Triathlon 101: How to Survive Your First Triathlon

As I am approaching my next triathlon, I’ve been reflecting on my training lately and how much I have learned since I started my journey to swim/bike/run. I thought it would be fun to write a Triathlon 101 blog post about everything I didn’t know before my first triathlon. Let me start by saying I am no expert and still have much to learn, but hope that I can help anyone out there who is considering a triathlon.


Most triathlons start with a swim, unless the race is a reverse sprint, which typically ends in a pool instead of starting in an ocean or lake. I would highly recommend a reverse sprint for your first triathlon because it’s much easier to swim in the pool. If your race is open water, be sure to grab a buddy or two to start training. You want to become very comfortable with open water swimming so you don’t go into panic mode during the race.

IMG_6650.jpg-smPlus, you will likely have feet in your face during the race, so keep your cool by practicing rhythmic breathing. Just like in running, make sure you train in everything you plan to wear during the race, so if you plan to wear a wetsuit make sure you train in it.
imageSwimming is the hardest part for most people when they attempt their first triathlon. It’s not a bad idea to take a few swim lessons or join a local masters swim group.


The second hardest triathlon sport for most people is cycling. I never realized how much I needed to practice on the bike until my second duathlon – hello hills! There is still a ton of room for improvement, but I have found that cycling is a lot like running. Hill repeats and time trialing will become your frenemy.

IMG_6030-sThe reason this sport is so expensive is mostly due to the bike. Road bikes and triathlon bikes are super expensive. And then you will want a helmet, bicycle shoes, cleats, clipless pedals. (Yeah, nice road bikes don’t come with pedals). However, you can race in a triathlon without a road or triathlon bike. I have seen many people on mountain bikes. Granted, you will be working twice as hard on a mountain bike.

IMG_1135-pIf you don’t care about name brands, Bikes Direct has great entry level road bikes for around $600. Be sure to get fitted for a road/triathlon bike before you buy anything! Any bike shop will be happy to help you find the right frame size for you. You can also look into buying a used bike, but be careful with Craig’s List. A LOT of people switch out the components on otherwise nice bikes with crap.


Running is the easiest, least expensive of the three sports. Yet after swimming and biking, your legs will feel like lead.

IMG_6053-sMake the race a little easier on yourself by incorporating brick training in your workouts. Brick workouts are when you perform one sport immediately after the other. During tri training, I include one brick workout per week, which lately, has been a 12 mile bike ride followed by a 5k run.


Transitions count! Transition time is included in your total race time, so it’s important to practice transitioning between each of the sports. I try to get to a race two hours before the start to set up my transition area.

20131208_072633.jpg-smOn a towel, I lay out my bike shoes, running shoes, socks, bib belt, fuel, upside down helmet, a rag for my runny nose, and a water bottle to clean off my sandy feet. Note that not everything I listed is shown above because I have learned since my first race!

What to Wear

Most people will be racing in a Tri Kit. They look a little something like the picture below. Tri kits can be two pieces or one piece. And yes, you wear it for all three sports. You may also want to invest in a bib belt that you can clip on after the swim! You would wear the bib on your back during the bike ride and on your front for the final run.

(Picture Source)

Race Distances

Triathlons range in distances. You can race in anything from a sprint triathlon to a full Ironman 140.6. When you enter the world of triathlon, you will likely find distances of Sprint, Classic, Olympic, International, 70.3 or Half Ironman, and 140.6 or Full Ironman. Distances defined here.

Triathlon Check ListLet’s face it… your first triathlon is a learning experience (and I’m still learning!), so try not to take it too seriously. As you will come to find, a lot of triathletes are very serious athletes and can be known for their cockiness.

IMG_1143-pDon’t let them intimidate you. Respect the sport and have fun!

Target Practice Friday #30

borrowed stole the idea for the Target Practice Friday series from the ladies over at Fit.Fun.Femme.  I do things a little differently, but ultimately it’s where I share my progress on my short term goals, a.k.a targets.

Wow! I haven’t posted a Target Practice since I left for Australia! You can read my recap posts here, here and here. It’s hard to believe since so much has happened over the last month. For starters…

MarathonI completed my first full marathon. It was incredible and hard. I am slowly recovering and my muscles are starting to bounce back.


Improve Pace - I have come to realize that this goal is never ending. As soon as I reach a new pace, I want to get even faster. I don’t think I’ll ever be crossing this off my list.

