If you go

What: Newbie Tri

When: June 8, 7:30 a.m.

Where: Cherry Creek State Park, Denver

More info: http://racingunderground.com/newbietri/index.html

Triathlon tidbits for newbies

Gear: Not wanting to splurge on gear right away is a smart move, says triathlon coach and RallySport Director of Aquatics Grant Holicky.

"Make sure you like this," he said. "It's a big investment to buy a really fancy bike and then find out 'triathlon's not my thing.'"

You can run in whatever running shoes you own, do the cycling portion on a mountain bike or whatever you can get your hands on and borrow or rent a wetsuit, he said. Maybe get through an entire triathlon season before thinking about upgrading to more expensive gear.

There are several places in Boulder County to rent a wetsuit. Like:

Fleet Feet, Boulder, http://fleetfeetboulder.com/

Runners Roost, Louisville, http://runnersroost.com/

To get a coach or train alone: Holicky, who himself is a coach, says you really only need a coach if you seriously don't know how to swim and need to learn from the ground up so you don't drown.


Hiring a coach can also provide some confidence for your first race, he said. At the very least, talk to someone who's done a triathlon before so you know what to expect.

Later in your triathlon career, working with a coach can help you set and meet goals.

"A coach is the greatest thing in the world, because we all know how emotional we all are individually in accessing ourselves, and having that outside opinion can be key," Holicky said.

Be casual: Triathlon newbie Susan McNamee said she's found the triathlon community to be friendly and open to helping new people out.

"Ask a lot of questions," she said. "You don't have to be the fastest. A lot of times, you might be in the back of the pack and that's OK. I don't mind because I figure I get a lot more for the money when I'm out on the course longer."

A t age 56, Boulder resident Laura Ferenc is training for her very first triathlon.

She found out in October of 2007 that her sister Stacy had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, so Ferenc decided to compete in a triathlon to raise money for cancer research.

"It just sounded intriguing, even though I didn't know who to swim or bike," she said, adding that she had done some running.

Ferenc's story isn't unique to Boulder County. As a Mecca for endurance sports, it's easy for casual observers or former athletes to get drawn into sports like cycling, swimming, climbing or running events, even if they have little previous experience in the sport.

This weekend, Ferenc and other triathlon rookies will participate in the Newbie Tri, a clinic and triathlon for novices hosted by Racing Underground Events and Boulder-based FastForward Sports, which offers training for all levels of athletes.

The Newbie Tri, which will be held at Cherry Creek State Park in Denver on Saturday, gives tri greenies an introduction to the sport through a 30-minute clinic about each portion of the sport: swimming, biking, running and transitions. After the clinic, athletes can try a non-competitive 300-meter swim, seven-mile bike and two-mile run.

FastForward Sports founder Scott Fliegelman said most often, he hears that the most intimidating part of trying triathlons for the first time is the swim portion.

"A lot of people seem to have some running or biking experience, the swim is often new, especially open water swimming," he said.

That was the case for Ferenc, who's always had an acute fear of water. She hired a coach, Boulder-based Mandy McLane to help guide her through swim workouts. Now, she says she can get on a boat with no fear, a vast improvement from before she started training.

"I'm the most excited about having learned to swim," she said. "That's my biggest accomplishment."

Rallysport Health and Fitness Aquatics Director Grant Holicky said his advice to new triathletes is to concentrate on finishing, not winning, the race. Holicky, who himself is a retired triathlete, also coaches with APEX Coaching.

Especially during the swim, find your own path, Holicky suggests.

"The tendency is for everyone to get down on the beach and be like second graders at a soccer game," he said. "Everybody goes through the same spot. If you're not comfortable with running into people or being bounced around, the key is to go find your own area. Don't get caught up in matching up with the right people. Go to the side. Comfortableness is going to mean happiness."

Another triathlon newbie, Susan McNamee, of Lafayette, ran marathons in her 40s, but then soon found herself too busy to run. Now, she's 61 and wants to get back into endurance sports, so she's trying her hand at triathlons.

On somewhat of a whim, McNamee signed up for an Ironman Wisconsin later this year, so she hired an individual coach and trains with FastForward Sports groups, too.

"I'm kind of an all-or-nothing person," she said, laughing.

[opstar]She plans to do a few other races before the Ironman in September, including the Boulder Triathlon Series this summer she said.

And if she enjoys the Ironman, she'll pick out another and another and officially call herself a triathlete.

"At this stage in my life, I'm an empty nester," she said, "I have the time to do it. I want to stay healthy and be a good role model for my grandchildren and other people my age. If I don't try now, when will I try?

--Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.