The real truths about triathlons.

There are so many things to consider before you embark on the journey of triathlons, including choosing your races, setting goals, getting the gear and coming up with a training programme. After dabbling in this multisport for a year, I think these are the things you really need to know so you are aware of what you’re getting into. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

1) It’s not Swim + Bike + Run; it’s SwimBikeRun.

A triathlon essentially consists of three different sports – swim, bike and run – and you will have to divide your time to train all three disciplines, but please know that in the actual race, you are putting all three consecutively to make one sport. That’s where you enter the pain cave!

2) You would have lost more money than weight by the end of the year.

I won’t lie – it’s not a cheap sport. You can argue that triathlons can be done on a budget – yes you can, but the financial investment is still pretty significant. When I first started out, I only got the basics – like the bare minimum that you need. But as I went along and got more addicted to the sport, I started spending more.

Here’s a quick list of what I’ve invested in:

Bikes (road bike and TT bike, plus bike parts like carbon wheels), cycling gear (cycling jerseys, helmet, gloves, bike shoes) and accessories (water bottles, bike computer, bike bag for overseas travel, tyre pump), running gear (training shoes, racers, GPS watch with heart rate monitor, compression tights, sunglasses, visor) and swimming gear (swim suit, swim cap, goggles and swim toys like kickboard, pull buoy, hand paddles, fins), tri-specific gear like tri-suits and other miscellaneous things like health supplements (eg. energy gels, protein powder, electrolytes).

Just to give you an idea, this is what I had  just for an Ironman 70.3 race:
(not shown in picture: bike, tyre pump and bike bag)


Also, multisport races are generally more expensive than running races. The registration fee for a sprint triathlon (750m swim / 20km cycle /5km run) is around S$130, while the fee for an Ironman 70.3 race (1.9km swim / 90km cycle / 21km run)  is typically around S$400+.

3) It can get pretty lonely.

Most of the time I’m training alone. You can get your friends to cycle and run with you, but because of my training programme and schedule, I seldom ride or run with anyone. Cycling at 3am has become normal to me, especially when I have something on in the mornings and have to ride before that – cycling at that hour is pretty quiet!

As for swim, you can’t talk to each other during the session (duh). Also, being an endurance sport, we spend a lot of time clocking mileage so you will be spending extended hours of time out there on your own.

Don’t get me wrong – I love it. I love these hours of solitude where it’s just me enjoying my own company and at the same time, getting to clear my head without having to bother about my phone. Other than my long runs, I don’t listen to music so it’s really just down to your breath and you only.


4) Showering (and laundry) becomes a hobby.

During my training camp at Thanyapura, I was doing two to three sessions a day and I ended up showering as many times as four times daily! For example, a crazy day can look like this – a shower after the morning cycle before breakfast, a shower after the early afternoon run, a shower after late lunch and then a shower after the swim. (This is one reason why I cut my hair short.) That also means that you will be washing your clothes a lot.

5) Swimming in the open sea is disgusting.

I used to be afraid of swimming in the sea, because I can’t see what’s in the water and it’s just damn dirty. I would scream when I swim into seaweed, scream when I see fish, cringe when I see floating rubbish and shudder when I accidentally drink the gross sea water. But now I’m not scared of the sea anymore – just get in there and swim out as fast as you can!

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6) Cycling is dangerous and dirty.

Dirt from the road, sprays from puddles, exhaust fumes from vehicles… yes, cycling on the roads is a pretty dirty affair, especially when it rains and you are entirely soaked or splashed with mud. On a dry day, I always come back with lots of black specks on my face, so invest in a good cleanser please. But I don’t have a problem with my eyelash extensions – they stay on, even after riding through a tropical thunderstorm!

On a more serious note, it can be dangerous if traffic gets heavy or if the roads are wet and slippery, so please be alert at all times. Even in the wee hours of the morning when there aren’t many cars, the only vehicles on the roads are likely speeding vehicles or drunkards so please, please be careful.

Oh and your manicure may not last, especially if you handle your own bike – which you should be. The greasy chain will leave your hands and nails oh-so-black. Tip: Use Mama Lemon to get the grease off.

7) Running off the bike hurts like SHIT.

Why do you think it’s called brick training? Because your legs will feel like bloody bricks when you run off the bike. The first time I tried it – I nearly died; it was so bad that I was almost walking. Well, the good news is, you can and will get used to it. The bad news is, it will always hurt. Like shit.

Can you see the pain on my face here?


8) Peeing on the go is a norm.

I’ve peed on the bike, peed while running and sometimes, peed in the pool (oops). Don’t eeeee at me here ok! When you’re pushing and fighting hard in the race, and then you suddenly have the urge to pee, you wouldn’t want to stop for a toilet break and spoil your momentum. #thestruggleisreal! So, just let it go… let it go…

9) Who needs lubricant when you have rain?

In tropical countries like Singapore where we only get sun and rain, the chances of getting caught in the rain while riding are high. I’ve rode through some of the worst storms in Singapore (which is not advisable btw) and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve got rained upon during my rides. You become numb to rain after a while and just continue riding through, unless it becomes terribly heavy then you just sit at the bus stop and shiver until the rain lightens up.

10) Welcome to awkward tanlines and all-year summer freckles.

Sleeve tanlines, cycling tights tanlines, goggles tanlines, socks tanlines.. what else? These tanlines are something you need to get used to. For a period of time I looked like I still had a trisuit on when I wore tank tops and shorts, because of the tanlines!

awkward tanlines

With all that exposure to the sun, freckles will become your unwanted best friend. At the beginning, you’re like, oh freckles make me look cute! But then you soon realise that pigmentation is a bitch and you start buying all these extra strong sunblock and whitening/lightening facial products to get rid of those “freckles”.

11) Your wardrobe will consist of lycra, lycra, lycra.

Sexy sexy! Since I started this sport, I’ve been stocking a lot more lycra. Mm-hmmm, lots of those tight tight stuff which make you suck in your tummy and semi-hold your breath when you’re walking around in them, LOL!

I was referring to my cycling jerseys and tri-suits, what were you thinking?

12) Annual holidays revolve around your race calendar.

The more serious you get about the sport of triathlons, the more you will look to do races overseas. It is more expensive for sure, so you might end up tying your annual vacation in with your race. For example, there are many Ironman races around the world. Check the race calendar, pick one that fits your leave period and then extend your stay to make it a vacation!


13) Vaseline will save your life.

This lubricant will come in very handy, to save you from annoying abrasions at places you don’t want them.

14) You will have new “furniture” in the house.

Your bikes, the bike rack, your bike trainer, your bike case – these will all become permanent “furniture” pieces in the house and might invite lots of nagging from the parents. LOL!

15) You will feel pretty #Badass.

Ultimately, just enjoy the journey because it is #badass to be a triathlete. I mean, how many can say that they ran AFTER swimming AND cycling? #braggingrights

Here’s my little collection in my rookie year of triathlons: