Yes, You Can Do A Triathlon

in Triathlons

Somehow, I have roped my brother-in-law Nick into doing a triathlon.  I’m pretty excited because Nick lives with us, and that means that we can hold each other accountable on a day-to-day basis.  Our schedules might not always match up for workouts (he works full-time; I spend all day chasing after Henry) so our intention is to put our training plans on the fridge.  That way, we can check on each other’s progress.


Wisely, Nick wants to start off with a sprint triathlon.  I suggested that he do a triathlon early in the season (summer) so if he gets really into it, he has time to do another one – or even a longer one – before the cold temperatures roll back into Charlotte.  We’ve decided to do Tri Latta, a sprint triathlon in June. 

I did Tri Latta in 2011 – and I just realized that the race was one year to the day before Henry’s birthday.  Ironic!  On June 12, 2011, I was careening through a triathlon; on June 12, 2012, I was screaming to my Husband, “I haaaaate youuuuuu… How could you dooooooo thiiiiiis to meeeee?” 


Just kidding.  Obviously.




When I initially broached Nick with the idea of a triathlon, one of his first questions was, “Do you really think that I can do a triathlon?”  I get this question on the blog all the time!  Now, I’m no triathlon superstar.  I’m just a regular woman who thinks that plowing through a lake swim, a hilly bike ride, and a sweaty 5K or 10K sounds like an awesome way to spend a weekend. 


I hear all sorts of ‘doubts’ about triathlons.  I get it.  They sound scary.  But they aren’t!  Triathlons are REALLY fun, and you don’t need to be this super fit athlete to do one (case in point: I did a triathlon 11 weeks after childbirth). 


Seriously, if I can do that, anyone can survive a triathlon… and have a blast doing it.


Just like any event, yes – you need a certain level of physical endurance.  And yes, you need to develop some skills.  And sure, you need some gear.  But triathlons are totally attainable.  You will see people of all shapes, sizes, and ages at the starting line.


Let’s break down the barriers, shall we?

“BUT CAITLIN… I’M REALLY NOT THAT FIT.”  Don’t worry – there’s a triathlon for every type of person, and if you pick the right race, you can definitely train for it.  There are sprint triathlons, which are usually a 500 – 750  meter swim, 15 – 20 mile bike, and 5K run.  There are even super sprint triathlons, which are even shorter.  If you are in North Carolina, I highly recommend the Ramblin’ Rose series – I did their event back in 2011; it was a 250 yard swim, 9 mile bike, and a 2 mile run.  To put it in perspective, I finished the entire event in 54 minutes.  Of course, if you get really into triathlons, you can graduate to the Olympic, the Half Ironman, or even the Ironman – a 2.4 mile swim, a 112-mile bike, and a marathon.  I can’t even IMAGINE doing an Ironman but other people love it.  There truly is a distance for everyone.


“BUT CAITLIN… I’M AFRAID I’M GOING TO DROWN.”  Swimming is, for most of us, the scariest part of the triathlon.  If you’ve been reading for a while, you may remember that I famously (infamously?!) had panic attacks in the lake during not just my first… but also my second… triathlon.  Swimming in open water is SCARY.  I’ve written lots of posts about this very topic, so be sure to check out: So You Wanna Do A Triathlon: Swimming, So You Wanna Do a Triathlon: Pool or Lake Swim?, and Best ‘How to Swim’ YouTube Videos.


Also – you won’t drown. There are loads of lifeguards at every USAT (USA Triathlon, the official governing body of triathlons in America) event.   It’s also okay to float on your back if you need to catch your back.  My biggest fear of open water swimming was getting eaten by an alligator, but as far as I know, no triathletes have been attacked by a gator during a race. Winking smile


“BUT CAITLIN… I ONLY HAVE A MOUNTAIN BIKE.”  That’s okay!  Of course, it’s best if you have a road bike.  The thin tires and lightweight frame mean you can bike faster and easier than you could with a heavier mountain bike.  But if you’re doing a sprint triathlon, you don’t need to worry – a mountain bike or hybrid is fine.  You won’t be the only person with a non-road bike.  Or… you could always buy a used bike – here are my types on how to buy a bike (I got mine for about $350 – a steal!). Or… you could consider borrowing a friend’s bike – just take it on a few practice spins first.


