Your First Triathlon - The Swim

If the swim leg of a triathlon makes you nervous, you're not alone. Most people thinking about trying triathlon have some issues with the swim.

Good news: the swim is the shortest leg of triathlon's swim-bike-run format. Don't let the swim stop you from trying your first triathlon.
If you can:
- swim (15-20 minutes)
- bike (60 minutes) and
- walk (45 minutes), you can finish your first triathlon.

Some things to know:
1. Any swim stroke is OK. You can use freestyle, breaststroke, back crawl, side stroke or doggy paddle. If you have a panic moment, switch to something that makes you more comfortable.

2. You will get bumped. You may get kicked, scratched, or even run over. Knowing this ahead of time, will make any contact with other swimmers less of a shock. If you are new, or a slow swimmer, start in the back and to the outside. Take a wider path and you'll run into fewer people.

3. Don't forget to breathe. I tend to start off too fast. Everything starts to burn. Then I slow down, focus on breathing and try to swim well vs. fast.

Find more beginner triathlon tips here:
Your First Triathlon
What I Love About Triathlon
Why Triathlon?
Where Does Fear Come From?
7 Steps to Successful Swimming


Race Review: The Pigman, Iowa

Last weekend we drove to Iowa for the Pigman longcourse. This time, it was my husband Ken's turn to race, and the boys and I would cheer him on.

Hotel: We stayed at the Marriott in Cedar Rapids. It was beautiful and we got a great Pigman rate. Packet pickup was in the hotel on Saturday, very convenient.

Race site: Pleasant Creek Recreation Area. The park was about 15 minutes from the Marriott.

Race parking: The Pigman has several lots and a big grassy area for parking. They have volunteers helping direct parking on race morning. But, once you park, don't plan on leaving the park. The drive out of the park is narrow, windy and gets very crowded with bikers/runners also sharing the route. It's best to stay put and wait for your racer to return.

Race course: The lake was 77 degrees on race morning. They started with a time trial swim start, so one person left every three seconds. The road quality on the bike was good, though in Iowa the shoulders aren't paved. The is very little shade on the run. The route is hilly and beautiful, but gets very hot.

Watching the Pigman: Our kids played on the beach while Ken swam, and while he biked. The park had a small concession stand open serving food and drinks. There is little shade along the final miles of the race. Many groups brought their own canopies for shade. We had a big umbrella. Bring something for shade, swimsuits, sunscreen, blankets and money for food, drinks.

We were able to catch Ken coming out of the lake, and in transitions. He had a great race and we enjoyed the day in the park. Overall, we are impressed with the Pigman.

J-Lo Trains for Her First Triathlon

In less than a month, Jennifer Lopez will compete in her first triathlon at the Nautica Malibu Triathlon Sept. 14. Lopez will swim 1/2 mile, bike 18 miles and run 4 miles.

She was interviewed about her training on ABC News' Good Morning America. Lopez said she was about eight months pregnant when she first thought of doing a triathlon. She saw an event and thought "I think I could do that." Now, a mother of six-month old twins, Lopez is training for her first triathlon. The Nautica Malibu Triathlon benefits Childrens Hospital Los Angeles.

Lopez said swimming is the toughest for her, and suggests first-time triathletes start slow and give themselves time. When she is training she "feels great, has more energy and is proud of herself."

As a mother of three who loves the sport of triathlon, I agree with J-Lo. Training helps me feel great, have more energy and feel proud of myself.

Follow more of Lopez' training at (Above picture by Ken Landolt at Ironman Florida the day before my race.)

Triathlon is an Experience

Triathlon is more than a sports event, it's an experience. One of the things that impressed me most about my first triathlon was the camaraderie.

At my first race 13 years ago, the women I was swimming with got all tangled up. One lady shouted support and encouragement to us all and we got through the rest of the swim just fine. Later on the bike and run, men and women would smile, wave and cheer me on as we passed each other on the course. And at the end, each finisher got a huge round of applause, no matter the finish time.

The fun and encouragement triathlon offers is helping it take off as a sport, especially among women. This picture (above) is of my sister and I sprinting together to the finish line at a race this summer. Can you see how much fun we're having? I hope it's obvious.

If you think triathlon sounds like fun, sign up. There are many online resources with beginner training plans and advice. Depending on your current fitness level and goals, you can be ready to race in a few months.

Go ahead and get moving. You'll have a blast!

NBC Olympic Triathlon Schedule

One week to go until the top triathletes compete in Beijing! Learn more about the course in this short video from professional triathlete Desiree Ficker.

Use these NBC links to stay on top of triathlon news:
Also find updates at and


Why Triathlon?

The promise of an ice cream cone motivated U.S. Olympian Julie Swail Ertel to enter her first triathlon. Read more about Julie and how she crossed over from water polo to triathlon here and here.

Others are drawn to triathlon because:

  • Triathlon is fun, challenging and rewarding.
  • Triathletes have fun training and racing together.
  • Triathlon is good for anyone, of any age or ability.
I thought triathlon sounded cool and challenging. My husband and I signed up and raced together. Thirteen years later, we are still doing tris. Read why I still love triathlon here.

Triathlon is quickly becoming one of the country's quickest growing sports. USA Triathlon's membership increased 46 percent between 2005-2006 alone. Of members, people in their forties are the fastest-growing segment of USAT membership and of that group women are taking the lead.

You can train for a triathlon now. You don't have to wait:
- until you've lost weight,
- the kids are all in school, or
- you can afford to buy a new bike.

Go ahead, sign up and start training. It's OK to be nervous. That's normal. Surprise yourself and others and try something new. Find resources here to get started. Enjoy!

Your First Triathlon

If you can:
- swim (15-20 minutes)
- bike (60 minutes) and
- walk (45 minutes),
you can finish your first triathlon.

Most first-time triathletes train for a sprint-distance race. Sprint triathlons usually include a .25-mile swim, 15 mile bike and a 3.2-mile walk, jog or run. Really speedy triathletes will finish the entire event in about an hour, while many will finish between 90 minutes and two hours, depending on the course and the weather.

You can train for a sprint-distance race in 4-6 hours a week, for 6 weeks, as long as you train correctly. Since fitness is specific, you must swim, bike and run. And, you must add time, distance and intensity gradually to avoid injury.

Some resources to get you started:

Triathlon is for everyone, of all ages and abilities. Sign up, train well and have a blast.

What I Love About Triathlon

The sport of triathlon is booming, especially among women. Most of us have taken swim lessons, ridden a 2-wheeler, or gone for a walk, jog or run around the block. So, the three elements of triathlon: swimming, biking and running, are familiar. To do a triathlon, you simply combine these 3 childhood skills into one fun event.

Women are drawn to triathlon as a sport for many reasons. This is what I love about triathlon:
  • Getting and staying fit makes me feel good about myself. When I feel good about myself I'm a better wife, mom, sister, daughter, everything.
  • I love the social aspect of meeting with my workout buddies to train, and seeing old friends at races and events.
  • Training for an event forces me to save time for myself.
  • The clothes and gear are cool.
  • I like changing peoples' perceptions of what is possible.

What do you like about triathlon?

Have a great weekend.