Thinking about doing your first sprint triathlon?

Preparing for your first sprint triathlon can be very exciting but very stressful.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed taking tips from a veteran triathlete; swim technique, what bike to get, wheels, how to fuel and the list goes on.

DO NOT get a triathlete friend talking about their gear and how much it costs. Let your goals and commitment to the sport dictate what you spend. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

Before we get into any of that, let’s break down exactly what you’re getting yourself into.

A sprint triathlon consists of the following:

Note: These distances may vary slightly depending on the event.

Swim – 1/4 Mile

Bike – 16 Miles

Run – 3 Miles

The Swim

The swim is often the most intimidating part. Just remember, you’re swimming a 1/4 mile, that’s one time around the track. Even the least experienced swimmers finish around 20 minutes. You can do that!

Swimming Gear 

  • Goggles

Focus on comfort and make sure they keep a constant seal on your face. Consider polarized or mirrored goggles to reduce sun glare. If you’re one to panic easily, goggles with larger lenses provide more peripheral vision that can be comforting in the open water.

  • Swim cap

Neoprene, spandex, rubber, lycra, silicone… The choices are endless. Keep it simple. Get a cheap latex cap and call it day because you’ll be wearing what they give you on race day.

  • Tri Shorts

Tri shorts are very similar to biking shorts but are designed with all three sports in mind. Reduced padding keeps you comfortable on the bike, minimizes fluid retention during the swim and chaffing during the run. Women just have to find a sports bra that will be comfortable during all 3 events. If you want to get fancy, look into getting a tri kit.

Now for the actual swimming

Do you go to the ocean and stay where you can touch the ground?

If so, you’re going to need some practice. At least a couple of swimming lessons are in order. Learn the basic strokes and breathing techniques and apply what you learn at practice swims in the ocean. (NEVER PRACTICE SWIMMING ALONE IN THE OCEAN) Remember, being comfortable in the water is more important than any technique you can learn. If you’re comfortable in the water, you can finish the swim doing the doggy paddle if need be.

Do you go to the ocean and swim until you can’t touch the floor?

If so, you’ll be fine. You can do better than fine by getting some swim lessons and working on your weaknesses. Practice riding your bike immediately after swimming for an extra edge.

The Bike

Riding a bike for 16 miles sounds simple enough right? It is. Even if you consider yourself the most novice biker, expect to finish around an hour. Don’t let the technicalities of wheels, handle bars and everything else stress you out. Believe it or not, you can do 16 miles on a mountain bike or an old ten speed and still post a respectable time. (Many people do.) If a brand new tri bike is in your budget though, by all means, have at it! Expect to spend $500-600 on the low end all the way up to several thousand if you plan on going semi-pro.

Biking Gear

  •  Bike

Comfort is everything. Even if you don’t plan on investing in a new bike, ride up to a local bike shop. They can ensure you’re riding in the most ergonomic position to minimize the risk of injury.

  • Helmet

Find a comfortable helmet that fits. You can get a safe standard helmet for less than $5o or spend $60-500 on an aerodynamic one with an eye shield.

  • Accessories

Water bottle, bike bag, bike shoes/clips, repair kit, sun glasses. You definitely want a water bottle, ideally two. One with water and another with a sport drink. Little bike bags are great for snacks. Bike shoes and clips will make you more efficient for sure and may be more comfortable on long rides but for 16 miles you can manage without if necessary. If you’re committed to the sport, grab a pair and get used to clipping in and out. As far as a repair kit. Most triathlons will have a support crew for those that need it but you’ll be back on the road a lot faster if you can fix a flat. Sunglasses – Before you go out there sporting your newest shades, make sure they stay on your head while riding your bike. They’ll protect your eyes from bugs, dirt and help you see better depending on where the sun is.

The Run

Your legs may feel a little funny after biking 16 miles. Practice running after bike rides leading up to the race. You’ll get used to that funny feeling and learn it quickly subsides.

Running Gear

  • Running Shoes

No need to complicate it. Wear some running shoes that you’re comfortable with. If you sweat a lot, leave an extra pair of socks at the transition area to put on after the bike ride. It may cost you a few seconds but will minimize blistering.

  • Accessories

Consider some elastic laces. They’ll make it easier to slip on your shoes and go. If your shorts or shirt don’t have pockets, look at wearing a running belt for a place to store snacks.


Although it’s not the Gate River Run, the same nutrition tips can be easily applied. Click here to see them.

Other Questions

How long will it take?

The elites finish around an hour while the final participants finish around two hours.

Can I really do it?

Using our unscientific algorithm we’ve determined that if you can run a 5k in less than 1 hour and 12 minutes, then yes.

Will I be the last one coming in?

No. The majority of sprint triathlons run in conjunction with an olympic triathlon. Even if you are the last participant in the sprint triathlon, you won’t be alone as there will be other athletes on the course with you.

What if I refuse to swim in the ocean?

Do the Hammerhead Triathlon. The swim takes place in a lake.

That’s It. Your Done!

Sure, there are a million other questions that you have but experience will be your greatest teacher. Enjoy the experience instead of stressing over the details.

Check out the local JAX TRI SERIES. The series gives you an opportunity to learn from your mistakes and apply what you learn on the same course.



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