Close to Home or Long Distance?
The triathlon season is generally guided by the weather (cold is not good), so the season in most areas runs from April through September. If you live in a relatively populous area, there are probably a variety of triathlons in your city or pretty close to you.
Most triathlons take place in parks because of the need for a body of water and the space to set up cycling and run courses. For ease of managing the whole experience, staying close to home will probably work better for you as you plan your first triathlon.
USA Triathlon, the national umbrella organization for triathlons, lists nearly 500 triathlon clubs as USAT members. As expected, there is a concentration in Sun Belt states such as California, Texas, and Florida, but there is heavy representation in several states above the Mason-Dixon Line as well.
One major reason for setting your sights on a hometown race is that it will allow you to train with local athletes who are also planning for that triathlon. If you are lucky enough to fall in with a group of beginners training for the same race, you will share the camaraderie and excitement of the training. It will make the whole experience seem much less daunting.
If you select an out-of-town competition, you might not find training partners who are on your schedule. Of course, many triathlons take place in resort areas — there are lots of them in Florida, for example. You might consider planning a family vacation around your big race. That could get the family invested in your training, which could be a big factor in how well your training goes.
If there is a triathlon club in your area, chances are the organization has a beginners' program. This is one way to find training partners, who can have a huge influence on the outcome of your training. Many cycling and running stores organize group activities, another way to meet potential training friends.
A major benefit of training with others, especially those of more or less equal ability and experience, is that socializing while running or biking decreases the perceived effort significantly, meaning a better attitude toward workouts and more effective training.
Further, if it's just you scheduled to get in a 4-mile run at 5:30 A.M., you might swat that alarm clock and roll over for a bit more sleep. If you are meeting a couple of friends at the park for that early-morning tempo session, you are much more likely to keep to your schedule. Training buddies can be motivators.