Indianapolis Triathlons and Training Advice for First Timers


Fuji Aloha 1.1 Triathlon Bike

Most people know about the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii. It consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile run. It is an incredible 8+ hours of grueling physical exertion. Fortunately for those who are less than word-class athletes, there are shorter triathlons, including what are called sprint triathlons. Sprint triathlon distances vary, but they are usually in the neighborhood of:

  • Half mile swim
  • 10 mile bike ride
  • 5K (3.1 miles) ride

Indianapolis Area Sprint Triathlons

First time triathletes will want to go with a sprint distance race. Here are some in the Indianapolis and central Indiana area:

  • Indianapolis Sprint Triathlon Series: These sprint triathlons are held once each month during June, July & August. They are held at Eagle Creek Park, with distances of 500 meters (swim), 10 miles (bike) and 3 miles (run).
  • Cicero Triathlon: The distances are 500 meters (swim), 10 miles (bike) and 3.1 miles (run).
  • Tri Indy: Held at White River State Park in Indianapolis. Includes a 500 meter swim, 20K bike ride and 5K run.
  • Columbus Challenge Sprint Triathlon: Held at the Tipton Lakes Marina in Columbus. The distances are 800 meter swim, 17.5 mile bike ride and 3.1 mile run.
  • Summit Lake Optimist Sprint Triathlon: This event is held at Summit Lake State Park and consists of a quarter mile swim, 10 mile ride and 3.1 mile run.
  • Go Girl Triathlon: A women only event held at Eagle Creek Park in August. Distances are 500 meters (swim), 10 miles (bike) and 3 miles (run).

Preparing for Your First Triathlon

If you decide to take up the challenge of doing a triathlon, you will need to train (Unless you are already in tip-top shape). Swimming, biking, running can each be an intense, fat burning exercise on their own - doing them all together requires considerable stamina, even for the so-called "sprint" triathlons. Don't let this intimidate you because accomplishing your first triathlon can be both fun and rewarding if you train properly. Most important of all is giving yourself plenty of time to prepare. 

Even with sprint distances, triathletes require some guidance, including methods for staying motivated. Whenever you’re competing, the best coach or persons to get advice from are those who have competed in triathlons themselves, or members of a triathlon club or group. Triathlon groups are excellent options for first time triathletes, because you can learn along with other people who are new to triathlons, get expert advice from members with experience and support and motivate each other. Here are some Indiana clubs:

Investing in the Triathlon Gear

While having high quality equipment will help boost your performance, for your first triathlon you will probably go with whatever you have. Don't invest a lot until you have decided you like triathlons. For many people, their first triathlon is also their last. While athlete’s choices in equipment and attire vary, coaches and authorities in specialty stores will be willing to make recommendations. In addition, coaches that specialize in triathlons recommend training with the clothing and equipment that you plan on racing with.

Triathlon Bicycles

For your first triathlon, just use whatever bike you have. If you decide to do another one, you may want to but some clip-on aero bars. These will help you get into a more streamlined position. Since no drafting is allowed, aerodynamics is very important. If you really serious, then it's time to get a triathlon / time trial bike, like the Fuji Aloha at the top of this page. These bikes will typically feature flat spokes and aerodynamic tubing to lower air drag. The rear wheel will also be set very close to the seat tube.

Fueling for the Race

You should start appropriately fueling your body 24 hours before the race actually starts. Keep in mind that this doesn't mean you should eat more than you normally do. It actually means that you should pay careful attention to what you eat not just how much you eat. You should in fact reduce portion sizes and include healthy proteins in all of your meals, going light on the spaghetti dinner (carbs). Good protein choices include tempeh, beans, fish, chicken, turkey, lean beef and they should outnumber sugary beverages, sweets and refined grains. In addition, finish your pre-race meal at least 10 hours before you intend to eat your pre-race morning meal. Your breakfast should be composed of 20% fat, 25 to 30% protein, 50% carbs. You should also have your pre-race meal completed at least 3 hours before the race. Also, remember to drink the recommended amount of water (8 cups a day).

Warming Up

It's important to warm up at 10 to 20 minutes before each the race to get your heart rate up to a good aerobic zone. If you're not comfortable warming up in the water, ride your bike for a couple of miles if you have enough time between challenges. You can also just do a series of warm up exercises like mock swim strokes, torso twists, running in place, etc., but put "aerobic" effort into it.

Although your first triathlon will be challenging (it's even challenging for seasoned athletes), you won't believe how exciting and satisfying the experience will be. Don't be surprised to find yourself signing up for the next one. Maybe someday you will compete in the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii.