The Simplest-Ever Guide to Your First Triathlon

bicycle waiting at triathlon

It’s hard enough to master one sport. But three? No way.

Making the leap from running to triathlon, which consists of a swim, bike, and run, sounds complicated. More often than not, the complexities of multisport hold people back:

“I don’t have enough time to train for three sports!”

“Don’t you need a lot of gear for triathlon?”

“All I have is a crappy commuter bike.”

“No way could I learn to swim.”

Complicated, right? Except it’s really not.

If you can do a 5K, you can do a triathlon.

The sprint triathlon, which consists of a 750-meter swim, 12.4-mile bike, and 3.1-mile run, is well within reach for most people, especially those who are already reasonably fit.

Of course, you should ease into this type of training — just like any other athletic endeavor. If there are health issues, talk with your doctor before embarking on any sort of fitness journey. But if you’re well, your basic fitness most likely allows you to ride a bike for 30 minutes and run/walk for 30 minutes. If you can swim, you can probably make it from one end of the pool to the other.

That’s where you start … taking small steps to gradually work your way up.

If you’re already running on a regular basis, it’s easy to adjust your training to incorporate time swimming and cycling.

Important Note: I said “incorporate,” not “add.” Most people can prepare for a triathlon with the same amount of training hours as they would a 5K, believe it or not.

How to Adjust Your Training for Triathlon

Ready to get started? Here’s your five-point checklist to becoming a triathlete:

Read more »



How to Balance Family and Training (and Guarantee Their Support)

Couple marathon running for exercise and fitness training

This post is written by Susan Lacke.

“Hey, honey. I’m going to disappear for about 15 hours each week to exercise. When I come back, I’m going to be really tired, so I’ll nap for at least a few hours.

“I’ll be hungry a lot, and you know when I’m hungry, I’m not very pleasant to be around. Basically, what I’m telling you is that you’re on your own for the next six months. But I’ll have a medal to show for it!”

Can you imagine uttering those words to your spouse?

Probably not. But when you sign up for a long race, that’s exactly what you’re saying.

Training for any event takes a lot of time, dedication and energy.

But training for a long race, like a marathon, ultramarathon, or Ironman triathlon, takes even more. It’s an incredibly selfish endeavor — you disappear for hours to train while your spouse takes care of the kids, and for what? A medal with your name engraved on it.

Where’s the trophy for the family?

It might seem like you’ll be the one doing all the heavy lifting when training for a race, but the ones you love will carry a burden, too.

I’ve experienced this firsthand: my husband has poked me awake during more than one date night at the movies, my brother has asked if I really need to disappear for a run during our family vacations, and I’ve missed several gatherings with friends in order to get my scheduled training in.

At first, when they sighed and said it was “no big deal,” I took that at face value.

Eventually, I learned it was a big freakin’ deal. My friends and family wanted to support me, but I wasn’t giving them anything in return.

There’s a line between “support” and “resentment,” and the side your loved ones fall on will depend largely on the choices you make.

So how do you guarantee those choices are good ones? Here are 8 steps to point you in the right direction …

Read more »



Announcing the No Meat Athlete Triathlon Roadmap

It was a curse word and a triathlon that brought me to No Meat Athlete.

As a new vegetarian, and even newer triathlete, I was a bit lost. Whenever I’d Google “vegetarian triathlete,” the results were sparse and not at all helpful. I only knew one plant-based person — who chastised me for being “only” a vegetarian — and one triathlete, an omnivore who chastised me for thinking I could do a triathlon on a diet that was, as he said, “completely stupid.”

Though on opposite ends of the spectrum — one vegan, one omnivore — their bottom line was the same:

I was doing everything wrong.

At first I’d shrink away, full of self-doubt. Sometimes, I’d even shelve my triathlon ambitions altogether. But one day I decided that I didn’t need anyone else’s answers; I only needed to find my own.

I was going to be a triathlete, I was going to do it as a vegetarian, and anyone who told me I couldn’t could just go eff themselves.

Read more »



22 Ways to Take the Stress Out of Your First Triathlon

[triathlon start image]

It’s triathlon season! Shout it with me, people: IT’S TRIATHLON SEASON!

I haven’t always been such an overeager pain in the ass about this sport. I used to be scared — really scared — before triathlon races. I knew what I was doing as a runner, but triathlon was just so … complicated.

With running races, it’s simple: get a bite to eat and hit the porta-pot ahead of time, and beyond the actual running, there’s not a whole lot that can go wrong. But triathlons are a different beast, with not just three sports to worry about, but also the transitions and plenty of logistical opportunities for bigtime screw-ups that bodies of water and racks of bikes add to the mix.

Before my first few triathlon races, my hands would shake as I quietly set up my bike in transition area, and instead of confidently rehearsing what I needed to execute during the race, I’d focus on everything that could go wrong:

  • What if I have a panic attack during the swim and hyperventilate?
  • What if I forget where I put my bike and wander around transition like an idiot?
  • What if I drop a water bottle and get dehydrated?
  • What if I make a total ass of myself?

