What Now? Getting Started...

Triathlon Basics

Compared to more traditional youth sports like football, basketball, baseball and soccer, getting started in youth triathlon can present unique challenges for participants and parents alike. Because it is a newer sport, many parents have not completed a triathlon and so cannot translate their experience into guidance. There are also not as many formal leagues or instruction programs compared to traditional sports. Fortunately, there are a growing number of youth multisport events and programs for youth.  The basic concepts are also not hard to grasp.  Any parent who want to help their child complete a triathlon need only read further, apply common sense to the training process and be a cheerleader for their child. 
Because triathlon is more of an individual sport participants are not dependent upon a group or others to practice or participate. Most if not all of the preparation for a triathlon can be done at home or near a person's home. And because it is made up of three sports, it doesn't require a particular skill set. This can help individuals who might be good at one thing but maybe not another.
Here is the wonderful thing. For the most part, youth triathlons do not require a great deal of preparation by an active child. The race distances are very accommodating to kids that are simply active and proficient at swimming, biking, and running. Most kids have been exposed to these three activities and do not need to "train" extensively for them. Thus, for kids who are involved in other activities which involve running, the physical demands to complete a triathlon are complementary to gaining the skills necessary. Sedentary children should aim to gradually increase their activity and try to get in the pool, on the bike and I out on those legs a little bit each week for 6-8 weeks before the event. Of course, it is important that kids are comfortable in a swimming pool either swimming or using a kickboard to get back-and-forth across the pool- safety first.
Last but not least, the aim of youth triathlon is having fun, learning proper technique, and developing healthy exercise habits. This can lead to a lifelong passion for multisport, a mind for goal setting, positive attitude and healthy living.

Getting Started

Triathlon consists of swimming, biking and running. There are several race distances from youth events, which are very short, to IronMan and ultra distance events which can last in excess of 16 hours. The focus of youth triathlon is to expose kids and teenagers to multisport and allow them the opportunity to discover skills and preferences that they would not otherwise be able to realize in traditional sports.
Whether it is their first or 10th event, there is a bit of preparation that goes into successfully completing a triathlon. Individuals should be committed to a goal, some training, a positive mental attitude, maintaining their equipment and balancing life with exercise habits and proper eating.
Many kids will do better if they have friends also doing the event. Like adults, kids are easily motivated by their peers and social atmosphere. Triathlon can offer kids lifelong friends that they can meet at events and train with. The comaraderie of triathlon makes it fun and healthy for the individual as well as the family.
Preparing for a triathlon should not be overwhelming for the youth participant or the parents.  Individuals who prioritize activity and healthy eating are already well on their way to being ready to step up the starting line.

The Specifics

The Thunderbolt Youth Triathlon is composed of two separate races.  The 5-10 year olds will complete a 50 yd swim, 3 mile bike and .5 mile run.  Eleven to 16 year olds will complete a 200 yd swim, 6 mile bike and 1 mile run.    For the younger kids, a 50 yd swim is two lengths or 1 lap which is out and back in the lanes.  This usually takes participants a minimum of 45 seconds up to 3 minutes depending on their ability.  Some kids choose to use a kick board (swim aid) to help them stay afloat and kick across the pool.  This is perfectly acceptable and encouraged for kids who are not comfortable swimming out and back in the deep end of the pool.  After the swim is complete, the participants will be helped out of the pool and walk or jog to the transition area where their bike awaits on a rack with all of the other participants’ bikes.  Wet trunks and all, kids place their helmet on, put on socks and shoes as well as shirt if desired before getting on their bike.  Once on their bike, they will follow a protected 3 mile course that follows the multi user path and coned off streets before heading back into the transition area.  In the transition area, participants will rack their bike, take off their helmet and head out for the ½ mile run.  The run follows sidewalk and then multi user path for ¼ mile before turning around and heading back the way they came.  The finish line will be in the park and be marked well with obvious materials like balloons, an arch or maybe even a slip and slide.    Eleven to 16 year olds follow the same course except their distances are 200 yd swim (4 laps,) 6 mile bike (2 laps of the same course) and 1 mile run (extended run on multi user path.)    Younger kids (5-10) take on the average 30 minutes to complete the course.  Older kids (11-16) take 45 minutes on average to complete the course.  Most kids do not need to carry water with them on the bike or run as the race duration is not extensive.  Having water in the transition area for them is acceptable.  Water will also be provided at the finish line.  Individual concerns and questions can be directed to the race director Brandon Nichols, specializednutrition@gmail.com