Learning the Basics of the Triathlon
One day in 2005 my husband came to me and said “We should do a triathlon!”…uhh…”okay honey, sure, why not”. We’d been casual runners up to that point so it made total sense (insert sarcasm) to jump into a triathlon when we’d never even done a 5K! Although my start in triathlon may have been unorthodox, I’ve been hooked ever since.
What is a Triathlon?
A Triathlon is a multi-sport event where participants swim, bike and run. It’s a relatively new sport with beginnings in 1974 in San Diego, California. Triathlon didn’t see its first Olympics until the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney. What people may not realize is that, like running, there are a number of distances.
- Sprint: .25-.5 mile swim, 12-20 mile bike, 3-5 mile run. Sprint distances aren’t necessarily standard and can vary from race to race but typically fall within these ranges.
- International (also called Olympic): 1.5k swim (.93 miles), 40k bike (25 miles), 10k run (6.2 miles). I’m not quite sure why this distance is measured in metric when others are commonly measured in miles – perhaps that’s why it’s referred to as the International distance!
- Half Iron: 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 (1/2 marathon) run. The half iron distance is sometimes referred to as a 70.3 (the total miles of the race).
- Ironman: 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 (marathon) run. The Ironman World Championships in Hawaii is the most famous Ironman and is televised every year.
How does Triathlon Work?
When I tell people I do triathlons the first question (well, the second question after “have you done the race in Hawaii?”) is “how does it work?”. The logistics of triathlon can be a bit more complex that than of a road race.
- Swim: Swimming takes place in the open water usually in the shape of a triangle around marked buoys. The swim begins with a wave of racers, typically 25-75 people, grouped by age and gender that enter the water at the same time. Waves start anywhere from 3-5 minutes apart until all waves have entered the water.
- Bike: Upon exiting the water, racers enter the transition area and find the marked spot where they’ve staged their bike equipment. While out on the bike, there are rules of the road that must be followed – the most basic being ride on the right and pass on the left. Race officials are out on the course enforcing the rules of the road (dishing out penalties to offenders) and ensuring participant safety along the way.
- Run: Once the bike course is completed, racers return to transition, rack their bike and head out on the run. It’s pretty basic – one foot in front of the other and you’ve got it.
- Transition: The time it takes to transition from the swim to bike (T1) and the bike to run (T2) is included in the total race time and is often referred to as the 4th sport in triathlon. Racers look to be as efficient as possible when setting up their area and moving from one leg to the next.
Minnesota has an amazing triathlon community – where there are multiple races to choose from every summer weekend. Ever think about doing a triathlon? Look for future postings on how to get started!