Sound like you?

Fears like these prevent a lot of runners from ever jumping into the triathlon game, and it’s a shame. In addition to providing runners with more strength than ever before (cycling is an excellent cross-training activity), accomplishing the mental challenge of triathlon gives an athlete more tricks in their wheelhouse for breaking through “the wall” of their next road race. On a personal note, triathlon has given me confidence I didn’t have before, introduced me to friends around the world, and led me to a new career with No Meat Athlete and print magazines Competitor and Triathlete. Triathlon has changed my life – literally. All because I took a chance on a new sport.

Read more »



12 Guidelines for Fueling Your Triathlon

Post written by Susan Lacke.

Like most new triathletes — especially those who started out as runners — I had a lot of really strange questions when I first decided to take on a triathlon.

Though I was comfortable as a runner, learning how to add a swim and bike turned me into an inquisitive pain in the ass around my triathlete friends:

“Why do you wear those pointy helmets? Can I wear arm floaties on the swim? Where did all the men’s body hair go?”

One of the questions I had was particularly puzzling:

How the heck does anyone eat at these things?

I know I’m not alone in that bewilderment. As I’ve worked on the upcoming No Meat Athlete Triathlon Roadmap, I’ve encountered a lot of people who once felt the same way. For many runners-turned-triathletes, their fueling routine for running was nailed down, but triathlon was weird.

In a marathon, I knew to fuel early and often, taking in carbohydrates nearly from the start of the race. So in a triathlon, did that mean I was supposed to start eating during the swim?

What? How? Didn’t Grandma say something about waiting an hour?

Read more »



The 8 Biggest Triathlon Myths … Busted!

Post written by Susan Lacke.

As a triathlete, I’m always interested to hear how others perceive the sport. Judging by the reactions of most people, there are more reasons not to do triathlon than there are compelling arguments to give the sport the old college try.

The “facts” I’ve heard about triathlons, however, are mostly untrue. From simple misunderstandings about the distances involved to exaggerated claims about the safety of the swim, there are a lot of triathlon myths out there. Here are the eight most common misconceptions about the sport I’ve heard, along with why you shouldn’t let such pish-posh stop you from becoming a triathlete.

Myth #1: Triathlons are longer than marathons.

 “I heard about those triathlons … they start really early in the morning and are still running at midnight!”

When people think “triathlon,” they sometimes think “Ironman,” a long-course triathlon that consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2 mile run. Though Ironman is one kind of triathlon, it’s not the only triathlon.

Read more »



28 Ideas to Help You Afford Those Pesky Running and Triathlon Habits

Post written by Susan Lacke.

#1: Skip the big city, big brand races and go for smaller, local ones.

“Running is becoming so … elitist.” sighed a friend recently. “It used to be so cheap to just put on a pair of shoes and do a 5K, but now it’s ridiculously expensive. And triathlon, ha! Don’t even get me started on triathlon.”

The statement gave me pause. Is it really that expensive? In my head, I did the math:

A marathon entry fee can be pricey, sure. According to, at least 41 marathons in the United States charge more than $100 to enter. The New York City Marathon, for example, has a $255 entry fee.

Of course, you’d need the proper running shoes, socks, shorts, shirts … let’s throw in a hat, too. We’ll say, ballpark … $200. And a watch, for $35 — unless you want GPS, then we’re looking at a couple hundred dollars. You eat more, too, so there’s an increase in your everyday food budget. Speaking of food, I need to go buy a box of gels ($34).

That’s just for running. My friend was right – don’t even get me started on triathlon.

But is it elitist? I’m not quite buying what she’s selling. It really doesn’t have to be that expensive. Over the past few years, I’ve found a few tricks for saving cash as a runner and triathlete. Here are 28 tips that will have you paying like a pauper, but running like a prince.

Read more »



Thinking about Your First Ironman? 5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Start

Hi Susan. I read your blog on your fabulous finish at Ironman Wisconsin and I was really inspired! I’ve been googling around about the race for awhile, just finished my first half Ironman, and am flirting with the idea of IMWI 2014.

 I guess I worry about how much investment I need to make–do I have to buy a tri bike, hire a trainer, etc?


About once a week, I get an e-mail like Margaret’s. Every time, I have to exercise restraint.

If it were up to me, I’d register every triathlete for an Ironman. Heck, I’d probably register non-triathletes for an Ironman, too. After all, I’m the one who says Anyone Can Do an Ironman.

And so, with every e-mail like this one, I suppress the urge to respond with an OVERLY ENTHUSIASTIC MESSAGE! BECAUSE! IRONMAN! IS! SO! RAD!!! (I, ahem, use a lot of capital letters and exclamation points to convey said enthusiasm. Also, 90’s-era words like “rad.” Told you I had to exercise restraint.)

If you’re considering taking on an Ironman triathlon, consider these questions first.

Read more »