HandstandMission accomplished! It only took over 6 months to complete this goal, but I can finally do a handstand without a wall. Granted, they don’t last long!

IMG_1804-s IMG_2150-s IMG_0798-s IMG_0593

Eating Clean - This is another goal that is like the song that never ends! I am constantly working on eating cleaner. Some weeks are easier than others.

Lately I have been debating whether or not to keep the Target Practice Fridays going. I have accomplished most of my long term goals, which only leaves one left… Ironman 70.3. What do you think? Should I keep Target Practice alive? Does anyone really care about my fitness activities and daily eats?

Tri the Beach Triathlon Winners + Promo Code

Happy Tuesday! Thing 1 is as happy as a 15-year-old dog could be to be home from the vet and in his comfy bed. He seems to be healing very nicely! Thank you for all the warm wishes yesterday.

This post is going to be short and sweet because things have been a little crazy at home and work. If things go as planned, I’ll have some triathlon posts next week.

Now for the Tri the Beach Triathlon winners:

Ashley H. #53

Howard T. #102

I will send you an email with instructions on registering for the race.

Don’t fret! If you didn’t win, you should still register for the HB Triathlon!!! I have a coupon for you. Use the code RASPFANS for a $5.00 discount! Besides, I will be there, Ashley will be there, and Howard will be there! We’ll have a good old time. :-)

Year of the Triathlon & Tri the Beach Race Entries Giveaway

Howdy friends! I am still coming off of the high from my marathon! While 2014 will always been known as the year of my first marathon, it will also be known as the year of the triathlon! I have six triathlons planned for this year as I’m gearing up for my first Ironman 70.3 distance!

I am kicking off the season by registering for the Huntington Beach Triathlon by Tri the Beach Triathlon Series! This triathlon is a sprint distance which will be perfect for getting my feet wet in triathlon again.

The race starts with a 600 meter ocean swim, 10 mile bike ride, and 2 mile run. You might think, “Oh, it’s only 2 miles. No big deal.” Well, it’s 2 miles on the soft, fluffy sand! The race is going to be EPIC!

The awesome people over at Tri the Beach want you to partake in a triathlon too! They are offering two free race entries to one of the three races! You can pick from Huntington Beach, Cannon Beach (Oregon), and Port Aranas (Texas).

Enter to win 1 of 2 free race entries below by using Rafflecopter. Good luck! The winner will be announced next Tuesday.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


And be sure to come back Thursday and Friday for two more GIVEAWAYs and remember to vote for me to become the ARC San Gabriel Valley Ambassador! Voting starts Thursday and Friday at 7:00 a.m. PST. I will need every single vote I can get!

Triathlon Swim Clinic

Hi my lovelies! I hope you had a fabulous weekend. Mine was pretty great. It started with a long run that was supposed to be 16 miles but ended up being 13 miles long. My heel is still swollen so I took it nice and easy.

Thank goodness for KT tape! This stuff is seriously amazing. I noticed such a difference the minute I put it on my foot.

Afterwards I went home to what is becoming a ritual after a long run –  eat good food, watch good TV (reruns of Friends or Sex and the City), and good old fashioned RICE. It’s funny… I am starting to feel like a lazy log after long run Saturdays. I know that I run a billion miles on Saturday, but for some reason I feel like I should be out and about rather than watching TV. Oh well… I’ll get over it! Like next week when I’m flying to AUSTRALIA!!!

On Sunday I went to a free triathlon swim clinic with my friend Yi.  I am slowing getting ready for the triathlon session since marathon training has taken over my life lately.  The clinic was very educational and perfect for anyone just getting into triathlons who is nervous about the swim.  The clinic started with individualized swims to determine our swimming level. Once we were placed in the beginner, intermediate, or advance group, the training began.

The intermediate group started with paddle board kicking. <– my kryptonite! Then we swam laps freestyle, where I received pointers like keeping my elbows up and my arms straight ahead of me as I entered the water. The clinic also emphasized gliding in the water like a fish rather than tightening up.


While I am glad I went to the swim clinic, I think I knew most of the information from swim lessons I took late last year. What I really need is a triathlon bike clinic! Surprisingly cycling is my weakest sport in triathlon.

