Triathlon 101 – Training, Equipment and More

Triathlon 101

A Triathlon is a true test of stamina and competitiveness. The setup is a race where participants swim, cycle and then run – with no break in between. There are several standard distances for triathlon races, ranging from the sprint distance events through to the ultra-distance events. Longer versions have been made popular recently, due to press coverage of ‘Iron Man’ contests.

In addition to the different lengths of course, there are many levels of competitiveness. These include local (club events), national events and Olympic level events. One of the reasons that triathlon is becoming a popular spectator sport is that the lead in a race changes often. This is due to individual athletes having strengths in specific parts of the race.

Here are the standard distances in numbers:

  • Sprint: Swimming = 0.47 miles, cycling = 12 miles and running = 3.1 miles
  • Standard: Swimming = 0.03 miles, cycling = 25 miles and running = 6.2 miles (note that this is the usual distances for international and Olympic events)
  • Long: Swimming = 1.2 miles, cycling = 56 miles and running = 13.1 miles
  • ITU Long: Swimming = 2.5 miles, cycling = 75 miles and running = 19 miles
  • Ultra: Swimming = 2.4 miles, cycling = 112 miles and running = 26.2 miles (a marathon!)

Training for a Triathlon

You might think you are a decent swimmer, cyclist and runner and are pretty much ready to go. Experienced athletes recommend that you take a step back and make sure that you are prepared. There are clubs in most cities and larger towns where you can get expert guidance. One of the key disciplines is to ensure that you are not wasting energy due to poor technique. For example, swimmers can waste a considerable amount of energy bringing their head too high out of the water on each stroke. You’ll also need to learn the basics of strategy – including the ability to pace yourself through the different stages of a race.

Separately, you will need to train for the changeover between the different disciplines. While this is not so important for your first attempts (where finishing is usually your key objective), as you start to get competitive, those precious seconds can and will make a difference to your overall time. Experienced triathlon athletes in your local club will also be able to advise you on your diet. This will cover the period when you are training, as well as on the day of the race itself.

Equipment for Triathlon Racing

You’ll need some special gear before you get started. Again, your local club will be able to advise, and may even be able to lend you some of the basic kit.

A swimsuit is a must have, and you’ll need a quality racing bike to keep you competitive during the cycling portion of the race. Running shoes are the 3rd must-have; no runner would advise tackling this portion of the race in standard training shoes. Make sure that you break in any equipment before the day of the race; this is not the time to find that your bike has a mechanical issue or that your shoes rub your feet.

Most of all, you should remember to enjoy the event – only a small percentage of people have ever finished a triathlon, and completing your first one is something to be proud of.


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