Triathlon Information

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dotA triathlon is a competition that tests athletes the world over.

A triathlon is a race that combines swimming, cycling and running.

dotTriathlons are usually thought of as one of the most grueling sports around. Yet Steve Locke of USA Triathlon says a triathlon doesn't have to be.

"Triathletes are perceived to be the 'creme de la creme' of athletes, but it's not as tough as people think," says Locke. "Most triathlons take under two hours to complete."

Heather Fuhr is a professional triathlete. She was a champion in the biggest triathlon in the world -- the 1997 Hawaii Ironman Triathlon.
Courtesy of: Heather Fuhr, California Dreaming Triathlon Training

dotThat's because there are different types of triathlons. There are the Olympic-level ones, which are grueling.

Then there are plenty of shorter triathlons at lower levels. These are called "sprint" or short triathlons. These involve a 0.3-mile swim, a five- to 16-mile bike ride and a three-mile run. These distances can vary, depending on the race.

The Olympic triathlon distances are one mile in the water, 25 miles on the bicycle and six miles on foot. The long-distance triathlon can be up to 2.5 miles of swimming, between 30 and 60 miles of biking and six to 18 miles of running.

dotThe infamous Ironman triathlons give this sport its tough reputation. These races include 2.5 miles of swimming, 112 miles of cycling and 25 miles of running!

Top athletes finish the race in eight or nine hours of non-stop action. Others have 18 hours to finish the race, and many never do cross the finish line. Doing this race gives competitors a great feeling.

"The race was phenomenal and the feeling of accomplishment when you finish is so emotional, people actually cry," says Richard Bennett. The most famous Ironman is the Hawaii Ironman.

dotTriathlons are held practically everywhere. Usually, the swimming component is held nearby, in the ocean or a lake. Typically, it has to be a big body of water to accommodate all the competitors. Plus, that distance would be boring to do in a swimming pool!

dotThe triathlon developed as a sport around 1978. Since then, its popularity has steadily increased. It will be the opening sport for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. The acceptance of triathlons as an Olympic sport in 1990 helped.

dotTriathlon USA has about 20,000 registered competitors and 55,000 one-day membership holders. It estimates that there may be as many as 200,000 triathletes across the United States.

dotThere is quite a bit of equipment that you'll need to get into this sport. Here are some of the essentials:

  • bike
  • biking gear
  • helmet
  • swimsuit
  • wetsuit
  • goggles
  • bathing cap
  • good running shoes
  • running gear
  • sunglasses
  • watch (to time yourself)
  • heart rate monitor (to measure your performance)

dotThe most expensive items are the wetsuit ($100) and the bicycle. A good new bike can cost around $2,000.

Experts recommend you buy a good used bike for around $300, rather than a cheap new bike. And don't forget to purchase the best bike helmet you can afford.

In addition to equipment costs, you'll have to pay race entrance fees.

dotHeather Fuhr is a professional triathlete. She warns beginners away from spending lots of money on the sport before you really know what you are getting into.

"It is important for anyone considering getting involved in triathlon to realize that they just need to go out and give it a try. Use whatever equipment you have, like a mountain bike, and just enjoy the experience," she says.

"Try not to have any expectations but rather just go out to finish your first race and see if it is for you."

dotTriathlons require that you be in great physical shape, with all parts working properly. It takes months to train for a race.

dotPeople like doing triathlons because it keeps them fit. Yet that's not the only reason. They say this sport is a great way to stay fit and meet lots of people.

"I've made lots of friends through training and competing, and because I'm involved in three different sports -- cycling, running and swimming -- I have three times the friends supporting me in my efforts," says Cameron Martz of Durham, North Carolina.

dotSometimes triathlons are referred to as "multi-sports." Essentially, multi-sports are those that combine more than one sport, such as duathlons and triathlons. A duathlon is a race that combines cycling and running in a pattern that usually goes: run-cycle-run.

dotSometimes triathlons are referred to as "multi-sports." Essentially, multi-sports are those that combine more than one sport, such as duathlons and triathlons. A duathlon is a race that combines cycling and running in a pattern that usually goes: run-cycle-run.

dotThere are professional multi-sport athletes who regularly compete for cash prizes in races. While there are a few athletes who make hundreds of thousands of dollars per year doing this, most don't see any money for their efforts.

Instead, some multi-sport athletes work as personal trainers, making a living by helping others keep in shape.

Getting Started

dotDon't expect to be entering races next week if you're just starting out. Training for multi-sport competitions has to be done slowly and carefully.

"You need to start out slowly and build an endurance base," says Bennett. "Don't try to do too much. Set small goals and build to bigger ones. It took me 10 years to build up to the Ironman."

dotHere's what the typical schedule looks like for a triathlete preparing for a race:

  • Base building Strengthens and prepares your body for upcoming training. While you may already be fit, base training strengthens your muscles, ligaments and tendons, helping to prevent injuries. This can take from six to 26 weeks.
  • Intensity training Training that pushes your body just beyond what's comfortable and then allowing a day to recover. This might include uphill bike rides and runs and swimming extra laps.
  • Peaking Takes place a few weeks before a race and is the time to work on performance. During this time, an athlete reduces the distances of the workout and focuses on speed and performance.
  • Racing Depending on the size of the race, some athletes take a few days off beforehand to allow their bodies to recover from a rigorous training schedule.

dotBe prepared to make a major lifestyle change if you're going to get into this sport. Most athletes say they spend between six and 14 hours per week training.

"Training is hard! Some days I want to stay in bed all morning instead of running 10 miles, but once I drag myself out of bed and get out running, I'm usually glad I did," says Martz.

dotDon't be afraid to ask others for advice. You can get advice by joining a local sport club for running, cycling, swimming or triathlon-duathlon. Bike stores, running stores, and the local Y are good places to start looking.

"By joining a local club, you'll have access to coaching and support for your training. You'll also make lots of friends who share your interests," says Martz.


USA Triathlon
250-1365 Garden of the Gods Rd.
Colorado Springs , CO   80907-3425


Dave Scott's Triathlon Training,
by  Dave Scott
Iron Will: The Triathlete's Ultimate Challenge,
by  Mike Plant
Mark Allen's Total Triathlete,
by  Mark Allen
The Complete Triathlon Training Manual,
by  Bob Johnson, Patricia Braggs
Science of Triathlon Training and Competition,
by  Glenn Town


Iron Man - Training
Some tips on how to train for a race

American Triathlon Calendar
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