My suggestions on what you will need to make the leap into training for long distance triathlon
If you reading this blog, you've likely either talked to triathletes, done one of the 3 disciplines reguarly and/or done a sprint triathlon at some point. You are really wanting to finish a 70.3 or 140.6, but scared you can't do it, or don't know what you really NEED to get started. Here are some of my recommedations and why.
The basics you will need: access to swimming (recommend both pool and open water access), a bike, helmet, running shoes.
MUST HAVE: BIKE FIT
When you go to a sprint triathlon you will see all kinds of bikes out there. Mountain bikes, hybrid bikes, road bikes, triathlon bikes. They can all do the job at getting you through a shorter course distance within the time limit. However, when you make the leap to longer courses (70.3 and/or 140.6), I highly recommend you make the leap and invest in a bike that FITS you. That is more important than the brand, or the price or the color. Invest in a BIKE FIT from a professional, so you are sure you are on a bike that fits you. This is not something you will know off website size charts. Everyone is different. I also recommend either a road bike or a TT Bike. If you try to do a 70.3/140.6 on a mountain or hybrid, you will have to work way harder and the bikes are just not made to go at the same speeds. A road bike will be more versatile and climb up hills easier; a TT bike is made to be more aerodynamic.
Needless to say, you can definitely go with a used road bike and be successful at finishing your race. Just make sure it FITS you! That is #1.
MUST HAVE: GOOD RUNNING SHOES
Make sure you go to a running store and have your running gait analyzed and get shoes that fit you and your feet. A good pair of shoes is essential. Wear them only for running/walking, track your mileage on them. Switch them out every 300 miles or if you start to notice that the "pep" is gone in them.
MUST HAVE: GOOD FITTING TRIATHLON KIT
Try on some different brands of things you like, but you will not want to wear super padded bike shorts on the run, and you will not want to wear no padded shorts on your bike. I like wearing triathlon specific kits.
MUST HAVE: TRAINING BUDDIES
You can train for a triathlon alone. Of course you can! But I won't lie to you. Training for a 70.3 or 140.6 - you are looking at 3-6 hour bike rides, and these will be much more enjoyable with friends. The best part of triathlon is the community. It's out there. It can be scary meeting new people, and worry that can't keep up. I promise, all of us are human and are always willing to help you find your people. If you are local to San Diego, reach out to me, and I can help you find local training groups. Those of you in Indiana, I know some groups as well.
MUST HAVE: SUPPORT FROM YOUR FAMILY
Trianing for a long distance triathlon takes a lot of time out of your schedule. There is no way around it .While I do my custom plans to work around people's lives, you still will need to be clear about expectations with your families about what to expect in terms of your time away from home. You are likely not a professional athlete so you aren't going to train 40 hours a week, but 20 hours is not uncommon especially for 140.6 distances. Throw in your regular 9-5 job, and you know you will most likely be gone many weekend days. Have these conversations up front with them before you sign up. I could not do what I do without my supportive spouse, parents and children.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED : GPS SPORTS WATCH
Many of my athletes have Apple Watches. However, they are not ideal for traning purposes. They are generally not as accurate for swimming, and you get more metric data when you have a watch such as a Garmin. Garmin is my go-to recommendation for triathlon. For a 70.3 or 140.6, you want to make sure the battery is going to last long enough for your event, so the model 745 or higher is where I point atheletes too these days. A heart rate monitor strap is also helpful, since the wrist reading is generally not as accurate, but I would make sure you have a watch that can do swim/bike/run and triathlon settings, as well as track open water swimming.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED : BIKE TRAINER AND POWER METER
I live in San Diego where the weather is easy to ride outside 99% of the time. However, when I lived in the midwest, this was not the case. I invested in a smart bike trainer and it was worth it 100%. Weather was no longer an issue. Even being in San Diego, I still use my trainer often. Why? Safety - its safer than riding on the roads. Convience - I have a busy life like most of you, and being able to hop on my trainer for good session in my house is extremely useful. EFFICIENT. I can plug in my specific workout - whether it be tempo, hills or threshold and have an accurate workout (and though!). How is this different from your indoor bike trainers such as Pelaton? Well, your specific bike that you are going to race on has way different geometry than a Pelaton. You use different muscles and it's just not the same. I still ride outside for other many other reasons, but I can honestly say that my smart trainer has been essential to keeping me in triathlon. I have a Garmin TacX. Wahoo KickR is also a popular and nice trainer.
AS for power meters, this is something you don't need right away. However, using power metrics for cycling, can really help you get faster and more efficient. It helps you monitor your e
ffort on the bike easier and dial in your training zones. I did not have one at first but eventually I did invest in one and went for the Garmin Rally pedals since they are interchangeable between bikes.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: SWIM TECHNIQUE LESSON
If you grew up swimming competitively you can likely skip this recommendation. However, those of us that did not, if you do not want to invest overall in triathlon coach, I do recommend at the least, hire a swim coach for a few lessons for analysis of your technique. Swimming, unlike cycling and running is an extremely technical sport and you can't muscle your way through it to get faster. It takes a lot of technique work and repetition.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: HIRE A COACH
Of course I am biased, but I would have been completely overwelmed if I had done my first long course triathlon without the guidance of a coach. That is our job - to help you to analyze your current fitness level, and monitor your fatigue levels. They can help you peri
odize your training to keep it smart. They will help you stay motivated and be your constant source of information and support. You can always find free plans online, and if you follow you, you likely can finish. But, the nice thing about having a inidivdual coach is that it is custom to you, and your goals. Your life. They will tell you the hard stuff, and always the stuff you need to hear.
There are more things I could recommend and talk about, but this gives you a basic idea. If you have questions don't hesitate to reach out. Happy Training!