Beginner & Intermediate Tips for Triathlon & Multisport

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How to prepare for a triathlon

Beginner triathlon tips for trainingStart training: Zoom offers free 90-day, 60-day and 45-day training plans for beginner and advanced racers for each race distance; these are designed to help you get started. The key is that you are training each sport consistently and practicing at or near the distance of your race. Worry less about speed to start and more about endurance and feeling good on race day. The goal is to have fun!

  • Do a brick workout at least once: A brick workout is just a fancy way of saying go from sport to sport. The most important type of brick workout you can do is bike and run. You might be surprised how heavy your legs feel after you bike, regardless of the kind of shape you’re in. Getting used to this feeling and falling into a running rhythm is something you might need to practice. Try to do some bike-run workouts, and if you can, do some swim, bike, run workouts, even if they’re all inside of a gym and pool.
  • Try to get to open water before the race: Swimming in open water is different than swimming in a pool. You have less visibility and knowing where you’re going is somewhat difficult. We recommend going with a friend or family member for open water swims for safety reasons. You can serve as spotters for one another. Feeling nervous or anxious in open water is normal. On race day, Zoom ensures there are many kayaks in the water to give you the opportunity to rest and calm your nerves if you need to. When you’re practicing in open water, give yourself the same freedom. Stay in shallow water where you can stand and pause when you need to. It’s completely legal to stand up during a triathlon according to USAT rules!

What you should wear during a triathlon?

What you should wear for your first triathlonOne of the most common questions we get asked is whether or not there is somewhere to change between sports. While all our races have a bathroom or porta-potty nearby, triathlon is not designed to have you change outfits when going from swimming to biking to running. And honestly, you won’t care that you’re biking in wet clothes. Plan to wear one outfit the whole race and if you have a body of water near you, do a test run of the outfit you plan to wear. Here are some guidelines and ideas of what to wear.

For women

  • A swimsuit with a sports bra underneath (most swimsuits do not have enough support to run comfortably) and then pull on a shirt and shorts over top after the swim, if desired.
  • Bike shorts and a sports bra. If desired, put on a shirt during the bike and run portion.
  • Triathlon suit: If you want to purchase a tri suit, you certainly can but it is not required. Most tri suits do not have sports bras built-in, so plan to wear one. You don’t necessarily need a triathlon sports bra because most sports bras are designed for moisture-wicking. Tri suits are designed to be worn without underwear.

For men

  • Swim trunks or a speedo that fits close to your body to avoid drag or getting tangled up with other participants. If desired, put on a shirt and/or shorts during the bike and run portion. 
  • Bike shorts or other close-fitting workout pants. If desired, put on a shirt during the bike and run portion.
  • What men should wear for their first triathlonTriathlon suit: If you want to purchase a tri suit, you certainly can but it is not required. Tri suits are designed to be worn without underwear.

Gear you’ll need

At first glance, many people think triathlon is too expensive for them. There are some myths and misconceptions about what you really need for a triathlon though. First off, you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a bike. Any upright bike with two wheels and handlebar plugs is permitted. So dust off that cruiser in your basement, borrow your neighbor’s old road bike or head to Facebook Marketplace to find a used bike that will get you through training and racing. It does not need to be fancy! Here’s what you actually need to complete a triathlon: 

  • Goggles so you can see during the swim (optional nose and earplugs depending on your swimming preference)
  • Socks
  • Running shoes
  • An old towel to lay out in transition to keep your feet dry
  • A bike (mountain, cruiser, road, etc.) – head to a garage sale or Facebook Marketplace if you don’t have one
  • A swimsuit or other workout apparel (see the previous section for guidance)
  • Helmet (use whatever you have but check the expiration date first. The material does break down over time and make the safety of the helmet less effective after its expiration date)

What you don’t need (but if you already have it, feel free to use it)

  • Bike shoes with clip-in pedals
  • A triathlon bike or other expensive bike
  • Aero bars
  • Aero helmet
  • A triathlon suit (though if it makes you more comfortable, go for it!)

Our Race Day Gear Checklist

What is transition and how do I set it up?

  1. Learn more about how to complete a good transition in triathlonRack your bike by placing the bike seat so that your bike hangs from the bar. Your gear should sit next to your front wheel. Make sure you know what rack your bike is on. If you need to, practice running up from the swim to your bike once or twice to get your bearings. You’ll return your bike to the same location when you return from the bike course before heading out onto the run course.
  2. Fold an old towel in half and place your gear on top. Organize your gear in the order in which you’ll use it (swim, bike, run). Try to keep the towel exposed with no gear covering it on the side closest to you.
  3. Double check to make sure you have your helmet. You cannot race without a helmet (Zoom always has spares, so check with the registration team if you forgot yours).
  4. Attach any nutrition (gu, blocks, bars, etc.) on your bike. Some people use painter’s tape or Duct tape to attach nutrition to your bike frame if you don’t have a race belt or pockets in your race outfit. This way, you’re guaranteed not to forget it.
  5. When you exit the swim and get to transition for the first time, dry your feet on the exposed portion of the towel. Remain standing on the towel while you put on your shoes and socks to try and keep your feet as dry as possible and avoid debris inside your shoes.

More Transition Tips

What to expect in the swim

What to expect during the swim in your first triathlonLet’s start with some information first and then we’ll explain what the swim will be like. Ohio lakes in the summer are generally pretty cloudy so visibility is limited. You’ll want to get comfortable with lifting your head out of the water to see where you are and where you’re going. Plus, you’ll be using a buoy that’s approximately 200 meters away as your guide, unlike the ropes in a pool that are always there.