“BUT CAITLIN…. I’M BROKE. I CAN’T AFFORD ALL THIS GEAR.”  Yes, triathlons have a higher cost than running races.  Not only are the entry fees higher, but you need more stuff.  But like a lot of things, you can buy a ton of unnecessary but nice-to-have stuff or just the bare bones.  The bare bones isn’t too bad.  All you really need to do a triathlon is: goggles, a bike, a helmet, sneakers, and something to wear. People are very concerned about what to swim, bike, and run in.  You could buy a trisuit (Trisuits: One Piece or Two?) but you don’t have to.  I did most of my early triathlons in a sports bra that I knew wouldn’t stretch out when I swam in it and a pair of bike shorts.  You definitely need some type of padded shorts.  And the race officials will give you an ‘official’ swim cap to wear that will be color coded by your age and gender.

“BUT CAITLIN… I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO DO DURING TRANSITIONS.”  There are two transitions – the transition between the swim and the bike, and the transition between the bike and the run.  Transitions can be overwhelming, but here are the basics.  I’m still working on my transitions – it’s definitely an art.


“BUT CAITLIN… I DON’T HAVE TIME TO TRAIN.”  Make time!  Hah.  No, in all seriousness, if you are doing a sprint triathlon, you don’t need to spend that much time training. You’ll want to workout four to five days a week, but you don’t need to log hours and hours in the pool, on the bike, or on the treadmill.  For the most part, you’re looking at a commitment of several 30 – 45 minute cardio sessions a week – something that most of us already do (or strive to do).  The hardest part about triathlon training is focusing on not one, not two, but three sports.  However, that is also the BEST part about triathlon training.  It’s never boring!


This post (So You Wanna Do a Triathlon: Training) is a good introductory post regarding triathlon training.  Once Nick and I finalize our training plan, I’ll be sure to post a copy. 


I know that’s barely scratching the surface, but I really wanted to blast away the typical “I can’t!” excuses when it comes to triathlons.  If it’s your dream to do a triathlon… DO IT!  It’s so fun, it’s completely attainable, and you’ll feel so proud of yourself afterwards.  I, for one, am completely stoked about the upcoming triathlon season.  I can’t wait to get back out there!


(For more, check out my So You Wanna Do a Triathlon series – lots of good info!)



  • Sana February 4, 2013, 8:16 pm

    Nice to see Henry in your header! I need to learn how to swim…

  • Sara February 4, 2013, 8:25 pm

    For anyone who’s scared to ride a mountain bike or hybrid in a tri, this guy rode Capital Bikeshare in the Nation’s Triathlon in DC and became internet famous!

    Those bikes weigh about 40 pounds and he rode for 25 miles. As someone who tools around town on those things and gets winded by a slight hill, I’m in awe.

    • Pam February 4, 2013, 10:10 pm

      Thanks for posting that link – made me laugh! That was awesome!

  • Elise February 4, 2013, 8:46 pm

    For the “I’m Broke” part, I didn’t know if you had heard of the HITS Triathlon Series ( A triathlon friend introduced me to them this fall, and knows the people who run the Series. They have great deals on triathlons that make them affordable — if you sign up 4 months in advance, you can do the “Open” (super sprint) for as little as $25 — and a Sprint for as little as $30. I’m signed up for a Half Ironman in Napa, and it cost me only $75 for race entry (so I’m able to make a mini vacay out of it)! Though they’re not in all areas yet, its a growing race company, and I’m excited to see where they pop up next! Just thought other readers who are ‘on a budget’ like I am, might appreciate this if they’re looking for a tri to try 🙂

  • Jess February 4, 2013, 9:00 pm

    Thanks so much for this post. I am about to sign up to do the Boulder sprint triathlon with my three sisters in June. It will be my first sprint tri. I’m nervous but already feeling a little more confident after reading your post

  • Tanya @ Vegan Faith February 4, 2013, 9:57 pm

    I really want to do a tri this year, if not two…but I keep making up all these excuses. They sound just like the ones you have blasted here. I just need to suck it up and do it. I am also reading a really amazing book right now that covers so much of this, I think it is called Triathlon for the Every Woman. It is so wonderful! I highly recommend it to any woman thinking about doing a tri!