Now for what you really want to know… the Veggie Grill winner is…

#93 Nikki Brendza for liking Chasing Raspberries on Facebook! Email me your address at and I will send these to you right away.

Question: Have you ever been to a triathlon clinic?

Triathlon 101 with Matty Reed

Last week I discovered Matty Reed was giving a Triathlon 101 session at my local running store, A Runner’s Circle. Naturally I jumped at the opportunity to meet the world class triathlete. For those of you who don’t know, Matty (<– first name basis now ;-) ) competed in the 2008 Olympics.


My evening last night started with a five mile run right alongside the pro triathlete. First impression: Geesh, this is man tall! If he ever wants to pull a Michael Jordan and switch to basketball he definitely has the height to do it at 6’5″. Throughout the run it was great to see how “real” Matty was talking with each of us. He was very humble and even slowed his pace for some of the slower runners, aka me! I had a chance to talk to his wife, Kelly, during the run as well. This lady is just as tough as her husband. Being a triathlete herself, she was paralyzed for two years after a nasty bike incident, yet by some miracle, came back to full health to race again.

1492220_10202566141147842_1404620069_oAfter the run, there was a Q&A session with Matty where he told us a little about his background. Matty was born in New Zealand but lived in many parts of the world, including Australia, Japan, and now San Deigo. He started in the sport of triathlon at the age of 15. During his senior year in high school, Matty decided to become a professional triathlete. In 2008, he won the US Olympic trials and performed at the Beijing Games. Matty has won several tirathlons, including the Toyota Cup Series.


During the Q&A, I found a few things particularly interesting about Matty:

1) Matty has only had one major injury (biking incident) during his career which left him recovering for almost a year and a half.

2) His worst training year was in 2013. Since he lived in Colorado, he thinks the altitude didn’t allow for enough recovery post intense training. After moving back to San Diego a few months ago, he is becoming faster and faster each week.

3) Matty has about 18 races planned each year. He prefers the 70.3 to the 140.6, but he participates in races of all distances. He would rather do 18 races of varying lengths than only 5 full Ironmans per year.

4) When swimming, he comes up for breath whenever he feels like it, and not every 4th or 2nd stroke. He generally comes up for breath on his right side because it’s more natural for him than both sides.


All in all it was a pretty incredible evening! Matty is so humble and inspiring and his wife is a total rockstar! They make quite the duo!

Target Practice Friday #22

borrowed stole the idea for the Target Practice Friday series from the ladies over at Fit.Fun.Femme.  I do things a little differently, but ultimately it’s where I share my progress on my short term goals, a.k.a targets.

Welcome to Friday my friend! Normally I don’t talk much about my strength training on Target Practice Friday because it’s typically a normal routine two or three times a week. However, last night something happened that hasn’t happened in a long time. I lost my motivation! I struggled through my personal training session and it’s not because the routine was any more difficult or challenging. I was just in a funk! I knew I would feel better after the burpee-pushups, squats, lunges, sprints, etc. but the hour could not be over soon enough. This just goes to show that even self proclaimed “fitness addicts” have bad days too! The important thing is to not let this attitude become a regular and jump right back on the bandwagon. :)

Triathlon - I completed my first triathlon last Sunday and it was one of the best experiences of my life. You can read about it here! While I foresee hundreds of triathlons in my future, I am crossing this one off the list for now because I need to focus on marathon training. :)

Marathon - As you know, I am now training for the LA Marathon with Team Nutribullet. I am still nervous about running 26 miles, but I couldn’t be more pumped about it either! Training started on Saturday with a 6 mile run in the rain.  I also ran 3 miles on Tuesday and 2 miles on Wednesday.  My goal for the next three months is to increase my running days during the week.  My half-ironman/half alien marathoner friend suggested I run 6 times a week for a total of 30 miles a week, so that means a lot of short runs and one long run! Time to step it up!

Improve Pace - While I didn’t do any speed work this week, I feel like my comfortable pace has improved! I may not be a 10 minute miler anymore!!! Time will tell…

Handstand - I feel like this is the longest target I have had on the list besides improving pace. Why are handstands so hard!!! I am still determined to move away from the wall with handstands, but I did experiment with a new V handstand this week. Fun stuff!

Eating Clean - With all the Holiday parties this week, my eats were questionable.  There were a few cookies and chocolate and breakfast potatoes! Eeek! I made up for all that badness with some Nutribullet goodness! Recipes should be coming soon!