In Zoom beginner triathlons, you can always stand. We aim to keep the swim in water that is about four feet deep to make it comfortable to swim in.

In Zoom’s longer races, you’ll be about 25-50 meters from an area where you can stand. This is approximately 1-2 pool lengths depending on what type of pool you train in. But, we keep kayaks nearby so you can raise your arm and they’ll come to you so you can rest if you need to. Take a breather and get your bearings whenever you need it. You cannot make forward progress while attached to a kayak, but so long as you’re staying still, you can remain there as long as you need to.

So here’s how Zoom races work for the swim.

  1. Our race director will review the full race course (including the bike and run courses) with you on the beach. This is your chance to ask questions and make sure you’re comfortable with the race.
  2. The race director will invite everyone to get into the water and align themselves with a buoy.
  3. Using a countdown from 10, the race director will begin the race and you’ll begin swimming toward the next buoy. The beginner race generally has about 30-40 athletes in it. If you feel crowded or uncomfortable with other athletes around you, just swim slow to start and let the pack thin out. Remember, you’re here to have fun so don’t worry too much about your time on your first race. Zoom’s other race distances start in groups of about 50 athletes. Once you make the first turn, the traffic will thin out so hang in there and give yourself space until it does.
  4. To finish, you’ll swim between a triangular orange buoy and a circular buoy (the race director will point it out on race day). Then head up into transition to prepare for the bike portion. The key here is to make sure you put on your helmet. In fact, make that the first thing you do when you get to transition so you don’t forget.

More Help on Your Swim

What to expect on the bike

What to expect on the bike of your first triathlonThe bike course for Zoom triathlons is all on open roads, meaning you’ll be sharing the road with cars. Police are stationed at all intersections to try to give you the right of way during the race. However, cars are bigger then you are so still be respectful and if it looks like a car isn’t going to stop, you should. Our number one goal during races is to keep everyone safe!

The bike is the best place to refuel. Drink some water or Gatorade and eat something if you need to. It’s much easier to power through biking while refueling than it is during the run.

You’ll be following yard signs throughout the bike event. These are large white signs with black or red arrows on them. There will be a sign about 100 feet from the turns and another one at the turns so you can’t miss it.

Do NOT follow any arrows on the roads. These are left behind by other races and may not follow the same course as Zoom races.

The bike course ends back at the beach. You’ll rack your bike in transition at the same place you picked it up at after the swim. 

More Help on the Bike

What to expect on the run

What to expect during the run for your first triathlonOnce you’ve racked your bike, take off your helmet and gather anything you need for the run. You’ll exit transition on the opposite side that you re-entered from on your return from the bike course.

Head out onto the run course. You’ll follow the same yard-sign arrows that you did on the bike course. There will be aid stations on course with nutrition, Gatorade and water at all Zoom races. You can expect them at the start of the run, .75 miles (the 1.5-mile turnaround for the Beginner and sprint duathlon run 1) and 1.55 miles (the 5k turnaround for all other races).

You cannot wear headphones at any point during a triathlon or multisport event. This is for your safety. 

What can you expect to listen to instead while out on the run? A lively and friendly community! Triathletes cheer one another on with encouraging words like “good job,” “looking strong,” etc. If you feel so inclined, return those kind words with some of your own. It’s one of the best parts of multisport racing! 

Once you complete the run, you’re officially a triathlete! At Zoom races, you can enjoy pizza, soda, snacks and beer (if aged 21 or over). Wear your finisher medal with pride and enjoy the celebration of all that you’ve accomplished. 

More Help on Your Run

Who can do a multisport race?

Honestly, just about anyone. You don’t have to be fast or strong. You just have to give it your best and have fun. Zoom races offer a variety of distance options as well as different sports. If you aren’t a swimmer, enjoy a duathlon. If you aren’t a biker, come race an aquathlon. Hate running? You guessed it, there’s a race for that too and it’s called an aquabike. Read on to learn more about these other multisport race options.

What is a duathlon?

A duathlon consists of a run, bike, run option. Zoom races offer three duathlon distance options:

  • Sprint Duathlon = 1.5ml Run / 13ml bike / 5k run
  • Olympic Duathlon = 5k run / 25ml bike / 10k run
  • 1/3 Iron Duathlon = 5k run / 36ml bike / 9.3ml run

The format is much like a triathlon where you do a sport, go to transition and then do another sport. You simply replace the swim with a run at the beginning of the event.

What is an aquabike?

First-time triathlete completing a multisport raceAn aquabike just removes the run event from the end of a triathlon race. So you’ll swim, head to transition, complete the bike course, rack your bike in transition and cross the finish line! We offer three race distances for aquabike events:

  • Sprint Aquabike = 750m swim / 13ml bike
  • Olympic Aquabike = 1500m swim / 25ml bike
  • 1/3 Iron Aquabike = 2000m swim / 36ml bike

What is an aquathlon?

Aquathlon is a swim and run multisport event. In an aquathlon, you complete the swim course, transition and go out onto the run course. Once you complete the run, you cross the finish line. Zoom has three great race distances to choose from:

  • Sprint Aquathlon = 750m swim / 5k run
  • Olympic Aquathlon = 1500m swim / 10k run
  • 1/3 Iron Aquathlon = 2000m swim / 9.3ml run

Ready to get started? Check out our race calendar and get registered!