  • Katie @ Talk Less, Say More February 4, 2013, 10:54 pm

    A great post! I definitely have to admit that the swim is the most intimidating part to me but mostly because I don’t think I’m a very good swimmer, not just a not confident swimmer, like I can swim but not very well so I’d fear swimming and not going anywhere vs. swimming and drowning…

  • Alexandra February 4, 2013, 11:04 pm

    Love this post!! Exactly what I needed to read to motivate myself to start training 🙂

  • healthy ashley February 4, 2013, 11:21 pm

    I spy a John!!

    • Carolina John February 5, 2013, 12:33 pm

      Yea I saw that! Very exciting to see me in a lake logan pic on here. I also passed on the link to a friend here in Raleigh who’s doing a Ramblin Rose for her first triathlon. We’ve got another victim!

  • Mai February 4, 2013, 11:57 pm

    loved this post. i never in a million years thought i would ever do a triathlon, but did 2 in 2012! now it’s my new favorite sport!

  • Kerry February 5, 2013, 12:41 am

    Hey Caitlin, thanks for the quick tips! I am thinking I want to do a triathlon at some point but my fear would sound like this…

    “BUT CAITLIN… I HAVEN’T BEEN RUNNING LONG ENOUGH!” I’ve only been running for a couple years and still haven’t competed in any races (not even a 5k!) and I keep thinking that I should train myself to run before trying to do a tri. After all, isn’t it the running that makes triathlons really hard?

    • Caitlin February 5, 2013, 7:59 am

      Hmmm it is good to have a string cardio base but some people do tris as their first event! I def think you could aim for a summer Tri. Good luck!

  • Barca Mama February 5, 2013, 1:06 am

    Very encouraging!!! I was thinking of setting a goal to do some sort of race 1 yr after my baby is due. You really put things in perspective::)

  • Betsy S. February 5, 2013, 1:13 am

    hi Caitlin!!!

    I did a really newbie-friendly tri last June in PA. Its at Penn State (State College) and is called the Happy Valley Sprint Tri ( I was so nervous – it was my first tri! The swim is in a pool taking some stress away. I didn’t do flip turns, my friend rode her mountain bike, I wore a sports bra, bike shorts and a tank top nothin fancy. Its a super small…super supportive tri!!! Bonus of being in one of the first waves of the swim (where they put the super slow swimmers) I was among the first 5 people to cross the finish line!! Winning in my book! 😉

    Anyone who wants a small, friendly tri to try (har har) should check this one out!!

    Just thought I’d share!

  • Larry Lewis February 5, 2013, 5:53 am

    What am amazing event the triathlon is. And how fulfilling it must be to be able to complete it for the first time. Having been a Gym instructor for many years, i’ve trained many people in preparation for specific sporting events, and i loved nothing more than helping them succeed at fulfilling their dream. I applaud you for encouraging others for trying this for themselves … there is never a can’t, just ‘i can’

  • Kim February 5, 2013, 6:40 am

    What fun to have a training partner in the same house – even if you won’t exactly be training together!

    Looking forward to seeing your training plan. I’m pondering a sprint tri in August. Did one yeeeeeears ago (11? Holy, can’t believe I graduated high school that long ago!), have done some sprint duathlons since, but am looking at this tri…

  • Amber @ Busy, Bold, Blessed February 5, 2013, 7:53 am

    I love this post and solving all those “I can’ts” I never thought I could do a half marathon, it seemed so crazy but now I believe almost anybody can do it! I have a lot of women in my life who think a 5K is so unobtainable and I’m always trying to let them know… you CAN do it!

    Yay for an inhouse training buddy 😀

  • Stellina @ My Yogurt February 5, 2013, 8:41 am

    I would loveeeeeeeeee to do a triathalon BUT I am reall scared of swimming! Honestly I just don’t swim that well. How deep is the water? How far does one typically swim in beginner triathalon, meaning how many minutes is one usually in the water? It would be a great accomplishment, I’ve just never trained on an outdoor bike (usually spin if I ride) and the swimming thing, ahh!!!

