I took part in my first sprint distance triathlon this year and absolutely loved it.
Believe it or not triathlon is now the fastest growing sport in the UK. The combination of swimming, running and cycling is great all round exercise. There's nothing more motivational than signing up for a race knowing you're soon to be throwing yourself in a lake with hundreds of other people! In all seriousness it's awesome fun and I would really recommend you give it a go.
I've only done one triathlon so I'm by no means the expert, but here are a few things I learnt that will help you smash through your first event.
1) Get Kitted Up - You really don't need a huge amount of kit for your first tri. There are a few basic items which you'll need to get hold of but you probably already have most things.
2) Think it Through - Mentally rehearsing the transitions between each leg of the race is hugely helpful. Think about what you're going to need to put on and take off. It's also helpful to think about the order you're going to do it in when you go from swim to bike and bike to run. Essentially you want to minimise any extra thinking and faffing time!
3) Warm Up & Walk The Swim - Take a few minutes before the start to warm your body up. Go for a jog and do some gentle stretches (my first tri started at 6am which made warming up even more important!). I also found it really useful to 'walk the swim'. It literally means walking the length of the swim, making a mental note of any turning points and ideally matching them with something on the shore.
4) Double Up - You'll get given a swim cap when you register, they're usually coloured depending on which wave (read: start time) you're in. I'd been advised to wear two swim caps to stop my goggles falling off which worked pretty well. Wear your own swim cap with your goggles on top and then your race swim cap on top of your goggles to keep them in place.
5) Get Some Space - Starting at the edge, away from the crowds is a lot less nerve racking. If it's a water start, everyone will be ushered into the water before the gun goes and will line up a few rows deep. Find a spot at either end of the line to give yourself some room to breathe.
6) Don't panic! Try to take slow, deep breathes and pace yourself. This was my first open water swim and I ended up swimming off pretty speedily with everyone else, which soon backfired. I'm not the strongest or fastest swimmer and I ended up having a mild panic, taking short breathes and quickly residing to breaststroke. Luckily I managed to pull myself together to carry on.
7) Get Into Gear - Before you leave your bike in transition and head for the start line make sure it's in a low gear. Reason being that you can then jump straight on after the swim and build your breathing and heart rate up naturally.
8) Spin Out - When you're nearing the end of the cycle get into a low gear and spin your legs round as much as you can. This helps get the blood back into them and prevent them turning to jelly when you step off the bike. It's a really odd feeling so definitely practise going from cycling to running beforehand!
9) Ease Into It - It's a good idea to get your arms pumping to help get your legs moving at the beginning of the run. Your legs may well feel like jelly so take it easy and build your pace slowly.
10) Have fun - Last but definitely not least, keep pushing through, smile for the photos and enjoy it!