I've never done a triathlon, and I never thought I would. But I took up running a couple of years ago, and then my brother gave me a very nice aluminum road bike. My cross training for running had consisted of swimming periodically and now riding. I was wondering, most of the 2009 tri's are open water swims. I swim in a pool. You don't need to tell me that the difference is huge. I live in Austin, TX and was wondering if anyone could tell me how they prepare for an open water swim during the winter season. I'm not averse to cold water, just pneumonia. I'm currently training for a marathon (1st time for that too) in Feb. and then would alter my training to participate in a local beginners tri called The Rookie (300 M Swim, 11 Mile Bike, 2 Mile Run) and hope to progress after I get some basic transitioning and swimming skills under my belt. Any advice or resources you veteran's or fellow beginners could provide would be greatly appreciated.
Congrats on considering your first tri! If your tri isn't until later in the summer you could continue to swim in the pool until it gets warmer and then switch to open water. If not, a wetsuit is a must for swimming in truly frigid water. Also, if you can, try to get someone to practice swimming with you and have them bump into you ALOT. It can be really intimidating to have so much contact with other swimmers in the water if you're not used to it. (I take that back...it's always intimidating, but it's even more so when you're not used to it!)
Also, check out http://www.trinewbies.com/. It has tons of helpful content for beginning triathletes. (And of course don't forget to check out the tri sections on active.com as well!)