular is because of the ability to compete with the elite athletes of the sport.  Not many other sports put the recreational athletes on the same start line as the elites. 
 
Do I need a wetsuit?  
It depends.  Swims can take place in many different locations (pools, lakes, rivers, oceans), and in many different temperatures (early spring opern water swims can be coooold!).   Because of the varying conditions, wetsuits are legal (in USAT sanctioned races), but not required, when the water temp is 78 degF or below.  And since wetsuits not only keep you warm, they also help you float, you'll often make a wetsuit decision based not on temperature, but on the benefit a wetsuit will provide to your swim time and comfort level.  Many people find that wetsuits increase their times by as much as 5%.  Others like them for the security they provide in an open water swim. 
 

Is my bike good enough?
Again, it depends.  Any bike will work, but you may want more.  Although there may be rules regarding the safeness of a bike, if it has two wheels and is human-powered you're probably ok.  Helmets are always required.
 
As you develop in triathlon, you'll find the bike options are pretty amazing.  Bike prices range from a few hundred to a few thousand for the typical range of bikes you would likely use.  Ultimately, you will probably choose a bike based on your budget and the level of involvement you plan for the sport. 
 

Are there any tips for true beginners?
Start slow.  You've got a long time to build your endurance in each event.  If you do too much, too fast, you'll get injured.  Work out in groups when you can.  Find people of your ability, ask lots of questions, and hold each other accountable for working out. There are lots of sources of info available, fellow clubmembers, websites, books, etc..  Use whatever is available to you to get to know the sport and how you are responding to the training. 
 

What's the lure of triathlon?
People take up the sport at different ages and for different reasons.  But ultimately triathletes stick with the sport for the event variety it offers, the individual challenge it provides, and the training flexibility it allows.  The sport requires you to become efficient in run, bike, and swim.  The sport gives you direct feedback on how well you train and the sport is one that you can practice on your own schedule.  
 
What's the secret to becoming good?
Efficiency.  Whether it is swimming or running, short distance or long, triathlon is an exercise in making the most of each muscle movement.  In each event you will be repeating the same muscle movement thousands of times.  Learning to do things efficiently, rather than only practicing it, will go a long way towards your future success. 
 
Additional Resources
The info available in the training tips links are just the beginning.  The first recommendation would be to talk to someone else in the club about your questions, there are a lot of knowledgeable resources available.  There are some very good books, something like The Triathlete's Training Bible, by Joel Friel, is a great investment.  Websites are also a great resource.  A beginners site, like www.beginnertriathlete.com can be a great resource.