Have a great weekend!!!

Tinsel Triathlon

So I did my first Triathlon on Sunday!!! It was oh-so-much fun! Naturally the Bear and I arrived 2 hours before the race. I always like to get to races bright and early to set up the transition area and reduce pre-race stresses.

IMG_6650-s(Race photos are thanks to the Bear once again!)

Sunday morning was literally freezing in the low 30s! That’s ice cold for this Southern California girl. Since it was so cold, I had a last minute wardrobe change from my tri shorts/tank to tri shorts/sports bra/jacket. I was so thankful for the jacket!

After setting up my transition zone, I waited patiently (Instagramed) for an hour before the speed skaters started their race. Oh! Did I mention there was a half marathon speed skate!? It was so cool to see all the skaters. Before you know it, I’ll probably be doing that too!

IMG_6561-sThirty minutes after the speed skaters, it was tri time! As I mentioned when I signed up for the race, this was a reverse sprint triathlon, so it started with a 5k run, 12 mile bike (really 14 miles!), and 150 meter swim. The race started out strong with my second fastest mile ever (8:09) and my fastest 5k (26:53)!

IMG_6578-s IMG_6598-sThe transition almost went smoothly from the run to the bike, but my gears slipped as I got on the bike. Total amateur move for not checking this beforehand, but I had everything under control within 5 seconds. The bike ride was long and hard for me. I hadn’t been focusing on cycling since my last duathlon in September. BIG mistake! I struggled through the 12 mile ride, which really turned out to be 14 miles. Not to make excuses but I was having serious runny nose problems (TMI?) due to the cold. Note to self: always have tissues or a rag at the transition area. I could hardly breath during the bike ride. Lesson learned for next time.

IMG_6607-sTransition two went well. I quickly dismounted from my bike, ran to my swim gear, and removed my jacket and shoes. I threw on my cap and goggles as I ran to the pool. The swim went so quickly. (I should have picked a triathlon with a longer swim but to my defense, there aren’t many triathlons in the winter). All I remember about the swim, is that the pool was really, really warm. It felt amazing and was the perfect way to finish the race! My total, unofficial, time for the race was 1:27:19! Not bad for my first triathlon!

IMG_6636-s IMG_6669-sDuring the race, I noticed a few things: (1) I was passed by two kids under the age of 8 and a lady with only one foot during the 5k run. (2) There aren’t enough young females doing triathlons. I am making it my mission to get more females involved in triathlons. At first I was intimidated by the three sports, but they aren’t scary at all. ANYONE can and should train for a triathlon. They are so much fun! (3) You don’t need a triathlon bike to get into this sport, or even a road bike. I saw hundreds of mountain/hybrid bikes on the course.

I definitely have the triathlon bug! The next race cannot come sooner, but now is the time to focus on my first full marathon. Not to worry though… I have a list of summer triathlons planned out. And I am most definitely doing a 70.3 Ironman in the future!

It’s Tri Time!

Happy Monday my Friends! It’s official! I am about to be a triathlete! I signed up for my first triathlon this weekend and I could not be more excited. I decided to go with the Tinsel Triathlon in Hemet because a reverse sprint tri seemed less scary. This tri will start with a 5k run, 20k bike, and 150 meter pool swim. Totally doable considering the last sport is a pool swim.  I am not quite ready for open water swimming, so I am saving that for the next triathlon.

It’s likely that most of you know I started to train if you follow me on Instagram or Twitter as I have been dropping a lot of hints there. It’s true… I started swim lessons to learn the proper way to swim.  I have swam my entire life but never learned the correct form. But a cool thing happened this weekend! I swam one entire mile! This has been a private goal of mine for about 6 months. I still need to work on form and speed but I am definitely less intimidated by swimming now.
imageAfter my last half marathon, I also started to ramp up the cycle training. Slowly but surely I am starting to feel ready for this race! That’s a good thing considering the race is in two weeks! Over the next few weeks leading up to the race, I will focus on biking and swimming. Although I am not a fast runner, I feel like it comes easiest to me out of the three sports.


I am super excited for this next adventure. Hopefully this will be the first of many triathlons in my future. The ultimate goal would be a Half Ironman, but I am not going to get ahead of myself at the moment. :)

Questions: Have you ever done a triathlon? What is your best advice for a newbie?