Setting your triathlon goal

The reasons for participating in a triathlon are as varied as the athletes you'll see at the starting line — people of all sizes, shapes, and abilities. They're all there to test their endurance and meet their personal fitness or life goals.

Depending on your fitness level, your goal may be to finish your event in a certain time — or simply to finish. And for your first triathlon, that's the best place to start. If you're determined to be a little more specific about how and when, remember these goal-setting tips:

✓ Stay positive. "I will finish" will keep you far more motivated than "I won't finish last." Focus on what you want to do — finish happy and strong.

✓ Stay personal. If you want to focus on where you'll place, make this goal about you, not the other triathletes. Set your goal about your own personal finish time or how you'll feel when you finish, not about where you'll finish in relation to everyone else. Your triathlon is about you.

If you've entered road races, swims, or cycling events in the past, you may be tempted to set a goal time for your event. If you want to set specific time-related goals, set these for your training sessions, not for your first event. So many factors can influence your race time — water currents, wind, course elevations, even the number of other triathletes competing in your event. You don't want to be disappointed that you didn't meet an arbitrary collection of hours, minutes, and seconds for an event you finished successfully in every other way.

Evaluating Your Equipment Needs

You have ambition. You have some degree of fitness. And you have enthusiasm. Still, you may be lacking a few essentials — wheels, clothing, or shoes.

Following is a list of the basic equipment you need to complete a triathlon. Buy them now and start using them in your training. You'll want to use for your event the same clothing and equipment you train in.

✓ Tri suit: Available in one or two pieces, tri suits fit snugly and feature quick-drying fabrics and padded shorts for the ride — you don't want to have to change any clothing during your event. Tri suits look serious. Even the idea of wearing one can be intimidating. You may think that only the experienced or elite triathletes will be in tri suits, but the tri suit is a great choice, especially for beginners, because it simplifies your event and your transitions.

An optional piece of equipment is a wetsuit. A wetsuit gives you warmth and buoyancy and helps you glide through the water. Water temperature and race rules will dictate whether you can wear a wetsuit.

✓ Goggles: Goggles protect your eyes from the chlorine or saltwater to help you see where you're going during your swim. Find a pair that fits your face and doesn't leak or fog. Buy a few pairs and pack them in your race bag — you won't want to swim without these.

✓ Bike: The bike is the most expensive and most complicated piece of equipment you need. If you're in the market for a new bike, visit your local bike shop and share your goals with a salesperson. If you have a bike in your garage or can borrow one from a friend, bring that to a bike shop to have it tuned and to be sure it fits you correctly.

✓ Helmet: A helmet is an absolute must-have. Don't ride without one — ever.

✓ Other bike accessories: Consider cycling gloves, cycling shoes, clipless pedals, and sunglasses — for comfort and efficiency, and to increase your safety.

✓ Running shoes: Just as you have shoes for work and shoes for play, maybe shoes for one outfit and one outfit only, you need shoes just for running. Invest in a good pair of shoes designed just for running, not cross-training or tennis or basketball. You'll appreciate the cushioning on your joints and reduce your risk of injuries.

In Chapter 3, we provide a comprehensive list of all your equipment needs — including what to look for when you're shopping and how much you can expect to spend.

With all the equipment options, it's easy to get overwhelmed and think you need the newest, shiniest, and most aerodynamic equipment you can find and afford. Not so. The most important factor in finding equipment is fit. You can spend a bundle on a high-end triathlon bike, but if it doesn't fit your body, you may as well grab yourself a tricycle.

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