The Complete Triathlon Beginner Guide

Our Complete Triathlon Beginner Guide includes a checklist (Equipment Packing Checklist), more checklists (Optional Equipment Checklist & Items Typically Provided For Competitors), and our Top Five Tips. Check out our Athlete Guide and the Triathlon Race Distances and you could not be more prepared for your first race.


  • Swimming suit – can be a 'tri-suit', if desired
  • Wetsuit - if it’s an open water swim (in accordance with rules and guidelines) – Alberta has cold water!
  • Swimming goggles
  • Swim cap
  • Bicycle – (in accordance with rules and guidelines), road bikes are faster
  • Bicycle helmet - check out the Rules and Regulations for the specs
  • Racing shirt - must wear a shirt covering the torso during the entirety of the bike and run portions of the race
  • Shorts – tri shorts are ideal, but any comfortable shorts will do
  • Competitor's bib/number
  • Running shoes
  • Water bottle(s) - for your bike and in transition for a quick sip
  • Bicycle shoes - if your bike requires them


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Optional Equipment Checklist

  • Extra shirt – you might want to switch shirts after the bike leg
  • Swimming towel
  • Safety pins – you need them to affix the competitor's bib to your shirt
  • Sunglasses – especially for the bike – early morning may have you cycling into the sun
  • Sun hat – especially for the run if it is a hot sunny day
  • Sunblock for the same reason


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  • Competitor's bib
  • Swim cap
  • Souvenir t-shirt
  • Chip timing bracelet – a device that ensures that we can record your performance


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You have just taken the big step and entered your first triathlon or you just want a refresher so you can really be ready on race day. Either way, knowing what happens on event day and preparing properly for it will make your first or your fiftieth triathlon more fun. We recommend that anyone new to the sport of triathlon should consult someone who has done an event, a coach, a club, or a website that focuses on guidelines and advice for the inexperienced or first time participant.


We are not saying it is easy, but completing a triathlon is definitely an attainable goal for anyone. Just take your time and don't try to overdo it for your first time. Your goal in the first one should be to finish and to enjoy the experience. If you are a veteran, set your goal to your fitness and health level. If you have any doubts about your health or have not been exercising for some time, please consult your family physician before starting to train, or before participating in an event.


Tip #1 - Get there early

Get to the race site early - 1 hour early is reasonable but some will be there up to 2 hours early.  The general rule is the longer the distance, the earlier the arrival. Be there when the Race Kit Pick Up opens - even better, pick up your Race Kit before race day if possible. Only pick it up on race day, as a last resort. You don't need the hassle on race morning.


Tip #2 - Practice Transitioning

Most beginners are usually ready for the 3 events themselves but have had little practice transitioning from one section of the event to another.  Practice this skill first rested, going through what needs to be done first (lots of good videos on youtube) and then practice the skill right after a tough workout to simulate what it will be like in race conditions.  A bad transition can sometimes take up to 10 minutes!


Tip #3 - Triple Check your Equipment

Everything you need for a race is imperative! Pack the night before and take your time so you are not scrambling in the morning.  The pros leave nothing to chance and neither should you so you can relax the day of the event and enjoy the race. Make sure to check the necessary equipment page for everything you’ll need for your first event.


Tip #4 - Get your Bike Serviced Prior to an Event

The worst thing that can happen that you just can’t battle through is a mechanical failure on the bike and usually you will have to walk with your bike back to transition after the mechanical failure which is never fun.  Go by your local shop a week before the race and have them look over your bike. Better yet learn what to look for so you can look over your bike yourself! Cycling can be the best part of a triathlon, but the bike needs to work at full capacity.


Tip #5 - Learn the Per-Race Flow

Most races are pretty common to the way they work  read below to familiarize yourself what to expect prior to a race so you can be prepared

  • Go directly to Race Kit Pick Up, if you haven't picked your kit up prior to race day.
  • Proceed from the Race Kit Pick Up directly to the Transition Zone (known as the T- Zone). This is an area enclosed area with bike racks in the middle where much of the on-site action will occur. You will usually be able to pick your position of where your bicycle is on a bike rack - first come, first served!
  • Set your equipment and apparel items neatly around your bike rack, so that they are easy to get at during the race. Be sure to pin your bib number on your cycling/running apparel at this time.
  • Go to the Body Marking Table in the T-Zone to have your body marking done.
  • Head for the Timing Tent (near the finish line) to pick up your Chip timing bracelet for the race. Everyone must wear one and the timing people will tell you how and where. Don't lose the chip, because it will cost you a chunk!
  • Explore the T-Zone for the various exits and entrances you will be using during the race. Familiarize yourself with them and plan your path to and from your bike rack.
  • Identify the start location for the swim. You have to get there for the start of the race. Visit the start areas so you are familiar with how to get there from the T- Zone.
  • Take a look at the first section of each of the race courses.
  • Leave lots of time for conversation with others, a warm up, and the pre-race announcements over the P. A. for information updates.
  • Be at the race start 5-7 minutes before start time. This will ensure that there are no miscues.

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