  • Joanne February 5, 2013, 8:43 am

    You’re going to have so much fun training with someone for the Triathlon. And when the day comes – what a blast!

  • Caroline February 5, 2013, 8:43 am

    As a New Year’s resolution (and after a knee injury) I signed up for my very first sprint triathlon, which will take place in May. I always wanted to do one and it is actually because of YOU I’m training for one now. You took my fear away, so thanks a lot and keep those post coming!

  • Karen @ Runner Girl Eats February 5, 2013, 9:02 am

    I’m excited to read about your tri training but have no desire to do one myself. I am not a swim fan at all!

  • Kaitlin @4loveofcarrots February 5, 2013, 9:14 am

    definitely glad you shared this! My cousins girlfriend is trying to get me to do a triathalon with her this summer, the seed has been planted so lets hope I can follow through!

  • Carly D. @ CarlyBananas February 5, 2013, 9:19 am

    Love these tips!

    But there’s definitely nothing ironic about doing a tri exactly a year before having Henry (unless during the tri your mantra was “I will never have a kid in exactly 1 year!”). Irony is saying or doing something that signifies the opposite of what you mean – it doesn’t mean coincidentally. Doing a tri ≠ the opposite of pregnancy 😉 (Yes, I had a teacher who hated the song Ironic and insisted we were all obsessed with the correct use of irony!)

  • Kristina February 5, 2013, 10:02 am

    There are also great resources out there. Someone mentioned a book, and there are tons of great reads out there. Also, people can connect with local tri clubs, different training groups, take classes or hire a coach.

  • Rachel February 5, 2013, 12:31 pm

    This is exactly what I tell anyone who will listen to me rant about how awesome triathlons are and how everyone can do one! I can’t wait to tri season to start!

  • Katie @ Balanced RD February 5, 2013, 12:54 pm

    I am training for my first half marathon now! I didn’t think I could ever do a half marathon because I’m not a great runner…but I’m excited for the challenge! This post is a great reminder that everyone can do it if they put their mind to it! 🙂

  • Kristen L February 5, 2013, 1:04 pm

    FUN that you will be doing a triathlon with Nick! Looking forward to hearing how training goes for you guys. I’ll probably do a few tri’s this year too. I did my first one last summer. They are seriously SO. MUCH. FUN.

  • Stacy February 5, 2013, 7:13 pm

    I loved this post. I’ve been wanting to do a triathlon for over a year, and decided I am committing to a sprint tri near my house in May. Coincidentally, I just completed my first half-marathon last weekend, and I read you did one recently too!

    I’ve been reading your blog for a few months now and while I was running my first race (ever) last weekend I thought about tips and comments you’ve posted here. It has all been very helpful for me and I am so excited to see how my tri training and race go in the next few months. Good luck with your own training and race!

    PS. I am definitely taking your tips on how to buy a used road bike. Thanks!

  • Stephanie February 6, 2013, 12:35 am

    I am doing my first triathlon on March 10 and every time I think about I nearly have a panic attack. Thanks for this reassuring post! I think I’ll be rereading it frequently in the next few weeks 🙂

  • Alicia February 6, 2013, 11:02 am

    My biggest fear is the bike part. I was training for my first sprint, and I fell (stupid train tracks) and sprained my ankle. It was a really bad sprain that took 6 months to heal (stupid toe clips). So now I am so afraid and shakey on my bike! I have to get over it. Thanks for the post. Maybe it will help my courage!

  • Harry February 8, 2013, 8:37 am

    Triathlon is a sport that would test your endurance, you need to prepare yourself when you want to join one (body and soul). It’s not easy I tell you, you have to train hard. By the way,
    thank you for sharing this post, I love reading it as well as the photos. 🙂

  • Anna {Herbivore Triathlete} March 4, 2013, 11:40 am

    I love this post! I think you covered pretty much everything. I’m off to read your triathlon series. I am so excited for tri season to start!

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