You have found a race or two that look like something you (or your child) are interested in, and you want to give it a whirl. What in the world do you do now?
Many parents of youth triathletes have never competed in one themselves, and that is not a problem at all. In fact, we have a lot of our parents get motivated by their kids racing and end up signing up for and training themselves. Here is a how to get started guide:
Step 1- Find your Race
This is where you decide whether the type of race course (pool vs open water swim, open vs closed course, distances, etc) is what you are looking for, where you are willing to travel to, and when you are available to race (most races fall between April and October here in the US). Again, for races local to the Greater Houston area, check out the Fury Race Calendar for ideas or search on your web browser. (Fury tip: unless your athlete is a very experienced swimmer or has experience swimming in open water, a pool swim is often best for a first race).
Typical race distances to expect:
7-10 year olds: 100 m swim, 5 km bike, 1 km run
11-15 year olds: 200 m swim, 10 km bike, 2 km run
Races will vary in distances due to available space, but these are typical distances, and what the USAT national race distances are.
Step 2- Register for Your Race
Many races do actually sellout, so once you decide on what, get registered! When registering, make sure to take note that there is a triathlon "race age". This is the age of the competitor as of December 31 of the competition/racing year. If you have a 9 year old, who will turn 10 in November, their race age is 10. This becomes especially important when the divisions split. Most of the time, the distances are longer for the 11 and older athletes. Make sure to understand and know their race age, and make sure they do as well! This is the age they will race as, and the age that will be marked on their body during the race.
When registering, your athlete will need a USAT (USA Triathlon- the governing body for most triathlons in the USA) membership. Youth membersips are about $10. Not only does it allow the member to race in USAT sanctioned events, but there are discounts, and other perks. Generally there is a space in the registration for the race that allows you to add this membership on, OR enter a membership number in the case that you have already paid for the membership.
Step 3- Make Sure You Have the Needed Gear
You don't have to spend a fortune on your first race! You have already paid your registration fee and your USAT membership fee (good for a year), so take inventory and see what you have and what you will need to get. Some things may be good to borrow until you decide to purchase.
- a helmet is MANDATORY! (check to make sure it has a sticker inside that shows it complies with safety standards)
- bike (must have handlebar end plugs and working brakes). If you aren't sure if the current bike would be considered, take it to a local bike shop and they can take a look at it for you.
- running shoes- well-fitting running shoes are a must. The shoes do not need to be a specifc brand or expensive, but they should still have cushion and be comfortable.
- swimsuit or triathlon kit- kids often can get away with just a swimsuit (one piece style competition suit or jammers) for their races. They may choose to throw on a tshirt or pair of shorts in transition, but it is not necessary. A triathlon kit or tri suit will have built-in cushion for cycling, and is built to dry quickly. If they decide to continue racing, you can usually get a couple of years out of each one.
- goggles- take into consideration where they are swimming, but also remember that most younger athletes aren't as phased by goggle lenses as we are. For younger athletes, let them wear whatever goggles they are comfortable in. Otherwise, look at whether the races are mostly indoor pool (usually a clear lens), outdoor pool (mirrored/tinted) or open water swim (may need more coverage to allow for better field of vision).
- speed laces- (optional) are elastic laces that eliminate the need to tie shoes in the transition are. Although they are optional, they are highly recommended. They cut down on frustration in the transition, as well as keep the laces from getting tangled in the bike gears. You can find them for as little as $4. Another option is the to just put toggles or lace locks on the existing laces.
- race number belt- (optional) holds the race number around the athlete's waist without needing safety pins through clothing, and eliminates the need to add a shirt/shorts with the number attached.
Step 4- Start Training!
This will be the feature of Part 3! Stay tuned to our blog, and sign up for the newsletter and follow us on Facebook to get first notice when we offer cool things and tips and info!
Our hope is that we are providing you with the useful content to get started. If you have questions or topics you would like to learn about, shoot us an email, comment on Facebook, or comment here, and we'll get back to you!