Triathlon 101

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Hi friends! This week’s post for my Are You Ready to Tri? Series is Triathlon 101.

One of my favorite aspects of triathlons is the atmosphere and the people. I’ve found that triathletes are some of the kindest and most approachable people I’ve ever met. If you are new to the triathlon scene, seasoned triathletes always seem more than happy to answer any questions you may have or offer advice to help you have a great triathlon experience. I think that part of the reason for this friendly atmosphere is that triathletes are not experts. We all have our strong event and our weak event. My strongest/favorite aspect of triathlon is the biking portion and my weakest/least favorite portion is the swimming leg. But most of all, I just think triathletes are genuinely awesome people! Are You Ready To Tri? Series: Triathlon 101

There are several different triathlon distances. The most common distances include; sprint, Olympic, Half Ironman and Full Ironman. There are super sprints and Ultraman Triathlons as well. The distances for a sprint triathlon are typically as follows; 750 metres (0.47 mi) swim, 20 kilometres (12 mi) bike, 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) run. An Olympic triathlon (also known as intermediate or standard distance) consists of; 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi) swim, 40 kilometres (25 mi) bike, 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) run. A Half Ironman is; 1.2 miles (1.9 km) swim, 56 miles (90 km) ride, 13.1 miles (21.1 km) run. A Full Ironman is the longest of traditional triathlon races and is the following distances; 2.4 miles (3.9 km) swim, 112 miles (180 km) ride, and a full marathon: 26.2 miles (42.2 km) run.

Triathlons are not necessarily restricted to these prescribed distances. Distances can be any combination of distance set by race organizers to meet various distance constraints or to attract a certain type of athlete.

In order to participate in a triathlon, an athlete is required to register and sign up for the actual race, usually this is done in advance but sometimes athletes can register the day of the race.

On race morning you will have to check in and pick up your swag bag and your race number, colored swim cap, and a timing chip. Volunteers will write your race number, age and distance on your arms and legs. The timing chip typically goes around your ankle. There will also be a bib number that you can either attach to a race belt or pin on your clothes as well as a number for your bike.

After registration is complete you should set up your transition area. athletes will generally be provided with a bike rack to hold their bicycle and a small section of ground space for shoes, clothing, etc. In a point to point triathlon, there are two transition areas, one for the swim/bike change, then one for the bike/run change at a different location.

Once you’ve got your transition area set up it is time to head to the pre-race meeting where athletes will be briefed on details of the course and rules.

The swimming leg is the first part of your triathlon experience. There are three types of swimming starts. The first type of start is the mass start. This is when all triathletes run into the water at the same time. In my experience this type of start has the most potential to cause swimmers to panic. Wave starts are more common in shorter races where a large number of amateur athletes are competitors. In wave start events smaller groups of athletes begin the race every few minutes. The final type of start is time trial starts, where athletes enter the water one at a time, a few seconds apart.

The swim course is usually marked off by buoys. There are kayaks and life guards out on the water for safety purposes. If you begin to panic or need to rest, you may stop if you need to without penalty. You may not use the kayak to assist in forward motion however. Make sure you wear the swim cap provided for the race, this will help make you visible to safety personnel.

After you exit the water you will enter transition one (T1). In T1 you will remove your wetsuit (if you are wearing one), cap, and goggles and pull on your helmet and cycling shoes. Make sure that you put on your helmet before you get on your bike!!

Remember, transition times count towards your overall race time, so you want to transition as quickly as possible.

After T1 it’s time for the cycling portion of the triathlon. Typically the cycling portion is on public roads and not closed to traffic. However, there is usually traffic control in place to help control traffic. The cycling portion of triathlon is my favorite! I would recommend that prior to race day you take your bike to the local bike shop to ensure everything is in working order and safe. I highly suggest that you have a seat bag with repair kit just in case you get a flat tire. It would be in your best interest to learn how to change a tire and practice before race day.

Once you’ve completed the cycling portion of the race, it’s off to transition two (T2). After getting off your bike you will enter the transition area, rack your bicycle, and quickly change into running shoes before heading out for the final stage.

There may be aid stations on the bike and run portions of the race, typically this consists of water or energy drinks. For longer distance triathlons there may be other food available such as coke, gummi bears, energy gels, etc.

The race ends once you cross the finish line! Typically there is a post-race party for all athletes. The celebrations vary from race to race but normally there are refreshments such as food and adult beverages. I’ve been to events where there was a band and raffles and other triathlon themed activities.

Next week I will talk about how to train for a triathlon.

Do you have any questions about triathlons? Anything in particular you would like to see addressed in more detail?

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