I have always been really interested in doing a triathlon but there are a few things I am unsure of.
1. Do I really NEED a coach? I live in an area where triathlons aren't particularily popular, so I would have to travel about an hour or so just for a coach. I do live by a gym that has a pool and all necessities, but can I just train alone?
2. Does anyone have any good tips or workouts that they would like to share? I want to do a sprint triathlon.
3. There is so much equipment needed, as a beginner, do I need it all? If not, can you help me with some of the things I will need for sure?
4. Does anyone have any motivation or help they could share at all? I find myself doubting my abilities sometimes, and I just am unsure if I will be able to finish the race. I know when I get there on race day, there will be so many experienced triathletes there and I feel as though I might get a bit too intimidated.
I don't think you need a coach, I've never used one. There is a lot of information online that can help guide you. I've read that you should swim 3x a week, but I only swim 2x. However, I swam in HS and college so that is my strongest leg of the tri.
As far as equipment, you need a road bike and something to swim in. For my first tri, I bought a triathlon top and a wetsuit. I probably could have forgone the wetsuit, but it wasn't very expensive and I am a wimp when it comes to the cold! I swam in my tri top and my tankini bottoms, then I put on bike shorts for the rest of the race. I now have tri shorts which are nice, but again not required.
Motivation: crossing the finish line is an amazing feeling of accomplishment! And don't let others intimidate you, this is so much *your* race since people start at different times.
One more piece of advice: the rush at the beginning of the swim can be a bit daunting with everyone kicking. My last race, I held back for ~10 seconds and then started. It was a great idea (since I panicked a smidge in my previous 2 races), then I was able to start in somewhat calm water and made my way through the crowd after it thinned out. Others suggest starting off to the side to avoid the crowd.
Tri the Lake Wakefield MA 6-25-2011 (aborted due to thunder, but was first in AG for the swim)
Cranberry Trifest Sprint Triathlon 8-27-11 (9/15 in Age group)
Lower Cape Triathlon 6-22-13
Dam triathlon (Amesbury MA) 7-13-13
Welcome to the world of triathlons. It can be very satisfying and a bit intimidating. As to your questions:
1. Coach. It depends on whether you are comfortable with your form in each discipline. I come from a cycling background and got a few sessions of coaching in swim technique and run technique. I bulit on the coaching with reading and videos (online and purchased) to get comfortable with my form and expectations. I generally train alone except in open water.
2. Tips and workouts. There are lots of articles and blog comments on this site (and others) to help you get started. Each discipline a couple of times a week, often running (even a short run) after biking to get used to the heavy legged feeling. One of the overlooked parts of a triathlon for beginners is the transitions. Some people bring absolutely everything and it can be confusing and time consuming. A small mat or towel to stand on, another small towel to wipe yourself off a bit (hands and feet mostly), set bike shoes in front, running shoes (if different) and hat/visor behind. I hang bike helmet on handlebars with sunglasses.Maybe an extra water bottle, a gel or two and sunscreen. As you come out of the water and come in from the bike, think about what you are going to be doing in transition. It helps to practice it a few times before as well. Liz's tip about waiting a few seconds after the swim start (or going to side of the start) is good. Your goal is to finish not too panic and swimming with churning arms and legs around you can be intimidating. Unless you are really fast from the start, the time difference is negligible.
3. Equipment. Swim suit or triathlon suit and googles for swim. Bike and helmet. Running shoes. Bare basics. Bike can be any kind: road, hybrid, mountain (use slick tires not knobbies). For open water swims (versus pool) a wetsuit may be required depending on water temp. You maybe able to rent one somewhere nearby. Or online like Xterra.com which also has inexpensive wetsuits. You won't (generally) have a changing tent so you need to be able be comfortable riding your bike in wet gear. Tri-specific shorts are good because they dry quickly and you don't have to worry about pulling bike shorts over a swimsuit and causing some chafing. You can run in them too.
4. We have all had our "first time". We have doubts and anxiety. And many of us still do. As you set up your transition or wait for the swim, talk to those around you. I have found that the triathlon "family" is very welcoming and helpful. Your goal for the first race should be to finish. After you do, think about how the race went, what went right, what went wrong, what could go better. Push harder on the bike? Go a little easier on the bike so your run doesn't fall apart halfway through? I find that triathlons are more about pushing myself than competing against others.
Good luck and have fun,
Great advice in the previous responses, so I won't repeat that. I have never used a coach and have been racing triathlons for about 5 years now. I found a local bike shop that was able to help answer my cycling/bike questions and they also organized group rides which was a good way to get used to riding with others around you. I had a few friends who were swimmers who helped me with swimming. Get friendly with the swimmers at the gym pool - there's bound to be a few triathletes training there. My motivation is training and racing with friends or at least familiar faces. There's a great book called the Triathlete's Bible by Joe Friel that I've found to be very helpful over the years. There are plenty of YouTube videos you can watch to get familiar with the transitions. Active has some reallly good training plans. I used an Active plan to train for my first sprint. Good luck!